LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Elizabeth Stakelbeck confessed in 2014 to soliciting a hit man to kill her ex-husband and his new wife. Choking back tears, the frightened couple begged a judge for maximum prison time.
"She met with (a man), who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent, trying to solicit a hit man with drugs and sexual favors," said Leland Hulbert, who prosecuted the case.
Stakelbeck told a judge that she believed her daughter was being abused by her ex-husband and that killing her abuser was the only option. She was charged with criminal solicitation of murder and two counts of trafficking a controlled substance, accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
"I don't know if it was real or if it wasn't real, but I was convinced that my child was in danger," Stakelbeck said in court. "I felt that I needed to do what I needed to do to protect her."
Stakelbeck served time and was eventually paroled and out of custody. Years later, however, Hulbert said the couple has yet another cause for shock and concern: Former Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin pardoned hundreds of people before he left office Monday, and Stakelbeck made the list.
In the executive order, Bevin said he granted the pardon because of "the compelling testimony of Elizabeth Stakelbeck's friends and family, and her stated desire for a fresh start in life."
"The myriad statements and suggestions that financial or political considerations played a part in the decision making process, are both highly offensive and entirely false," Bevin wrote in the 11th tweet of the thread. "To repeat such uncorroborated rumors and lies is reprehensible."
Hulbert called the pardons an "abuse of power."
"The personal relationship with Bevin's family members and the family of the defendant is what's shocking to me in this case," he said. "Matt Bevin's sister testified on behalf of the Stakelbecks in family court matters that coincided with this."
Hulbert also said Bevin's wife, Glenna Bevin, was in the audience during hearings.
"That's completely unfair to everyone else who's in prison serving a sentence," Hulbert said. "The system needs to change, and the fact that people are doing it after they lose an election, as they're walking out the door, basically it's completely unfair to Kentuckians and it shows a lack of character in the position."
Lawmakers are calling for an investigation into the pardons, saying several were given to people from wealthy families.
"Governor Bevin's pardons show what is a shocking lack of judgement and a potential abuse of our system of justice," said State Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville.
And, while Bevin calls his pardons a fresh start, Hulbert said victims are reliving a nightmare.
"Now, that box is completely opened again," Hulbert said.
Stakelbeck and her family did not respond to WDRB News' request for comment.
Bevin told the Courier-Journal over the weekend that he welcomed any investigation into his pardons.