Murder suspect talks about crime
Paul Estes Admits Taking Part In Killing But Says He's Getting Raw Deal From System
"I'm not a monster, and that's what they're trying to make me look like," Paul Estes said during a jailhouse interview. He is awaiting trial in the murder of Debora Brooks of Harrodsburg. Brooks' daughter, Meagan, pleaded guilty earlier to manslaughter. (December 15, 2012)
The American Dream, right. … the white picket fence and all that? Maybe it started out that way in Paul Estes’ imagination, but it turned into an American Nightmare.
“We had been smoking crack all night, run through $200 or $300, and we were tapped out … She said we need to get some money … and then she just started talking about killing her mom pretty much, and she kept it up for probably a good hour and then finally, you know, she talked me into doing it. I went upstairs and she went with me …”
It was about 3 a.m. the day of May 19, 2009. Debora Brooks was sleeping in her bed when Estes put a pillow over her face. There was a struggle. Kicking and clawing. The pair ended up on the bedroom floor. Debora Brooks finally lost consciousness next to the dresser.
“I asked Meagan to check her to make sure she was dead because my heart was racing so hard I couldn’t tell. Then she brought up that Dollar Store bag, that yellow Dollar Store bag, and put it over her mother’s head.”
The above italicized paragraphs are taken from the confession recorded by retired Harrodsburg Detective Garry Bradshaw on Aug. 10, 2009. Estes again admitted his role in Brooks’ murder and stood by the account he gave Bradshaw during a recent interview at the Boyle County Detention Center where he has been incarcerated for 31⁄2 years while awaiting trial.
“I still feel bad about it, I really do, but there is nothing I can do to change it now,” Estes said during the interview, which he initiated.
What Estes hopes to change is the notion put forth by Commonwealth’s Attorney Richie Bottoms that Estes was the main perpetrator of Brooks’ death, that he was the one who snuffed the life out of her that night, and that he is the one who deserves to take the brunt of the punishment for the crime.
Meagan Brooks, Estes’ former girlfriend and Debora Brooks’ daughter, is at least equally culpable, if not more so, Estes said, and he doesn’t understand why Bottoms doesn’t see it that way.
“It ain’t exactly fair, and it pisses me off,” Estes said. “I watched Meagan do it. I watched her put the bag over her mother’s head.”
While Estes has stewed over his perceived injustice of the justice system as he waits for his day in court, Meagan Brooks already has had hers. She cut a deal with Bottoms in November 2011 in which she pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence in exchange for a 17-year prison sentence.
Under the deal, the manslaughter charge was classified as a non-violent offense, meaning Meagan Brooks would be eligible for parole after serving 20 percent of her sentence, or about three years. She has nearly served that time already and is soon due for her first hearing before the parole board. The plea bargain had the blessing of Debora Brooks’ family.
Bottoms offered Estes a deal, too: plead guilty to murder and get a life sentence with no hope of parole for 25 years. Estes has repeatedly rejected the offer, contending the disparity between the two sentences is grossly unfair.
“I deserve, at most, what she got,” he said. “I don’t know why they turned on me and made me the fall guy for this. I’m not a monster, and that’s what they’re trying to make me look like.”
Mercer Circuit Judge Darren Peckler recently issued a gag order in Estes’ case — which could be set for trial during a hearing next month — preventing Bottoms and public defender Susanne McCollough, who represents Estes, from commenting on remarks made by Estes during the jailhouse interview.
Prior to the issuance of the gag order, Bottoms said evidence points to Estes as the only participant in the actual smothering of Debora Brooks.
“We have zero evidence that she was involved in the physical act,” Bottoms said in April, referring to Meagan Brooks.
Any contentions, true or not, that Meagan Brooks initiated the plan and egged Estes on would be irrelevant in the case against Estes because Brooks would not be on trial, the prosecutor said previously. At trial, Bottoms has said he will ask the jury to recommend the maximum sentence for Estes — life in prison with no hope of parole. Estes’ plan is to admit his guilt and try to convince jurors that in order for justice to be meted out fairly in this case they should recommend a sentence on par with what Meagan Brooks received. McCullough previously described this strategy as “a slow guilty plea.”
“I don’t know if it will work or not, but I really don’t have much to lose,” he said.