All Cynthia Guy-Thomas wanted was her ex-husband dead. So on May 20, 2014, she met with “Frankie”—a supposed member of a Mexican drug cartel—who promised to kill Terry Thomas in exchange for $4,000.
On a gravel road next to a railway in Glendo, Wyoming, Guy-Thomas handed over $2,000 in cash. She’d provide the other half once the job was done. As the two finished up, “Frankie” asked Guy-Thomas if she was sure she wanted her ex-husband killed. “He’d fucked with my children. I’m a mother hen through and through. And I’ve been planning this for six months,” Guy-Thomas replied, before exiting the truck and making her way back home.
Five years later, Terry is still alive and so is Guy-Thomas—but she’s serving 20 to 25 years for solicitation of aggravated kidnapping of her ex-husband.
Guy-Thomas is the latest convict to receive the true crime treatment by way of Oxygen’s new series Murder for Hire, premiering April 7. Produced by Law & Order’s Dick Wolf, the series explores the world of contract killings. They start with Guy-Thomas’ story before jumping into future episodes on wealthy bankers, military officers and even grandmothers—all out for blood.
For the past few years, Oxygen has focused on becoming the go-to true crime channel, promising salacious docuseries with equally dramatic names like Criminal Confessions, Dying to Belong and It Takes a Killer. Almost immediately they were scooped by Netflix, who is undeniably leading the genre with glossy longform programming like Wild Wild Country, The Keepers and its first big hit: Making a Murderer.
With Murder for Hire, Oxygen might have finally found the right niche in this increasingly crowded TV world of serialized true crime. Importantly, they solved cable TV’s conundrum of the commercial break. Sticking to hour-long capsule episodes affords the show maximum drama without falling victim to overly-repeating plotlines after every break. It helps that Guy-Thomas’ crime is pretty straightforward. In one 2014 week, she goes from unassuming therapist to attempted murderer.
Guy-Thomas’ crime starts in her office at the Central Wyoming Counseling Center. There, she reportedly told a court-ordered therapy patient in drug rehab to help kill her husband or she’ll send them back to prison. The patient, fearing for her future, quickly contacted the Casper Police Department, who decide their undercover agent known as “Frankie” would pretend to be the patient’s cousin—a hit man affiliated with a Mexican cartel. The patient returns to Guy-Thomas’ office and secretly records her plotting to cover up her husband’s possible murder. On the tape, Guy-Thomas mused that making the murder look like a suicide “would be perfect.”
She and Terry married after a whirlwind seven-month courtship in 2004. What started as a loving marriage full of family vacations—alongside Guy-Thomas’ children from a previous relationship—soon devolved into living in separate houses and disputing over finances. Terry alleges in the episode that his ex-wife secretly transferred as much as $100,000 from his bank account. He claims her desire to destroy him financially escalated into wanting him dead.
Murder for Hire is a simple yet engrossing tale of state and federal agents chronicling their sting operation and eventual arrest of Guy-Thomas. The audio recordings, family photos and even hidden camera footage of the money transaction between Guy-Thomas and “Frankie” keep the story worth watching. At times, details are glossed over—like how did the state agents manage to hide in an equipment closet at the counseling center and record the client conversation without being spotted?
Luckily, the story never really loses its direction. The morning after meeting with Guy-Thomas, “Frankie” texts her, “I went to the gym, and the workout was really easy.” The text was code that he’d killed Terry. Upon seeing the text, Guy-Thomas was supposed to promptly meet “Frankie” at the nearby Wind River Hotel and Casino to fork over the remaining $2,000, where the FBI planned to arrest her. She never responded and never left home.
This left the FBI with no choice but to knock on her door and pose as the bearers of the death notice. She believed them and agreed to come to the county jail to provide anecdotal testimony on Terry. It’s only after being sequestered in an interrogation room that Guy-Thomas realized the jig was up, and she was promptly arrested.
Murder for Hire doesn’t explore much of the court case but Wyoming newspaper The Billings Gazette did in March 2014. “I never thought I’d be standing in a courtroom in handcuffs and shackles,” Guy-Thomas told the court, before explaining how her life spiraled after the divorce, including financial debt and a totaled car. “Due to all of these life-altering events, I temporarily lost my moral compass.”
While their subject may have lost her moral standing, Murder for Hire never does. They end the story swiftly, with just a few lines from Terry admitting that in some ways his ex-wife won. “I was, still am and probably always will be traumatized,” he says in the documentary.
With the influx of true crime projects this year, not all shows have managed to stand out without sensationalizing their stories, discrediting victims or uplifting the criminal masterminds. Some have succeeded, like HBO’s documentary The Case Against Adnan Syed and Hulu’s scripted tale The Act, while Netflix’s Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes and even Oxygen’s own Uncovered: The Cult of Yahweh Ben Yahweh hit the wrong tones.
It remains to be seen where exactly Murder for Hire will land with its subsequent episodes—and if any of the crimes they explore are full-fledged executions. But if their handling of Guy-Thomas’ story is any indication, Oxygen may have a real hit on its hands.