Lorado remembers tragedy one year later

LORADO, Ark. – On Dec. 23, 2015, the lives of those close to Stacy Quintana would change forever.

The happy, beautiful 45-year-old sister to Angela Pugsley, along with Randy who own of Lorado Grocery and Feed, was at work early that morning. It was the final morning of Stacy’s life, as it was tragically cut short in what police say was a murder-for-hire plot orchestrated by her estranged husband, Charles Quintana, 59, of Paragould.

At 6:56 a.m. Wednesday morning, Dec. 23, Aaron Jenkins, a food delivery man, called 911 and told police he was stabbed outside of the store. The alleged assailant was Stacy Keplinger, 32, of Leachville. The incident was staged to look like a robbery-gone-wrong but much more was at work than the desire for easy money. As Keplinger led Stacy to her car, along with Jenkins, she then shot Stacy, killing her. She turned the gun on Jenkins and pulled the trigger. It jammed. That is when Jenkins said she tried to cut his throat with a paring knife.

With the plot falling apart, Keplinger was to be picked up by Darrel Swan, 53, of Paragould, who was waiting down the road from Lorado Grocery. A constable was responding to the 911 call and came upon the two before they could leave the scene. Keplinger was arrested, as was Swan – who had also dropped the shooter off.

Authorities arrived at the scene to discover Stacy passed and Jenkins terrified.

Stacy Quintana (left) with her cousin, Dara Williams, the day before Stacy was killed
Stacy Quintana (left) with her cousin, Dara Williams, the day before Stacy was killed

“Physically, I’m fine,” Jenkins told a Jonesboro Sun reporter on Jan. 2. He was anything but fine on the inside, having witnessed a senseless tragedy and at the same time, narrowly avoiding being murdered, himself.

Investigators found unusual signs at the scene which indicated this had been no simple robbery-gone-awry. Carter said it is nearly unheard of for a female to murder someone during a robbery. Keplinger also had not taken money from the store, he said.

Keplinger’s roommate, Tracy Swan Stone, 45, of Paragould, was arrested in the days that followed for hindering apprehension – but the arrest which shocked Northeast Arkansas was of Charles Quintana, the estranged husband of Stacy. Greene County Sheriff David Carter said it was a murder-for-hire plot, where Quintana hired Keplinger and Swan to exact revenge on Stacy.

“He said if he couldn’t have her, no one could,” Carter said.

Carter said the two were convinced by Quintana to perform the act with the promise of money he was supposed to inherit.

“He led them to believe he was going to get money and pay them,” Carter said. “But it came out in the investigation that he was not coming into money.”

In addition, Carter said the shooter was on crystal methamphetamine at the time of the attack, by her own admission. He indicated she had been given the meth prior to the incident.

Since the arrests, Stone has been sentenced to 60 months in the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Swan, Keplinger and Charles Quintana all face 2017 trials for capital murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery and first degree battery, all felonies. They could face punishments up to life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Since the tragedy, the family has worked hard to come to grips with the loss. Over the past year, Randy Pugsley, Stacy’s brother-in-law, has made many upgrades to the store which Stacy had asked for. The store has been remodeled a great deal with more changes on the way. A garden sits out front of Lorado Grocery and Feed, called Stacy’s Flower Garden.

Stacy's Flower Garden at Lorado Grocery. (Stan Morris | NEA Report)
Stacy’s Flower Garden at Lorado Grocery. (Stan Morris | NEA Report)

But the family said early Friday it has been difficult. Stacy’s son had joked with her the morning of her death. Her cousin had sat with her, giggling, the day prior. Memories are all that last.

And one year later, as the cold air nipped at the noses of everyone standing around Stacy’s memorial in Lorado, the cold reality of a selfish, senseless act’s eternal repercussions made everyone hold and appreciate the family still with them just a little more.

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