Kentucky doctor admits trying to hire someone to kill her husband over custody battle

A Kentucky doctor has admitted trying to hire someone to kill her ex-husband, who had battled her in court for custody of their two children.

Stephanie M. Russell, 53, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to one charge of causing a person to travel across state lines in the murder-for-hire plot, and one charge of aiding and abetting interstate stalking, according to a news release from the U.S. Justice Department.

According to her plea, Russell, a Louisville pediatrician, began asking employees at her office in July 2021 if they knew anyone who would be willing to kill her ex-husband, identified in the plea only as R.C.

Someone contacted the FBI about the solicitations. As part of the investigation, a witness gave Russell a number to contact a purported killer from the Chicago area.

The man was actually an undercover FBI agent, who recorded conversations with Russell.

The plea agreement included an excerpt from one conversation:

Hitman: Obviously you want (R.C.) killed, right, . . . ?

Russell: I want him to be completely gone from my life, yes . . . .

Hitman: 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.

Russell: 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?

Hitman: It really depends on, I mean, price dictates. That’s just how that goes. 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? Do you want it to . . .

Russell: Yes, that would be amazing.

Russell agreed to pay the contract killer $7,000, and left half the money in a specimen box outside her office for him to pick up on May 18, 2022.

The FBI arrested her the next day.

The stalking charge Russell pleaded guilty to involved a scheme to try to intimidate R.C. in 2018 and 2019.

Russell got another person to take a number of actions to harass R.C., including posing as a Louisville television reporter pursuing a derogatory story about him.

The harassment also included leaving flyers that included R.C.’s photo and allegations of misconduct about him on cars at his office, according to the plea agreement.

According to the court record, during the custody fight Russell made multiple allegations that R.C. was physically or sexually abusing their children.

However, a judge in state court ruled that R.C. had not committed any acts of abuse, but rather that Russell had made up the allegations and then used the children to try to make R.C. look bad, according to a motion from prosecutors.

The state judge awarded R.C. sole custody, according to the motion.

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