Inside a Pediatrician's Twisted Plot to Have Her Ex-Husband Murdered — and How It All Unraveled

“I want him to be completely gone from my life,” Stephanie M. Russell told the purported hitman on a recorded call

<p>Oldham County Detention Center</p> Stephanie M. Russell, dressed in her scrubs for a mugshot following her May 19, 2022 arrest.

Oldham County Detention Center

Stephanie M. Russell, dressed in her scrubs for a mugshot following her May 19, 2022 arrest.
  • Stephanie M. Russell was running her own pediatric clinic in Louisville, Ky., when she began approaching her employees about connecting with a hitman to kill her ex-husband, per her plea agreement

  • Russell put a down-payment on the hit, leaving $3,500 in cash in a specimen box outside her pediatric clinic, in an exchange caught on video

  • On Monday, April 22, Russell pleaded guilty to two charges in a federal case connected to her attempt to hire the hitman in May 2022

When the Kentucky couple’s marriage went south and the custody battle for their two children heated up, the pediatrician contacted a hitman to “disappear” her ex-husband.

In a phone call in May 2022, Stephanie M. Russell — a pediatrician who owned and ran KidzLife Pediatrics in Louisville, Ky. — spoke by phone to a man in Chicago about killing her ex.

“Obviously you want [the ex-husband] killed, right?” the hitman asked in the recorded call, per the plea agreement obtained by PEOPLE.

“I want him to be completely gone from my life,” Russell responded.

As the conversation continued, Russell asked how the hitman planned to proceed.

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

“Price dictates,” the hitman told her. “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 . . .”

“Yes,” Russell said. “That would be amazing.”

But Russell was not actually talking to a hitman.

The purported hitman was actually, per the plea agreement, a special agent in the FBI working undercover.

<p>Oldham County Detention Center</p> Stephanie M. Russell in an updated mugshot, October 27, 2023.

Oldham County Detention Center

Stephanie M. Russell in an updated mugshot, October 27, 2023.

Russell, 53, pleaded guilty Monday, April 22, to one count of 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 and one count of aiding and abetting interstate stalking of her ex-husband.

Even before she started talking to prospective hitmen, Russell directed a person to “harass and intimidate” her ex-husband beginning in late 2018.

The person showed up at the ex's office unannounced, pretending to be a local reporter and leaving “accusatory voicemails” from a burner phone provided by Russell, according to the plea agreement.

The person also left a note in the ex-husband's garage “pretending to be a reporter writing a derogatory story” that might involve him and tagging cars parked at his office with fliers including his photograph and “defamatory allegations of misconduct” per the plea agreement.

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Then, in July 2021, Russell “began soliciting multiple KidzLife employees, asking if they knew someone who would be willing to kill” her ex-husband, per the plea agreement.

The following spring, someone reported her line of questioning to the FBI, and, as part of the investigation, a cooperating witness gave Russell the phone number of the supposed hitman in Chicago.

After several phone calls, Russell agreed to give the man $7,000 in exchange for killing her ex-husband.

She paid half the cost up-front, putting $3,500 in cash in a specimen box outside her pediatrician office, per the plea agreement.

Driving from Chicago to Louisville, the agent was video recorded picking up the payment May 18, 2022.

The next day, Russell was arrested on a five-count federal indictment.

On Monday, Russell entered her guilty plea on the same day her trial was slated to start, per her online court docket.

PEOPLE reached out to Russell’s four-person legal team for comment on her case. Her lawyers did not respond in time for publication.

Held at Oldham County Detention Center in La Grange, Ky., per her online booking records, Russell is scheduled for sentencing July 31.

She faces a maximum sentence of 15 years behind bars and a fine of up to $500,000.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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