Pediatrician accused of hiring hitman to kill ex-husband enlisted help of nurses, bought burner phones, affidavit says
Read the full affidavit, including text messages sent by Stephanie Russell, at the bottom of the article.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A new affidavit details Louisville pediatrician, Stephanie Russell’s alleged quest to find someone to kill her ex-husband and includes claims she reached out to at least two of her nurses at KidzLife Pediatrics for help.
The affidavit said Russell told an employee she wanted her ex-husband, Rick Crabtree, dead because she wanted full custody of her two children, and she did not care what method was used to kill him.
A judge granted Crabtree full custody of the children in 2020 after Russell accused Crabtree of sexually and physically assaulting their two children, according to court documents. The judge ruled there was no evidence to support those claims and added Russell was unreliable, according to court documents.
In the affidavit obtained by WAVE News, federal prosecutors included screenshots of text messages between Russell and an unnamed witness who allegedly told the pediatrician they knew a hitman who could kill Crabtree after being contacted by Russell.
“Hey, I have a price,” the witness texted Russell, according to the affidavit. “It’s going to cost around four thousand,” they continued.
The affidavit said Russell used the phrase, “Christmas flowers” when referring to killing Crabtree in an attempt to be more discrete.
Initially, Russell used her personal phone to communicate with the witness, according to the documents, but she eventually bought two burner phones.
“We can talk about Christmas flowers here,” Russell allegedly texted the witness. The documents show she continued to ask the witness when she can get “the delivery,” what mechanism will be used, and who she should pay for “the flowers.”
“I cannot with that nasty child molester,” Russell’s text continued according to the affidavit. “If you tell me it will be over before Christmas, I will continue to have hope.”
“It will be,” the witness responded, the affidavit shows.
According to the affidavit, the witness attempted to end the conversations with Russell by telling her the hitman died, and Russell asked if the witness would be willing to pull the trigger themselves. The witness refused, the documents said, and they left their job at the practice.
The witness then learned Russell allegedly asked another employee of KidzLife Pediatrics to kill her ex-husband, which caused the witness to reach out to the FBI, according to the affidavit.
The witness contacted Russell and gave her the contact information of a person they told the pediatrician would kill her ex-husband, however, that person was an undercover FBI employee, according to court records.
The FBI said Russell agreed to pay the undercover employee, who she believed to be a hitman, $7,000 to kill her ex-husband; she put half the money in a dropbox behind her medical office and promised to pay the other half once the job was complete, according to federal prosecutors.
According to court documents, Russell asked the undercover FBI employee if Crabtree could be killed on or before May 20, 2022 because it was the last day of school for her children. The records go on to say Russell did not want the children to be present during the murder.
Russell then told the undercover FBI employee she wanted the killing to appear as if Crabtree committed suicide, and asked the undercover FBI employee if they could hold Crabtree hostage and force him to text her an apology suicide note, the documents allege.
Russell appeared in federal court Tuesday where a judge ruled she was a flight risk and a danger to others, therefore she should remain in custody.
“She’s disappointed that she’s not going to be able to return to her medical practice and her patients,” David Mour, Russell’s defense attorney said. “We’re still in a COVID epidemic, there’s a baby formula shortage, and she’s a well-respected, beloved pediatrician in our community that’s done much for the people of our community, so yeah, she’s disappointed.”
This case will be presented to a grand jury in June who will decide whether Russell should be federally indicted.
Russell is being held at the Oldham County Detention Center.
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