A Murder Scheme Straight Out of Early Steely Dan

A Murder Scheme Straight Out of Early Steely Dan

Edited by Sam Thielman

EVERYTHING THAT FOLLOWS COMES FROM an indictment. The Justice Department will have to prove its accusations in court. People are innocent until proven guilty; cops lie; prosecutors lie; indictments are best understood as theories of a case. Imagine every sentence I write about this contains the word “allegedly” so I don’t have to keep writing it. And the most important fact here is that two people died violent deaths.

Erik Charles Maund, a scion of a central Texas car dealership started by his grandfather, visited Nashville in early February 2020. Away from his wife, he texted a local woman he knew, Holly Williams, to see about sex. She apparently didn’t reply. Somehow his dusty follow-up—“Good day beautiful! Looking forward too [sic] later. I’m in Nashville. I’ll meet you in the bar like last time. Text me when you arrive”—didn’t convince her.

There was another man in Williams’ life. That guy, identified as William Lanway, texted the Roman Roy of the Maund Auto Group and told him to stay away from Williams. (The Tennessean reported that Williams had a restraining order out on Lanway.) In fact, Lanway continued, Maund needed to make “some kind of monetary payment,” as the Justice Department put it in its indictment, unsealed on Monday, and “threatened to expose” him, presumably to his wife.

That same day, Maund launched a conspiracy that proved fatal to Williams and Lanway. If the conspiracy is anything like what the indictment describes, it unfolded like Steely Dan soundtracking a Coen Brothers film.

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AFTER LANWAY TEXTED HIM, according to federal prosecutors in Tennessee, Maund, an Austinite, contacted Gilad Peled, the head of an Austin private security company, through an unnamed “Individual 1” who worked for the dealership. Peled, the indictment states cryptically, represented himself as a former Mossad official who had served in the Israeli Defense Forces. Peled’s company—which appears to have removed him as chief executive this year but retained him as an agent of the firm—is called Speartip Solutions/Speartip Enterprises.

A search for Speartip in the news and legal-affairs databases Nexis and PACER doesn’t turn up results unrelated to this case. Speartip’s website offers “comprehensive security solution[s]” for what it describes as an elite clientele. “Typical clients,” it states, “can include high net worth or high-profile individuals, CEOs, corporate directors, political leaders, and any other individual who wishes to travel seamlessly while receiving elite security.” Among Speartip’s advertised services are VIP and “estate” protection; an armored vehicle fleet; surveillance drones for recon; and, chillingly, schools protection. Whether or not it’s just a boast, Speartip, “a full-service security firm,” claims it can “deploy agents anywhere in the world within 24 hours.”

Who are those agents? Spearpoint explains that they are “seasoned professionals with years of experience in the protective security and investigations industry. Many have prior military training…” Yet in this case, professionalism turned out to be a mere credential, rather than a guarantee of quality in doing crimes.

THE INDICTMENT IS SILENT on a central question in the narrative. Did Maund hire Peled with the explicit intent of murdering Williams and Lanway? Or did he hire Peled to stop the extortion, and then Peled upsold him on a full-service plan to murder Williams and Lanway? It’s not clear, but the indictment alleges that the murder occurred “at the direction” of Maund and Peled.

Regardless of whose idea the murders were, Peled hired Byron Brockway, a retired Marine who was in force recon, which would soon be not the only thing he—allegedly—has in common with Frank Castle; and Adam Carey, who was a retired Marine Raider. Also involved is “Individual 2,” a relative of Brockway’s, who apparently works to scrub “damaging information” from the internet.

A month after the February 2020 texts between Maund and Williams, Maund moved $15,000 out of his bank account. Within days, Carey set up an account on the unencrypted phone-calling app Pinger, as if this would protect him once the police knew the two were missing, and used it to contact Williams and Lanway. Carey then traveled to Nashville.

At several points in the indictment, there’s a suggestion that the plan from the jump was to “kidnap, threaten, and intimidate” Williams and Lanway. But the indictment alleges that Carey failed at first to find Williams at home and Lanway in a supermarket parking lot. Brockway joined Carey in Nashville on Mar. 11, 2020. The next day, according to the indictment, Maund and Peled were discussing “kidnapping and murder.”

The two retired Marines accosted Williams and Lanway that day in the parking lot of Williams’ apartment complex. Contemporaneous police statements indicate that cameras spotted them with a third accomplice, attempting to cover up surveillance cameras. They had shown up for an execution, rather than a kidnapping. Weapons drawn, they shot Lanway up close and personal, with two bullets to the right temple. Then they put Williams in a car—either Brockway’s rental or Lanway’s commandeered 2005 Acura—and drove her to a construction site on Old Hickory Boulevard. There, they dumped Lanway’s corpse, and executed Williams in the same gruesome, intimate style.

Bodies deposited, Brockway returned his rental to Hertz and caught a lift from Carey to Memphis, where he flew home to Austin. Carey deleted the Pinger account and opted to drive. Three days after the murder, Maund paid the $15,000 to Peled. It was the first installment of what would become $750,000.

NOT TO LINE-EDIT A MURDER conspiracy, but it’s astonishing that $750,000 didn’t buy a more professional slaying.

How does Carey, who’s supposed to be retired MARSOC, contact the victims, let alone through unencrypted communications that get stored by the provider! How does Brockway, who’s supposed to be recon, choose as a location for the confrontation an apartment-complex parking lot, a place guaranteed to have security cameras all around?

According to this Austin American-Statesman story from soon after the murder, it appears that Carey, Brockway and perhaps another accomplice put the bodies in Lanway’s Acura and crashed it into the construction site, presumably to make the deaths look like the result of an accident. Were people not supposed to notice the double-tap entry wounds in the corpses’ temples?

I am out of my depth when it comes to planning a murder. But it seems like the killers all but started a stopwatch for the bodies to be discovered and then for police to acquire their communications records, which would immediately point to the account Carey used. I’ve never heard of Pinger, but it seems like a company unlikely to defy a police subpoena; or to architect its service in a way that won’t store communications content and user information.

Then there’s Peled. Was he lying about being Mossad, or was he a notably shitty Mossad operative? The Mossad murders Iranian scientists with far better tradecraft.

Finally we come to Maund himself. Third-generation gentry, he seems to have Roman Roy’s kind of business acumen. Whatever amount Lanway allegedly told Maund to pay in order to avoid exposure—and who knows, maybe it was less extortion and more Lanway’s attempt to get Maund to leave Williams alone—Maund paid three quarters of a million dollars for an amateurish double homicide. If Maund was trying to hide his infidelity from his wife, that sure isn’t an option anymore.

I have no broader conclusion to draw. We’ll have to await trial to learn more about what happened. A plausible enough hypothesis is that Maund wanted revenge on Williams for not fucking him and on Lanway for fucking with him. The cocktail of male entitlement and sexual frustration has to rank as one of the most lethal forces in human history.

One final thing: I got the indictment from PACER, which is an expensive (and dysfunctional) legal database. The Justice Department announcement of the indictment is here. The court papers indicate that the indictment was sealed until recently, presumably to secure the arrest of the four alleged conspirators. There’s a free archive called CourtListener automatically populated by PACER users who use a browser extension called RECAP (which you can download here), and the most recent version of the indictment can be read here.