Teresa Stone had dreamed of a life of “glory and luxury” with her new husband and perhaps as much as $800,000 in life insurance payouts, prosecutors said.
Instead, Stone left an Independence courtroom Friday with her hands cuffed behind her, sentenced to eight years in prison for conspiring with her minister and lover to kill her husband, Independence insurance agent Randy Stone.
“She wanted a perfect life with David Love, no matter the cost,” said Tammy Dickinson, assistant Jackson County prosecutor.
But, Dickinson added, “Today is not about what Teresa Stone wants, it’s about what she deserves.”
The eight-year term was the third and most severe option recommended to Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Marco Roldan in a pre-sentencing assessment.
Stone’s two children pleaded with Roldan to show their mother mercy, as did Stone, who stood and struggled, sobbing, to read a prepared statement.
“I am so sorry … if I could do anything to change it.… I ask you today to show mercy.… I am totally responsible for my actions,” she said.
But prosecutors described a much different Teresa Stone.
“Her lover was her hit man,” Dickinson said.
Stone, she added, schemed with former Independence minister David Love to commit the 2010 murder, allowed him access to her husband’s collection of guns (one of which Love used to shoot him), mistakenly believed she would be the beneficiary of several life insurance policies and then — after Love killed her husband — allowed the killer to preside over her husband’s funeral.
That Randy Stone quietly had made their children the beneficiaries of his life insurance policies suggests he might have harbored doubts about his wife, Dickinson said.
“Randy Stone didn’t trust her, and do you blame him?” Dickinson said. “The man was on to something.”
The sentencing closed a case that had attracted national attention.
Teresa Stone, 40, pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to commit murder, with the understanding that her maximum sentence would be 10 years.
Love admitted last year that he shot Randy Stone in Stone’s Noland Road insurance office. He is serving life in prison after pleading guilty in November to second-degree murder and armed criminal action.
During Friday’s 90-minute sentencing hearing, spectators saw evidence made public for the first time, including transcripts of text messages sent between Teresa Stone and Love, as well as photographs of the body of Randy Stone, who was killed March 31, 2010.
Teresa Stone, Dickinson said, had a 10-year affair with Love, without the apparent knowledge of her husband.
But by January 2010, Stone and Love had begun thinking in more specific terms about their future, sending messages back and forth that included details of a pending marriage ceremony. “I would love an outside wedding, with lots of flowers,” Teresa Stone wrote.
By that February, Love had purchased her a ring.
At the same time, they plotted the deaths of their respective spouses. Independence police detective Keith Rosewarren testified that Love had intended to kill his wife by breaking her neck and staging a car accident to disguise her death.
Then animosity surfaced between Love and Randy Stone.
On March 16, 2010, Randy Stone sent an email to Love, resigning from New Hope Baptist Church in Independence, where Love had served as pastor for about 10 years.
On March 31, Teresa Stone placed a 911 call saying that she had found her husband shot.
Investigators responding to the agency recovered a .40 caliber shell casing and a one-page handwritten letter in a wastebasket at the office. “You are the center of my world,” read the letter, which her husband didn’t write.
Teresa Stone denied knowledge of the letter to investigators.
Officers found no evidence of struggle, suggesting that Randy Stone knew whoever shot him. They also found about $100 in cash on a desk in the office, indicating Randy Stone was not killed in a robbery attempt.
Police later matched the .40 caliber shell casing to others recovered on an eastern Jackson County farm where Stone, a former Marine, liked to take target practice. Investigators concluded that Stone had been killed with his own gun.
Teresa Stone, meanwhile, had proved “very calm, talkative, showing little emotion,” Rosewarren said. “There were no tears coming down her face,” he said.
She insisted to investigators that she was happily married and had no idea who would want to kill her husband. She had spent March 31, she said, running errands, making a bank deposit, seeing a chiropractor, picking up her daughter at school at about 3:15 p.m., and then going to a Sonic restaurant.
“The times were verified by receipts or video,” Rosewarren said.
As for the torn-up letter in the wastebasket, Rosewarren said, she said it had been left on her car about a year earlier. But, while being left alone in an interrogation room at the Independence police department, Stone said aloud: “I forgot about the letter.”
In April, Teresa Stone told investigators that Love had written her the letter. She considered herself in love with him, and added that she believed she had been pregnant but had miscarried. Her husband Randy, she said, had a vasectomy some time before.
Also testifying was Robert Davis, a Farmers Insurance district manager who went to the Stones’ home after Teresa Stone called and told him of her husband’s death. At the house, Davis said, he met a distraught Teresa Stone with her parents.
“She suggested that we go out on the front porch,” Davis said. “She immediately regained her composure and started asking about the life insurance.”
When Davis examined three insurance policies that had been placed on a desk in a basement office, the policies suggested that Randy Stone had carried about $725,000 in life insurance benefits. But Davis later learned that the amount was closer to $575,000. He also learned that Randy Stone, in 2005, had made his children the beneficiaries of the policies, instead of his wife.
When Davis called Tersea Stone to tell her this, her reaction, he said, was of “shock” and “disbelief.”
Shelly Bell, Randy Stone’s niece, told Roldan that her uncle would have been 45 years old this week and asked him to impose the maximum sentence to reflect “the cold-hearted decision made by this woman.”
John P. O’Connor, Stone’s lawyer, told Roldan that Stone had no prior criminal record and since her husband’s death had gone back to school in an effort to seek a new career as a medical technician.
After the sentencing, O’Connor said he accepted Roldan’s sentence. “I believe it was a fair sentence under all the circumstances,” he said.
The Stones’ children, Michael, 21, and Miranda, 18, still live in Independence, said their grandmother, Clara Koehler.
Koehler, Randy Stone’s mother, said the eight-year sentence satisfied her.
“More than anything, I wanted her to have time to think about what she had done and consider whether it had been worth it,” she said.