‘Vocal about her hate.’ Kentucky doctor indicted in alleged plan to kill ex-husband

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A federal grand jury has indicted a Kentucky doctor who allegedly agreed to pay a hit man $7,000 to kill her ex-husband.

Stephanie M. Russell, a Louisville pediatrician, had waged a bitter fight with her ex-husband over custody of their two young children, according to court records.

Russell, 51, pleaded not guilty after she was arrested on a criminal complaint in May. She has been in custody since.

Russell’s lawyers “will vigorously defend these charges,” one of her attorneys, David B. Mour, told the Herald-Leader.

The grand jury returned the indictment against Russell Thursday, according to a release from U.S. Attorney Michael A. Bennett and Jodi Cohen, special agent in charge of the FBI in Kentucky.

While murder-for-hire was the object, the actual charge is that Russell used interstate commerce facilities – telephones – to arrange the hit. Interstate commerce allows federal jurisdiction.

Mariola Hernandez, a special agent with the FBI, said in a sworn statement that federal authorities began investigating after Russell allegedly talked to employees at her office about getting someone to kill her ex-husband, Rick Crabtree.

Russell allegedly told one employee she wanted Crabtree dead so she could get full custody of her children.

That was before a state court judge granted Crabtree full custody in January, with supervised visitation for Russell.

Russell allegedly continued to pursue the idea after that ruling.

One witness told FBI agents that Russell asked her numerous times in person and by text if she knew anyone who would kill her ex-husband and got a “burner” cell phone to use at one point so the texts wouldn’t be on her phone, Hernandez said in the affidavit.

The witness said she first thought Russell was joking, but quit working at the medical office after she became convinced Russell was serious, according to the affidavit.

Russell ultimately was put in contact with an FBI agent posing as a hit man.

The agent “asked if she wanted Crabtree killed, to which Russell responded that she wanted him gone,” Hernandez said in her statement.

Russell allegedly wanted the hit man to make the murder look like a suicide. They agreed the agent would use Crabtree’s phone to text a suicide message to Russell after the murder, though Russell was to provide what she wanted the note to say, according to the affidavit.

Russell told the agent “she had been vocal about her hate towards Crabtree to a lot of people and was worried she would look guilty, which is why she requested the suicide note,” Hernandez said.

Russell agreed to pay $7,000 for the murder, and also said the hit man could keep $10,000 from a safe at the victim’s house, according to the affidavit.

Russell allegedly told the hit man he could pick up half the payment, $3,500, before the murder. The undercover agent found the money in a specimen box behind Russell’s office, where she had told him it would be, Hernandez said.

The FBI arrested Russell the next day.

She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Kentucky doctor attempted to organize murder-for-hire plot, DOJ alleges