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Pediatrician With Disney-Themed Office Arrested For Allegedly Trying To Hire Hitman To Kill Ex-Husband

Stephanie Russell has been accused of agreeing to pay $7,000 for a hitman—who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent—to murder her ex-husband amid a heated custody dispute.

By Jill Sederstrom
A police handout of Stephanie Russell

A Kentucky pediatrician has been arrested for allegedly trying to hire a hitman to kill her ex-husband amid a heated custody battle.

Stephanie Russell is now facing charges of use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of a murder-for-hire after federal authorities say the 52-year-old reached out to someone she believed was a hitman to arrange the murder of her ex-husband, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.

Russell allegedly agreed to pay the suspected hitman – who was really an FBI Undercover Employee – $7,000 to carry out the murder, even placing $3,500 as a half payment into a drop box outside of her medical office on Wednesday. She had agreed to pay the remainder of the fee after the murder was carried out, authorities allege.

Russell, who worked at Kidz Life Pediatrics, was arrested by the FBI on Thursday.

According to court records obtained by WAVE, Russell and her ex-husband had been in a heated custody battle for the couple’s two children dating back to at least 2020.  

She reportedly lost custody of the children that year after a Guardian Ad Litem appointed by the judge to represent the interests of the children accused her of “coaching” her children and causing them “emotional harm.” She was also accused of trying to hire a hitman in another instance in 2018 to kill her ex-husband.

Her attorney at the time had called the allegation “preposterous” in a lawsuit later filed against the judge in the case.

A handwritten sign outside Kidz Life Pediatrics said the medical office was “closed” Friday, according to local station WHAS.

Lance Dooley, whose two daughters had gone to Russell for their primary care physician for six years, went to the office that day to try to get his children’s medical records. He called Russell’s arrest “freaky.”

“Money drop-offs were happening right around the corner,” he told the outlet. “That freaks us out. It’s one of those things you don’t expect.”

The practice’s website boasts a live “Finding Nemo” fish tank and a “fun Disney-theme throughout” and describes the medical office as a “solo practice.”

If convicted of the charge against her, Russell could be facing up to 10 years in federal prison. She made her initial appearance before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the case on Friday.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, authorities said.