Woman who tried to have hitman kill husband sentenced to 15 year - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Woman who tried to have hitman kill husband sentenced to 15 years

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A woman accused of trying to have a hitman kill her ex-husband and his wife was sentenced to 15 years behind bars.

Elizabeth Stakelbeck accepted a plea deal back in March and agreed to a 15-year sentence, yet her attorney still argued for probation Wednesday.

Stakelbeck choked back tears as she recalled the person she was at the time of her arrest, calling herself a "train wreck." She said she was at a low point in her life, and struggling with drug addiction. Now, she said, she is sober thanks to treatment received while in Metro Corrections.

"I became something I didn't recognize," she said. "I never thought that I would be capable of something as horrible as what I did."

Authorities say Stakelbeck also threatened the life her own child, in addition to attempting to arrange the double murders.

Stakelbeck told an undercover FBI agent in August of last year, that she would pay him in money, sex, and prescription drugs in exchange for the killings. Police say Stakelbeck and her ex-husband were involved in a bitter custody battle at the time she tried to arrange the murders.

Stakelbeck told a judge Wednesday that she believed her daughter was being abused by her ex-husband, and killing her abuser was the only option. C.P.S. was never able to validate Stakelbeck's abuse claims.

"I don't know if it was real or if it wasn't real, but I was convinced that my child was in danger," she said. "I felt that I needed to do what I needed to do to protect her."

In the sentencing hearing today, prosecutors pointed out that Stakelbeck was given numerous opportunities to change her mind, and she didn't. Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Leland Hulbert said he is worried Stakelbeck will re-offend.

"I am sympathetic to some defendants, and I do believe treatment helps some of them but in her case, I am worried about her re-offending," said Hulbert. "I think she is where she belongs."

Alleging previous attacks and lies told by Stakelbeck during a bitter custody battle, her ex-husband, Matt Vaughn says he was always on the defense-- but now, more than ever.

"Instead of anticipating a call from CPS, I carry a gun in my vehicle, constantly watch my rearview mirror, and frequently take alternate routes to school," said Vaughn. "I know every make and every model of every car that frequents my street and one shows up out of the norm, I assume the worst."

Vaughn's wife, Morgan, talked about the fear she lives with after learning that Stakelbeck used her wedding photos as identifiers for the hitman, and even detailed the sleeping patterns of their six-month-old baby.

"These haunting thoughts have been permanently burned on my heart," said Vaughn. "Every night when I put her to bed, I pray I will be able to see her in the morning."

She cried steadily as she talked about the constant paranoia she can't seem to shake.

"My life now and forever consists of constantly looking over my shoulder and praying for peace and an end to such a chaotic mess."

The Vaughns asked the judge to sentence Stakelbeck to maximum prison time, hoping he will remember their fear when she comes back to request shock probation.

Stakelbeck is eligible for shock probation six months from today.

She was also fined $1,000.

Previous stories:

Woman accused of trying to hire "hitman" to kill husband pleads guilty
Woman accused of hiring hitman to kill her husband to remain behind bars
Woman accused of plotting to have hitman kill her husband pleads not guilty
Woman accused of trying to have husband killed, threatening child

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