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Kentucky Pediatrician Claims She Was 'Delusional' When She Paid to Have Her Ex-Husband Killed

Kentucky Pediatrician Pleads Guilty To Hiring Hitman To Kill Ex-Husband
Source: Oldham County Detention Center; Unsplash

Stephanie Russell pleaded guilty on the day her trial was about to begin, officials said.

Apr. 23 2024, Published 3:43 p.m. ET

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A Kentucky pediatrician pleaded guilty recently to attempting to hire a hitman to kill her ex-husband, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Kentucky. The plea was entered on the same day her jury trial was scheduled to begin.

In July 2021, Stephanie M. Russell, 53, was in the midst of a contentious custody battle with her ex-husband, Rick Crabtree, over their two children when she began asking employees at the practice she owned, KidzLife Pediatrics in Norton Commons, if they knew anyone who would be willing to kill him.

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In the spring of 2022, the FBI was notified of Russell's requests and opened an investigation.

A cooperating witness agreed to give Russell the phone number of a "hitman" who was in fact an undercover FBI special agent. In recorded conversations with the agent, Russell said she wanted Crabtree "completely gone from my life."

"Well I mean that can be in the Bahamas, but I don’t think we’re talking a vacation away. I think we’re talking in the ground," the agent, posing as a hitman, replied.

"I mean, do you like, do they disappear? Do you like shoot them on the road? Like what happens? Or should I just not know?" Russell asked.

"The more work I got to do, the more it’s going to cost you, but it could be, do you want it to look like a suicide?" the agent asked.

"Yes, that would be amazing," Russell said.

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Russell agreed to pay the purported hitman $7,000, and left the first half of the payment in a specimen box outside her medical practice, with the remainder to be paid upon completion. The FBI arrested her the following day.

Prosecutors also said that between December 2018 and August 2019, Russell recruited another individual to pose as a WAVE-3 reporter to "harass and intimidate" Crabtree, by pretending to be writing a negative story about him.


In addition to visiting Crabtree's office, leaving accusatory voicemails and leaving a note inside his garage, the fake reporter posted fliers that contained "defamatory allegations of misconduct" that were intended to be seen by Crabtree's supervisors, coworkers and clients.

Prior to the hearing on April 22, Russell's attorneys had argued that she was "delusional" at the time of the crime, acting in fear for her children's safety.

To illustrate her "delusional" mental state, they reportedly offered text messages between Russell and a Brazilian "spiritual healer," in which Russell asked for a "death spell" and asked whether it required a sacrifice. The unnamed "healer" replied that she could complete the death spell within hours using Voodoo.

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During the hearing, WDRB reported that Russell fainted and hit her head on the table. She was assisted by a U.S. Marshal during a break in the proceedings.

Russell pleaded guilty to two charges: using a facility in interstate commerce, or causing another person to travel in interstate commerce, in the attempted murder-for-hire of her ex-husband, as well as aiding and abetting interstate stalking of her ex-husband.

Russell is scheduled to be sentenced on July 31. She faces up to 15 years in prison.

TMX contributed to this report.


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