SHELBY COUNTY, Ind. — A Shelbyville man will spend the next four decades in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to a plot to have a child sexual abuse victim assassinated.

Court documents filed in the case against Robert Mason Elliott detail how what eventually led to him pleading guilty to two counts of murder for hire, witness tampering, illegally possessing a firearm, and producing and distributing child sexual abuse material.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Elliott’s repeated efforts to procure the murders of his victim, her mother, and a witness were unsuccessful.

Volatile beginnings

Hiring someone to kill a human being is one of the most serious crimes charged
in federal court. Hiring someone to kill a human being who is a witness against you
is another matter entirely.

Government’s sentencing memorandum

In 2017, court documents state that 24-year-old Robert Elliott met a 16-year-old girl while he was in the hospital. When he got out, the two started spending time together, abusing his prescription drugs until he introduced her to cocaine and heroin.

Soon after, the illicit relationship became violent, resulting in a call for domestic battery. The responding officer captured the 16-year-old girl on dash camera video with a swollen lip. Elliott told officers that “the [expletive] doesn’t know better.”

When a deputy called the girl’s mother, the document said Elliott had “naked pictures of her” and “got [her] addicted to heroin.”

Elliott ended up in jail facing charges of battery. A no-contact order barred him from contacting the girl. He was released on GPS monitoring while awaiting trial.

No-contact order violation uncovers child sexual abuse material

He has violated no contact orders on at least 38 occasions, and has attempted at every turn to thwart law enforcement’s efforts to keep the community safe and prosecute his crimes.

Government’s sentencing memorandum

About two months after this order was put in place, court documents detail that the girl’s mother told deputies that Elliott was in contact with her daughter. She discovered a video that he sent showing where a CD case of heroin was located.

Due to this violation, the document states that law enforcement got a warrant to search Elliott’s Facebook account. During this search, police found sexual abuse material that Elliott produced around September 2017.

Among the material, the document states Elliott filmed him exploiting the girl, sending her the videos. One of these videos depicted Elliott sexually abusing the girl while they were on the canal in downtown Indianapolis.

Court documents state that Elliott also shared the child sexual abuse material through Snapchat, where the victim’s sister found it on his Snapchat story and sent it to the police.

Less than two weeks after the court filed a pretrial release violation, the document states Elliott was charged with 38 counts of invasion of privacy. Elliott’s bond was revoked, and he was once again barred from having contact with the girl.

Sheer hatred drives assassination plots

For multiple reasons, Robert Mason Elliott has attempted, on at least three occasions, to kill two human beings. One was a minor, a teenage victim who was once his girlfriend. The other intended victim was that girl’s mother. Mr. Elliott committed these crimes from the most restrictive environment that exists– from jail.

Government’s sentencing memorandum

After Elliott’s bond was revoked, he was booked into the Shelby County jail facing serious charges. The document said that despite his obvious violations of court orders and overwhelming evidence of dealing narcotics, Elliott felt no responsibility for his conduct.

“Rather, he blamed the minor victim and her mother,” the government wrote in its sentencing memorandum. “And for his troubles, and to keep him from going to prison, Mr. Elliott wanted them dead.”

Elliott was not alone in his efforts to have the girl and her mother killed. The court documents detail how he used his mother and grandfather in his plots.

In what would become a repeated pattern, the court document states Elliott used jail calls to communicate with his mother, trying to hire someone to make sure the girl would “not show up in court.”

Elliott and his mother try to hire a “Hells Angel”

That HAS to be done or it’s over with mom.

Robert Elliott’s recorded jail call to his mother, quoted in the Government’s sentencing memorandum

In February 2018, the court document details how law enforcement officers listened to jail calls between Elliott and his mother. In the calls, Elliott enlisted his mother to hire a Hell’s Angel to prevent the girl’s mother’s testimony by causing death or great bodily harm.

After Elliott’s mother met with a person that was cooperating with police, she paid the person $500 to have, as the document states she wrote on a recovered piece of paper, the “living [expletive] beat out of [the girl’s mother] but not dead.”

The document details that she tried to back out of the plan, but after learning that the money wouldn’t be refunded, to go ahead with the plan. She sent the person a photo of the girl’s mother’s house and a photo of the woman.

Elliott enlists the help of fellow inmates

When the attempt to use Hell’s Angels failed, Elliott was not deterred, and he persisted in finding other ways to eliminate Minor Victim 1 and her mother both as witnesses and as living persons.

Government’s sentencing memorandum

The court document details that while Elliott was in the Shelby County Jail, he contacted other inmates to try to hire them to kill the girl and his mother.

The document states that one of the inmates told police that Elliott yelled over, asking if he wanted to make some money. After confirming that the inmate knew the girl and his mother, he passed a piece of paper over, indicating that he would be willing to pay $5,000 each to kill the two.

Another inmate overheard this exchange. The document states that Elliott said the two were witnesses in his drug trafficking case. A third inmate said Elliott tried to hire him to kill two “female witnesses.” He said Elliott offered $5,000 per person or a motorcycle.

The document notes that this motorcycle would later be offered in a later murder-for-hire attempt. The third inmate also said he overheard Elliott discussing asking his mother to “take care” of the witnesses.

In December 2018, the government charged Elliott with several counts including sexual exploitation of a child and distribution of child pornography.

Elliott attempts to hire cartel hitman

Despite being charged federally and being denied pretrial release, Mr. Elliott persisted in yet
another plot—this time from federal custody—to kill [the girl] and [her mother].

Government’s sentencing memorandum

After Elliott was federally charged, he was transferred into federal custody in a Marion County jail. While there, the document states that he approached a cooperating witness in an attempt to have the girl and her mother killed.

In early May of 2019, the witness contacted his attorney to inform them that Elliott approached him to ask if he knew anyone who would be willing to buy military-grade weapons in exchange for killing witnesses.

A few days later, the document states that Elliott approached the Hispanic witness to ask if he knew members of a Mexican cartel who could kill the girl, her mother, and the girl’s sister. He believed that he would be released from federal custody soon and could pay the cartel hitman

After learning about this plot, the document said officers moved them out of their Shelbyville residence. They instructed the witness to provide Elliott with a number of an undercover FBI agent, saying he was a member of the cartel named Arturo.

Elliott attempts release from federal custody

Neither arrests, court orders, jail time, restrictions, or GPS monitoring have deterred Mr. Elliott. His intentions are deadly, even from behind bars – but they are much easier to thwart when he is incarcerated.

Government’s sentencing memorandum

The document states that after two months of federal detention, Elliott had his first attempt at release, seeking to be released to a medical facility. In May 2019, he sought to revisit detention and be released.

During his May hearing, unbeknownst to the judge, the document states Elliott desperately wanted to be released so he could continue his efforts to have someone kill the girl and her mother.

Because the plot was ongoing, and the government was preparing to search Elliott’s grandfather’s home, they were unable to disclose his murderous plans to the court.

Even as the Government was in the process of moving Minor Victim 1 and Witness Victim 1 to safety, Elliott sat poker-faced during a detention hearing, leaving his attorney to argue passionately to the Court as to why Elliott could be safely released to the community.

Government’s sentencing memorandum

Despite his efforts to be released, and his grandfather testifying in support, the document said the judge ordered Elliott to be detained. He was moved to a detention center in Henderson, Kentucky, before the witness had the opportunity to give him the undercover agent’s phone number.

Elliott sends the undercover agent a letter

“They are witnesses for the state and the Feds on someone I know. They are trying to put him way for life.”

Robert Elliott’s letter detailed in the government’s sentencing memorandum

Right before Elliott was transferred, the document said he sent the witness’s wife a letter. In the letter, he identified the girl and her mother, along with personal information.

In the letter, the document states Elliott offered, in coded language, to exchange heavy-duty equipment, a motorcycle (as described above), and military-grade weapons including shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapons (“shoulder L’s”) and M203 Grenade Launchers (“203’s”) in exchange for killing the girl and her mother.

The document states that the Spanish portion was written by the witness, supposedly meant to convince the hitman that they could trust Elliott. Iguana was Elliott’s codename for the hitman. It was translated as the following:

Hi Arturo how are you I hope you’re well
I’ve spoken to my friend and he wants to do a deal with you
He wants to talk to you about the moto[rcycle]
He wants to know how he can communicate with you to deal with the matter
He’s talking serious
I think that what he’s telling you is true
Let me know through my wife yes or no
You know
Take care
Answer me soon.
Arturo he has the grenades and vasucas [sic – bazookas] rifes [sic – rifles]
He has a lot of things that you like military weapons

Government’s sentencing memorandum

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Elliott conspired with his grandfather to provide the equipment, motorcycle, and military-grade weapons to the supposed hitman.

Elliott’s grandfather attempts to hide evidence

Elliott again used individuals he trusted, who were not incarcerated, to help him commit crimes from behind bars.

Government’s sentencing memorandum

In June 2019, federal officials searched Elliott’s grandfather’s property. They also had an arrest warrant for his mother, who violated the condition of her probation by contacting Elliott.

The document states Elliott’s grandfather told him that the police had an arrest warrant for his mother. During the call, Elliot told his grandfather that the police would try to take her phone. In response, his grandfather responded “I know that. She don’t (sic) have a cell phone anymore. I do.”

Law enforcement returned to the property, seizing several firearms. The document states this includes one that Elliott got in exchange for a meal at Olive Garden.

This wasn’t the only firearm that Mr. Elliott possessed after being convicted of a felony. Mr. Elliott was seen in numerous videos and images possessing other firearms and referencing drug trafficking activity.

Government’s sentencing memorandum

At the beginning of the search, the document states they found Elliott’s grandfather’s phone. While searching for his mother’s phone, they found instructions on how to disconnect service.

The investigators asked where the phone was, to which Elliott’s grandfather denied knowledge of, saying that he was not instructed to hide the phone. Investigators said they would call the phone to try to find it, with Elliott’s grandfather continuing to deny knowing where it was.

The ringing phone led investigators to find the phone in Elliott’s grandfather’s boot in the bedroom closet.

After the search, Elliott contacted the supposed hitman, asking why police were searching the residence, asking if they were looking for bodies, as reports came out that law enforcement were digging in the backyard.

Plea deal and sentencing

He has demonstrated no real likelihood of reform, despite numerous incarcerations and admonishments by judges. He is a danger to society. The community must be protected from Mr. Elliott, who has displayed a longstanding disdain for human life other than his own, and for the rule of law.

Government’s Sentencing Memorandum

On June 14, 2022, Elliott pleaded guilty to two counts of Murder for Hire, two counts of Witness Tampering, and one count being a felon in possession of a firearm. Elliott further stipulated in a plea agreement that he had produced and distributed child sex abuse material.

“The defendant’s heinous, violent crimes demonstrate an utter disrespect for the law or the value of human life,” said Zachary A. Myers, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. “His physical abuse and sexual exploitation of a child were compounded by his relentless attempts to have the victim and her mother murdered.”

Elliott was sentenced to 520 months in federal prison. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt.

Judge Pratt also ordered that Elliott be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for 5 years following his release from federal prison and pay restitution of $5,000 each to Minor Victim 1 and Witness Victim 1.