Carolyn Estes, an Ash Flat city council member, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit murder during Sharp County District Court Sept. 9.
According to court papers, in 2007, Estes asked Gary "Crowbar" Russell to kill her ex-husband, Tony Stewart, stating she had wanted Stewart dead for several months. Crowbar then contacted Stewart telling him of Estes' plan. A private investigator set Crowbar up with cameras and voice recorders to document his conversations with Estes.
Reports said Crowbar met with Estes at her home in Ash Flat. Estes told Crowbar she had the nerve to follow through with plan C if he did. Estes refered to the plot to kill Stewart as "plan B" or "plan C." According to the report, Estes then started to discuss compensation for the crime. Estes told Crowbar that money was no issue and offered him $100,000 to kill Stewart, which Crowbar agreed to.
The report says Estes went on to warn Crowbar that Stewart's home was under surveillance and to be careful. She also told Crowbar that if he were to follow Stewart to a casino, Stewart would also be monitored there. Estes told Crowbar that this had to look like an accident and it could not look like they were involved, the report said.
Before leaving Estes' home on June 1, 2007, Estes reportedly gave Crowbar $700 cash to purchase an untraceable firearm. The report said, she told him the only concern she had was getting Crowbar the $100,000 without getting caught.
During the court proceedings, Stewart was accompanied by his attorney, special prosecutor Jack McQuary. Estes was represented by Bill Bristow and Larry Kissee. Estes entered a negotiated plea of guilty to a class A felony, conspiracy to commit capitol murder, waiving her right to an arraignment and jury trial. Judge Harold Erwin told Estes that this offense was punishable by a minimum of 30 and maximum of 60 years in a state correctional facility with a fine not to exceed $25,000.
The victim, Tony Stewart, made a request to the court that Estes not be sentenced to any jail time. Stewart expressed his concern for their disabled child who resides with Estes and requires 24-hour care.
Estes and her attorneys agreed to a sentence of 96 months probation and a fine of $1,000. Judge Erwin asked Estes if she had signed a waiver forfeiting her rights to the $700 she had paid Crowbar to purchase the firearm. Estes told the judge she had signed the waiver. This money will be placed in the Sharp County Sheriff's Department Special Investigations fund.
Stewart's attorney told the court that in the couple's divorce decree Estes was named the beneficiary of a life insurance policy on Stewart. Stewart's attorney requested that the decree be changed to name their children as beneficiaries, removing Estes from the policy, which Erwin ordered.
"If you violate any of these conditions you will be brought back up and sentenced," Erwin told Estes. "If you come back it is my policy that I will not listen to the victim next time."
Stewart's attorney also informed the judge that the two had agreed there would be no contact between them unless it directly involved their disabled child. All other contact would be through their attorneys.
Judge Erwin waived the clause stating a person on probation must seek employment for up to 40 hours per week due to the disabled child in Estes' care.
According to the Sharp County Sherriff's office, Crowbar has a history of arrest ranging from disorderly conduct to assault and battery. At one time Crowbar starred in a fishing program on KAIT-8 Jonesboro.
Mark Hayes of the Arkansas Municipal League said that because of the felony conviction Estes will have to resign from her position on the Ash Flat City Council. Hayes said if she refused to resign appropriate steps will have to be taken.