PARAGOULD, Ark. – Before an empty courtroom, save for the family of victim Stacy Quintana, her killer plead guilty and was sentenced to 80 years in prison on Friday.
Stacy Rae Keplinger, 37, of Paragould, plead guilty to first degree murder and attempted capital murder on Friday in Greene County Circuit Court. The judge sentenced Keplinger to the state’s recommendation of 480 months in the Arkansas Department of Correction, minus 388 days served, twice – for each of the two charges. She must serve 70 percent of the first and 25 percent of the second.
That means her sentence will be 28 years for murder and 10 more years for attempted murder, making her 75-years-old before she is eligible for release.
As part of the plea arrangement, Keplinger also agreed to testify against her co-defendants in the case – Darrell Swan, 54, and Charles Quintana, 59, both of Paragould. Each of the two faces capital murder charges, along with attempted murder charges, for the Dec. 23, 2015 murder-for-hire plot which claimed the life of the manager of Lorado Grocery – Stacy Quintana.
In testimony given by Keplinger on Friday, the horrific details of the grisly murder were retold in front of the family. At no point in time did Keplinger demonstrate any remorse or regret, never apologizing and never appearing concerned about the family or about her actions.
Keplinger testified in the beginning of December, 2015, she was homeless in Fayetteville. A conversation with her “best friend,” Tracy Stone, 46, of Paragould, led to Swan and Stone driving to Fayetteville, in Swan’s truck, and picking up Keplinger. She then lived with both Stone, in a house on Emerson Street, and Swan, in the Highway 69 Mobile Home Park – both in Paragould. As Keplinger told the story, she coincidentally was moved to town just two weeks prior to being utilized to commit murder.
While at the mobile home park, Charles Quintana came over and introduced himself to Keplinger, who testified that both Charles and Stone were involved in a romantic, sexual relationship. Stone had claimed she planned to marry Charles once his divorce with Stacy Quintana was finalized. Charles continuously referred to how “stressful” his marriage with Stacy Quintana was – and how it was going to “kill him.”
Keplinger testified that she heard Charles talking about having a heart problem and said, “If something didn’t get done, it was going to kill him.”
Keplinger also said he acted as though he wanted a divorce but she would not sign it because he was coming into money from a veteran fund. Keplinger said Charles also claimed Stacy Quintana was cheating on him – seemingly unphased by his own sexual relationship with Stone.
Swan agreed, saying he “knew where he was coming from,” according to Keplinger’s testimony, and that he wanted his friend Charles “to be happy.”
With the conversation continuing, Charles mentioned where she worked and began talking about running her off of the road near an embankment. The person whom he wished to employ as the hitman for this task would cost $15,000, Keplinger said.
Everyone in the room then turned to Keplinger and she replied, “I’ll do it,” she testified.
With Charles promising Keplinger and Swan a home and a job in Mexico, the plan began to be laid by the group.
“Thank you,” Charles Quintana told Keplinger, according to her testimony. “I am forever in debt to you.”
On the Saturday before the murder, Keplinger picked up what the group called a “toy” from Charles, the toy being a pistol which would take the life of Stacy Quintana. Keplinger also said Charles insisted the murder be done on Dec. 23 – but she insisted she did not know why this date was so important.
On Dec. 22, the night before the murder, Swan gassed up his four-door white pickup truck. He then bought Keplinger a black hoodie from Family Dollar and then, according to her testimony, bought her crystal methamphetamine from a dealer at a gas station. Keplinger snorted the meth the night before and went to sleep.
At 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 23, she woke up and showered. With help from Swan, she taped the knife to her left leg. Swan then taped her breasts to make her look like a boy, Keplinger said. A red bag with a change of clothes was put in the truck and the two left for Lorado Grocery.
The plan unraveled when Keplinger was dropped off behind the woods by Swan. Instead of Stacy Quintana alone arriving, a delivery man arrived. Asking why Keplinger was there, she answered that her car had broken down and she was needing to make a call. The delivery driver, Aaron Jenkins, offered Keplinger his truck to keep warm in on the cold winter morning. She accepted his offer, minutes before she would try to slit his throat in cold blood.
When Stacy Quintana arrived, she was already on the phone. She was talking on the phone to her husband, Charles, Keplinger testified. The man who had planned and orchestrated her murder, according to the testimony, wanted to talk to her moments before she would die.
As the group went inside of the grocery store, Keplinger began to spring her plan. She faked a robbery.
“I was trying to make it look like I was robbing them,” Keplinger said. “It was supposed to look like a robbery.”
Keplinger took the two to Stacy Quintana’s car, she said. Stacy Quintana begged for her life, telling Keplinger she was a mother of two boys.
“I told her to shut her eyes,” Keplinger testified. “Then I shot her.”
The killer showed no remorse as the words came from her mouth. The family, meanwhile, was in tears in the courtroom.
Keplinger said she then went around the car and tried to cut Jenkin’s throat, as he begged for his life, too.
She would fail and he would then call the police, leading to her arrest a short ways down the road, as she walked to meet up with Swan.
While Keplinger’s testimony elicited emotions from the family of the victim, Stacy Quintana’s sister, Angela Pugsley, testified about the loss she had gone through. At no point did Keplinger seem concerned.
“December 2 forever changed my life,” Pugsley said. “Not a day goes by her mother doesn’t cry. Her sons, Derek and Chris, are completely lost without their mother. A part of me died when she died.”