Police said Carter was in fear of losing her home and custody of her children when she arranged last September to have her estranged husband, Christian “Tony” Carter, killed.
Shelly Carter told Butler County Common Pleas Judge Keith Spaeth that she talked with a man in his backyard and asked him to kill her husband. She cried as Spaeth asked her questions about her plea.
“I have a lot of emotions right now,” Carter told the judge, but assured him twice that she understood what she was pleading to and that she wanted to waive her right to a trial.
Spaeth accepted her guilty plea and set sentencing for February. She faces a maximum of eight years in prison. Her attorney requested she be evaluated by a forensic psychologist as part of the pre-sentence investigation ordered by the judge.
Police said the mother of two offered to pay a man $1,000 — $500 up front and $500 after the job was completed — and give him an SUV as payment if he killed her estranged husband by crashing into his car in front of the couple’s home.
Instead, the man told police about the alleged plot.
Prosecutors on Thursday said Shelly Carter withdrew $500 from an ATM to pay the man, with more payment promised after Tony Carter’s death.
The “accident” was timed to coincide for when Tony Carter would be dropping off the couple’s children, and Shelly Carter instructed the hit man to “do it even if the kids were in the car,” police testified at her arraignment.
Tony Carter, who was not in the courtroom Thursday, is looking forward to “getting this behind him and moving on with his life,” said Amy Wray, a spokeswoman for the family.
It is a relief there will not be a trial for Shelly Carter, Wray said, adding it would be difficult for the two young children. But Wray said that is not why she believes Shelly Carter took the plea deal.
“I think she did it for herself. She is in this for herself and only for herself,” Wray said.
T.J. Carter, Tony’s father, said Shelly Carter wanted his son “out of the way” following court proceedings in their divorce.
“The court had deemed … she wasn’t going to get her house. Tony was the person that was in the way …,” T.J. Carter said. “Don’t try to find an avenue around it, don’t try to find an avenue to work with, or give up. If somebody’s in your way, get rid of them … that’s the way I think she felt.”
Casey Fryman, 32, and his wife Sarah Fryman, 21, of Riverview Avenue in Middletown, are also facing one count each of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder for their alleged part in the murder-for-hire plot. They are scheduled to be in court next month for pre-trial hearings.
Journal-News media partner WCPO contributed to this report.