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For Kristen Stephens, voices of her father, Dr. David Stephens, bring back a lifetime of memories and voices from the past. These types of things don't happen to you. And I just can't fathom how one person can have such a huge impact on an entire family. She's talking about Stephanie Stephens, her stepmother, whom Kristen says tore her family apart and murdered her father. I care a lot about other people, and those people that are closest to me know it," says Stephanie. But in the sleepy town of Hattiesburg, Miss. Correspondent Harold Dow reports. Both Stephanie and David were married when they first met.
She'd landed a nursing job at the heart clinic Dr. Stephens had founded. For him, Hattiesburg was home for more than a decade. He had been married to wife Karen for 34 years, and they had two children: Kristen and Allen.
Before long, Stephanie, a married mother of two daughters, says she began to fall for the man behind the surgeon's mask: "We both felt like we were in love and talked about it. And neither one of us were willing to leave our partners. The couple began an affair and their secret trysts continued for years — until their affair was discovered in , when Stephanie decided to call Dr.
Stephens' house. Now, she was devastated. And she tripped and the gun went off. Karen Stephens was rushed to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the head. For three months, she lived in a coma, until one night, she died. It was ruled a suicide. Stephanie says she felt guilty, too: "I did contribute to her death by having an affair with a married man, and the consequences that go along with that … It was several months before I could look at myself in the mirror!
It was painful. But she and David seemed determined to move on. Months later, right in front of the Stephens' home, where Karen had shot herself, the couple were married. And he also had diabetes," says Stephanie. He talked about not wanting to go through having a liver transplant. On May 1, , Kristen discovered that her father had died in his sleep. She says Stephanie was acting strangely: "On the bed were all of my father's financial documents. Who would be reading that sort of stuff, not even 24 hours after their husband died?
But Kristen believes Stephanie is responsible for her father's death: "I shoved her up against the wall, and I stared her right in the face and I said, 'You killed my mother Stephanie admits she is guilty of adultery, but not of murder: "Just because people don't like me, doesn't make me a killer. In fact, Stephanie says her life has been like a Greek tragedy.
Soon after she married David Stephens in , she was crippled in a car crash. After Stephens' death, the dream house they built together was robbed. And now, with Kristen Stephens contesting her father's will, Stephanie says it's hard to make ends meet.
She has no car, and no phone. But it's been the loss of her friends that's hurt the most. That, and my daughters," says Stephanie, whose daughters live nearby with her first husband. Krystal, 16, is Stephanie's only real link to the outside world. It's hard to stay focused on a reason to live. Stephanie says that before David died, he was feeling the same way. Even with almost a million dollars in a retirement fund, she says they worried about their future: "It was tough.
We had gone from, you know, making a full surgeon's salary to disability. By the spring of , David was weak and disoriented - and rarely slept through the night. On the night of May 1, Stephanie says he tossed and turned for hours, and fell asleep around dawn. He was purple in the face and I got up and ran around the side and pulled the covers back, and he was blue and not breathing," recalls Stephanie. He was cool. I just laid there and cried. Put my head on his chest and cried. Coroner Butch Benedict was on the scene: "When we first got there, it appears to be that he died in his sleep.
David was lying on his back, arms crossed on his chest, his insulin pump strapped to his side. Benedict says he thought he had an open and shut case, until Stephanie opened her mouth and seemed in a hurry to remove the insulin vials from the pump. This made Benedict suspicious. When he ran blood tests on the body, he said "there were chemicals in his body that shouldn't be there. Rusty Keyes, who started digging deeper into the case. Stephanie wanted people to think my father was very sick because it was convenient for everyone to think he was very sick, because they wouldn't question when he died," says Kristen, who plans to help Keyes unmask a murderer.
She had the fancy house. She had the nice cars, the best clothes," says Keyes. She wanted it through Dr. Stephens' hard work … This man was murdered, and I was going to prove how. But Kristen, David's daughter, doesn't buy her story: "She knew when she married my father he was sick. I don't think that he died quick enough for her, is what the problem was. Kristen says Stephanie was counting on people assuming David Stephens died of natural causes and never thought coroner Butch Benedict would do a blood test on the body. That's all we had," says Hattiesburg Det.
Rusty Keyes. But Stephanie allowed police to search the house, and Keyes says he discovered some interesting things. Stephens, to prove exactly how he died. More tests produced more questions. There was another drug in Stephens' body, called Atricurium, used to relax muscles during surgery while patients are on life support. But without life support, Keyes says it will "totally paralyze your heart, your lungs, and you will die. David had always ed the form, checking the box that declined to cash out.
But in , Keyes noticed that David Stephens' ature was on the form, and the cash out box was ed. The form was dated April 30, the day before he died. On that date, Metlife hadn't even mailed the form out yet. But Kristen could never have imagined how it all would end. I wish her nothing but ill will," says Kristen. He was on the board there, and at the university in town. Photos Serial killer's secret photos. Evidence photos in the case against Mary Katherine Higdon. Chino Hills massacre: Evidence photos in the Kevin Cooper case.
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