A disgraced Marine sniper who infamously urinated on dead Taliban fighters foiled his girlfriend’s alleged $30,000 murder-for-hire scheme by dropping the dime on her to authorities, The Daily Beast has learned.
Laura Buckingham, a 29-year-old Marine who served two combat tours in Iraq, had one more mission to accomplish, according to Tennessee police: end a contentious custody battle with the father of her three-year-old son by having him murdered.
Buckingham asked her boyfriend, Joseph Chamblin, for a referral.
Chamblin had returned to civilian life and was laying low after having been honorably discharged once he gained infamy for being one of four Marines who in 2011 were recorded desecrating Taliban corpses in Afghanistan.
When reached by phone, Chamblin told The Daily Beast he couldn’t discuss specifics of his role in busting his beautiful girlfriend and that his focus was on work.
“I have a residential construction and remodeling company. That’s pretty much it,” he said before redirecting us to reach authorities when asked about Buckingham.
According to the complaint filed in Roane County court, Chamblin was propositioned to help her because “he was in the military … he had some friends that could do this for him.”
“She knew he was a sniper and he may have friends that he had served with that would make her boyfriend disappear,” Roane Chief Deputy Sheriff Tim Phillips told The Daily Beast.
Hearing this, Chamblin’s conscience kicked in.
“We were contacted by Mr. Chamblin stating that the girlfriend he was living with Laura Buckingham had made a comment that she wanted her ex-boyfriend gone due to some custodial issues,” Phillips said.
Chamblin initially thought the murder plot talk was just hot air.
“He decided to ‘act’ like he was interested in taking care of this for her,” court papers claim.
But Buckingham seemed serious and out of fear for himself and his family, Chamblin “decided to record some of the conversations” of her spelling out her desire to ice her ex.
After supplying the sheriffs with that recorded evidence, an undercover agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation suited up as an assassin on Feb. 8.
Ironically, on that same day Buckingham posted a cryptic missive on Facebook:
“Every heartache, closed door and let down turns out to be a blessing.”
The undercover agent made two visits to Buckingham’s home; on the second visit cash changed hands.
“They negotiated a price,” Chief Phillips said. “She agreed to pay $30,000 and she did pay the undercover officer at least some of the money.”
The hit was allegedly supposed to go down in Louisville, Kentucky where Buckingham and her ex would meet to transfer custody of their son.
Instead, she was brought into custody without incident and remains locked up after a $150,000 bail was set after she allegedly ordered the hit.
Jail is not the worst place Buckingham has been though.
“She was in combat after spending two tours in Iraq,” a relative, who requested anonymity, said. “She came home and had very bad PTSD.”
Choosing to become a Marine rather than accepting offers to become a professional model led her down a different path.
Back home she saw a counselor but never took meds, the relative said.
“She tried to commit suicide twice. In one of them she used a shotgun and pulled a trigger and shot a hole in the ceiling.”
When the Blue Angels came to an airshow in nearby Louisville, the spectacle shook up Buckingham.
“The jets started flying over and she got real real nervous. It was like flashbacks from Iraq.”
Nevertheless, she founded a bakery in New Albany, Indiana called Bread and Breakfast where locals feast on all kinds of artisanal breads (especially the sweet swirl, akin to a cinnamon bun). According to a cover story in South Indiana Living Magazine, Buckingham flourished as a baker by sourcing the best ingredients to produce amazing treats. “Technically, I, in a sense, went native,” she said.
Once she began planting roots, she met Bradley Sutherland and they had a son. Their relationship was topsy turvy though.
“He’s a good dad. I will give that to him,” the relative said before adding Sutherland allegedly "tried to run Laura down” with his car once.
While Bread and Breakfast earned instant fanfare, Buckingham employees’ embezzled “tens of thousands of dollars” from her.
That’s when she hung up her apron.
“She basically said ‘It’s over! I’m done! This is it,” the relative remembered.
Soon she met Chamblin who quickly took command of Buckingham’s future, the relative said. Together the two Marines bolted Indiana for his native Kingston, Tennessee.
“He rubbed me wrong,” the relative said, noting that Chamblin’s height made him extra self-conscience. “I think he has a Napoleon [Complex]. He’s a short little guy. She’s no bigger than she is,” he said of the 5-foot, 2-inch Buckingham.
The relative said Chamblin’s influence made Buckingham become more isolated and less trusting.
“When she was around him she picked up ideas that were kind of foreign to what we knew about her. She would get standoffish and he was getting her to cut-off with her family I think.”
Just before Valentine’s Day, she seemed to hint she was looking for someone else to be with besides Chamblin.
“I need an adventure buddy… hiking, camping, climbing.”
Lording over Buckingham is something the relative suspects was at work in her murder-for-hire plot: it wasn’t so much a plan to execute but rather a cry for help.
“I don’t know if he had something to do with pushing her over the edge, to want somebody dead—it’s crazy,” the relative said. “I truly think her boyfriend was encouraging her and then of course things went down where she was contracting with an undercover cop.”
What’s more, the relative remembered an incident when Buckingham allegedly made death threats in December.
“She said ‘I should kill you! I have friends and I can have you eliminated.’
“It was a flippant remark and one that I didn’t take seriously,” the relative said.
No matter what happens next, the relative hopes Buckingham can get the kind of treatment she needs.
“She needs help, I know that. I would prefer to see her in better state of mind.
“I don’t know how something like this happened.”