A former Harford County Public Schools teacher and the student with whom he was engaged in a romantic relationship plotted to have the teacher’s wife shot to death outside a Harford County restaurant for $600 in a murder-for-hire plot earlier this year, police alleged in court documents.
Ethan R. Estevez, 31, of the 400 block of Darby Lane in Bel Air was charged Aug. 6 with conspiracy to commit first degree murder; in a separate case, he also faces a single count of sexual abuse of a minor and two counts of fourth degree sex offense dating to June. It is unclear whether the student faces charges in connection with the murder plot as juvenile records are not publicly available.
Estevez was hired in August 2012 and taught in the Alternative Education Program at the Center for Educational Opportunity, located at Aberdeen High School, according to HCPS spokeswoman Jillian Lader. She said Estevez was put on administrative leave on March 7 “pending an outside agency investigation” and was fired on June 4.
According to charging documents, the relationship between Estevez and the 17-year-old female student, identified in court records by the initials “LAL,” came to light on March 14, when the Harford County Child Advocacy Center was alerted to suspected child sexual abuse. At the same time, investigators received information that “LAL” told another student that she and Estevez planned to kill Estevez’s wife, and could have an individual commit the act for $600.
In an initial interview, the student told investigators that she was in love with Estevez but denied planning his wife’s death. Detectives subsequently subpoenaed text messages from the girl’s phone dating to late February, in which she discussed and appeared to solicit the murder of Estevez’s wife.
“Like it has to look like an accident because of life insurance and stuff,” the student wrote in a Feb. 21 text to an unidentified subject. The student included details of Estevez’s wife’s place of employment and working hours, and asks the recipient, “Can he still do it?” to which the recipient of the text replied, “Yeah.”
Two days later, the student texted the same person again to ask, “Do you think he will though?”
“If not we need to find someone else who can take care of her on Thursday,” she wrote, following that two days later with another request. “Hey talk to guy sorry i keep buggin u about it we just really need it to happen before sundsay [sic].”
According to the charging documents, after investigators obtained the texts, a second interview was conducted with “LAL,” in which she allegedly stated, “Like I was really not gonna kill her.” Police said the student claimed Estevez discussed killing his wife with her “a few times,” but the student said she did not take him seriously. She claimed he talked about making his wife’s death look like an accident for insurance purposes. The student also claimed Estevez suggested staging a hit-and-run accident, and that they could be together “if his wife was gone completely.”
The student told police that she texted someone about conducting the murder, an individual referred to in court documents as “KS.” However, she claimed that several days after initially contacting him, she visited “KS” at home and told him that “it was a joke and [she] didn’t really want [Estevez’s wife] killed.”
However, in a July 25 interview with detectives, “KS” allegedly described a detailed plan to commit the murder. According to the man, the student did visit him at home in February–but rather than dismissing the plot as a joke, she called Estevez and put him on speaker phone. “KS” told investigators that the student asked Estevez whether he was serious about “giving move to his wife”; when Estevez asked what that phrase meant, the student allegedly described it specifically as hurting or killing his wife. Estevez allegedly agreed.
During the call, “KS” said Estevez laid out his plan to commit the murder. Estevez allegedly said that he would make dinner reservations with his wife in the next few days and “would need someone to drive-by in a dark colored vehicle and use a gun with a silencer to shoot his wife.” According to “KS,” Estevez added that his wife should be shot first and then he should be shot in the arm to make the crime appear random. He promised to pay half of the money before the shooting, and the remainder after. “KS” told police that he could not remember the name of the restaurant but said it is in Harford County and that part of the restaurant faces a public street. Asked by detectives whether he ever intended on committing the act, “KS” said no, and said he had no further contact with the student about harming Estevez’s wife after that phone call.
If convicted of the conspiracy charge, Estevez faces life in prison; a preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 8. The charge of sexual abuse of a minor carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison; each count of fourth degree sex offense carries a maximum of one year in prison and/or a fine of $1,000. A jury trial in that case is scheduled for Nov. 3 at 9:30 a.m. in Harford County Circuit Court.
Dagger Education Editor Cindy Mumby contributed additional reporting to this story.