National News

Jul 26, 2014 2:57 PM by JOHN DONVAN, JACKIE POU and LAUREN EFFRON via NIGHTLINE

Family Forgives Montana Man Accused of Plotting a Hit on Own Mother

Matthew Campbell of Billings, Montana, was just 19 years old when he was arrested in 2010 after being accused of hiring a hit man and plotting the murder of his mother, Dana Campbell. He pleaded guilty to using a cellphone with intent to commit murder for hire. He was sentenced to five years in federal prison, but is set to be released next month.

Dana Campbell learned from an FBI agent in 2010 that she was the target for the hit man her son allegedly hired.

"He asked to speak to me out in private and he said, 'I hate to be the one to inform you, but we've been notified that there's been a contract put out on your life,'" Campbell said of the conversation with the FBI agent at the time. "It sounds insane."

According an FBI agent, Matthew Campbell had offered to pay $5,000 upfront for killing his mother and another $5,000 after the job was done.

"The fact that he was only thinking of himself and what he could get out of it made me question everything I ever knew about him," Nikki Campbell said. "Was I next? Was my sister next?"

Nikki said she thought their family had an unbreakable bond. She said they enjoyed family trips together and bickered the way brothers and sister do.

"We picked on each other and pick on my little sister a lot but we knew that we had each other," she said.

But the bond frayed, she said, when Matthew started to get into trouble.

"He didn't want to live at home with my parents any more it was a tough living situation and he decided to run away basically," Nikki Campbell said. "We didn't know where he was and he got himself in a little bit of trouble with some cars and what not."

Matthew Campbell ended up in a halfway house in Helena, Montana, where Campbell said he had conversations with some of his fellow inmates about whom they could kill for money. According to court documents, Campbell wanted his mother killed so he could collect insurance money and a recent inheritance that she had received, as well as other household items.

But one of the inmates informed the authorities about Matthew's plan.

"That other person went to the Department of Corrections and basically told on my brother and said, ‘Matthew Campbell wants to hire someone to kill his mother,'" Nikki Campbell said.

That ultimately lead Matthew Campbell to meet unknowingly with an undercover FBI agent, according to court documents. Then the undercover agent approached Campbell and told him was a hit man. Nikki said Matthew had written her a letter saying he was afraid of the man and felt pressured to go through with the plot.

"If he tried to back out of this that the guy would come after him just because now my brother has a name of a contract killer," Nikki said.

That's how Matthew Campbell's plan was exposed.

The family now believes Matthew never really intended to kill his mother and are waiting for him to come home from prison.

Nikki shared a recent email she received from her brother, saying, "Hey I need an address from you so I can send you this [birthday] card and how is the shoe hunting coming?"

"My birthday is coming up and he is still going to be in prison when my birthday is here and he is still going to send me a card. It's the first time I've gotten a card from him since he's been gone," she said. "It's touching, I guess... I think we are going to flourish probably into the best relationships we've ever had."

Watch the full story on "Nightline Prime," Saturday, July 26 at 10 p.m. ET

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