By CANDY WEBBSpecial to The Wilson Post
GALLATIN -- A woman who thought she would collect $2 million by hiring a high school student to murder her mother was sentenced in a Sumner County courtroom with her co-defendants yesterday.
Though the intended murder victim Karen Colleen Stribel resided in Wilson County, the recorded conversations providing proof of the murder for hire plot took place in Sumner County, thereby giving Sumner County venue jurisdiction over the case.
Lauren Ashley Morrow of Bethpage was sentenced to five years at 30 percent and will have to spend 365 days in Sumner County Jail with no early release for conspiring in November 2007 to have her mother murdered.
Shortly before handing down the sentence, Criminal Court Judge Dee David Gay questioned Morrow about her motives for the crime to which Morrow responded she and her mother had issues at the time.
“Our relationship is much better now,” Morrow tearfully told the judge. “We talk now and it is much better.”
Upon discovering that Morrow has a child with her co-defendant Andrew Bland, Gay asked her one question.
“How would you feel if your children wanted to kill you?”
Gay went on to remind Morrow that in his opinion a mother’s relationship with her children is special.
“The most precious thing that God has given us,” he said, “straight from God is a mother.”
Morrow’s attorney told the judge that the plea agreement only required Morrow to do 30 percent of the 365 days in jail. Gay refused to accept any agreement except a day for day sentence. Morrow agreed to the new deal and was given one week to make arrangements for her children and report to jail.
She told Gay that when she is released she has been invited to move in with her mother, who now resides in Colorado and plans to do so.
After Morrow left the courtroom, it was decided to amend her sentence to solicitation of second-degree murder in keeping with sentencing guidelines for her charge. She will appear in court before reporting to jail next week to have the amended charge explained to her. It will not change her sentence.
Co-defendant Andrew Bland, who was Morrow’s boyfriend at the time, received an identical sentence for the amended charge of solicitation of second-degree murder. Both he and Morrow admitted that they attempted to hire Joshua Hayden Stubblefield, who at the time was a senior at Watertown High School, to shoot and kill Morrow’s mother.
Bland has already served 377 days for an unrelated charge in which he and his mother fabricated a robbery at his mother’s place of employment to cover their theft of more than $10,000 from that business.
Gay sentenced him to 365 days in that charge and agreed to credit the additional 12 days Bland has served to the solicitation of murder conviction.
Stubblefield, then a senior at WHS and resident of South Commerce Road in Watertown, was approached by his co-defendants and promised $150,000 if he killed Morrow’s mother. When he was arrested after a phone tip alerted authorities to the plot, Stubblefield agreed to cooperate with authorities in investigating Morrow and Bland. He wore a recording device into the couple’s Bethpage home where a detailed conversation took place about the proposed murder.
Stubblefield, who was originally charged with criminal conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to an amended charge of attempted aggravated assault and was given a sentence of two years at 30 percent all suspended with the balance to be served on probation.
During the sentencing, Assistant District Attorney Wayne Hyatt explained the decision to amend the charge.
“I’m not trying to take up for him,” Hyatt said. “But he did everything he could to make this right.”
Hyatt reminded the court of Stubblefield’s willingness to cooperate with investigators and the fact that at some point during the negotiations for the murder Stubblefield made statements to Morrow and Bland that he was not sure he could go through with it.
“There is evidence that he was doubtful,” Hyatt said. “And he has done what he can to correct things.”
Stubblefield testified that he recently graduated from high school and has plans to join the military.
Editor’s Note: Candy Webb is a staff writer for The Gallatin Newspaper and The Hendersonville Standard.