Court papers: Fort Recovery prep coaches killed man in child custody dispute

Fort Recovery HS coaches accused of killing Indiana man due to custody dispute

(UPDATE @ 6:13 p.m.): Two Fort Recovery High School softball coaches are accused of conspiring to kill an Indiana man after he filed to have parenting time with a child he shared with one of the coaches, according to Jay County, Indiana, court records.

Head coach Esther Stephen, 31, and assistant coach Shelby Hiestand, 18, are each charged with one count of murder in the death of Shea Briar.

They are expected in court Thursday, according to court documents.

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Esther Stephen, left, and Shelby Hiestand
Esther Stephen, left, and Shelby Hiestand

Early Sunday morning, Briar was reportedly found suffering from a gunshot wound in his back on County Road 125 West in Jay County.

He was initially taken to Adams Memorial Hospital in Decatur, Indiana, then transported to Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne. There, he was pronounced dead.

Preliminary autopsy results indicate Briar died from a gunshot wound, according to court documents.

In interviews with investigators, Hiestand and Stephen “admitted that they had conspired together to murder Shea Briar on Jan. 11-12,” according to an affidavit filed with the court.

“Esther Jane Stephen was angry with Shea Briar because [he] had recently initiated court proceedings to establish parenting time rights for their minor child and petitioned the court to change the child’s last name,” read the court records.

Stephen reportedly got a .22 rifle and ammunition from Hiestand’s home.

On Saturday night, Jan. 11, the pair reportedly dropped off Stephen’s child with a friend and then asked Briar if he wanted to hang out.

Stephen and Hiestand picked up Briar from his Portland, Indiana, home and drove to a bridge on County Road 125 West, according to the court documents.

“Stephen told investigators that she was to distract Briar so that Hiestand could remove the .22 rifle from the back of the vehicle and shoot Briar,” the affidavit read. “Stephen and Hiestand told investigators that while Stephen and Briar walked away from the vehicle, Hiestand shot Briar once in the back.”

Jay County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Stephen and Hiestand in Indiana on Tuesday. Both remain in the Jay County Security Center without bond, according to the prosecutor’s office.

The school district has relieved both coaches of their duties until further notice.

Word of the arrests of Stephen and Hiestand was made public in a social media post from the Fort Recovery Local Schools on Tuesday evening.

According to the school district, Stephen and Hiestand were arrested Tuesday and now are on administrative leave pending further investigation by law enforcement. They are not allowed on school district property without written permission from the superintendent.

This news organization also has reached out to the Fort Recovery High School principal for comment.

The district superintendent declined to comment on the coaches or the criminal case.

News of the homicide is the talk of Portland, Indiana, as well as the Mercer County village of Fort Recovery.

“We’re a small town so everybody knows everybody knows everything,” Morgan Frasher of Portland told News Center 7’s John Bedell on Wednesday.

In Fort Recovery, resident Madeline Roessner told Bedell, “It’s kind of crazy. Not a lot of stuff like that happens in Fort Recovery. I mean the craziest thing is someone runs a red light.”

We will continue to update this developing report as we learn more.

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