Pair who posed as FBI agents sought in foiled McCreary murder-for-hire plot

jkegley@herald-leader.comFebruary 10, 2013 

Police continued to search Sunday for two men who claimed to be FBI agents when they allegedly attacked a McCreary County woman in a failed murder-for-hire plot.

Meanwhile, a woman thought to have orchestrated the scheme was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.

State police and a McCreary County sheriff's deputy found Regina Stephens dead in her home Friday when they tried to serve a warrant for conspiracy to commit murder, Sheriff Gus Skinner said.

Police think Stephens hired Timothy Prater, 30, and two other men to kill Debbie Taylor of Pine Knot, he said.

Taylor apparently was attacked early Thursday by the three men as she walked to her car outside her home on Richard Stevens Road. She was handcuffed and assaulted before neighbors interrupted the attack.

The three men, who were dressed in dark, military-style fatigues, told the neighbors they were FBI agents, but they didn't show any identification, police have said. The neighbors refused to leave, and the attackers eventually drove off, leaving Taylor relatively unhurt.

"If it hadn't been for the neighbors showing up, she would not be here right now," Skinner said.

The men were armed with a stun gun, and Prater was thought to have had a pistol, he said.

Prater was arrested Friday, said trooper Don Trosper, spokesman for the state police post in London. He was charged with conspiracy to commit murder, impersonating an officer, first-degree robbery and unlawful imprisonment.

Police were led to him by the neighbors' descriptions of a vehicle that was parked near Taylor's home during the assault.

Police have identified two other men they want to talk to about the attack, but they had not found them as of Sunday night, Skinner and Trosper said. Their names were not released.

Trosper said a motive for the crime had not been determined Sunday. Because the woman who planned the plot committed suicide, Skinner said, the motive might never be known.

The sheriff said there was no clear connection between Taylor and Stephens. He said he thought Stephens might have known Taylor's husband, but he said Pine Knot is a small community where "everybody knows everybody."

Stephens and Prater worked together at Guthrie's River House, a popular restaurant in Somerset, Skinner said. She was a waitress and he was a bartender, he said.

Stephens also operated a hair salon in her home on Ky. 92 in Pine Knot, where she was found dead Friday night after Prater's arrest.

State police are the lead investigators in the case. Skinner's office is assisting, the officers said.

Josh Kegley: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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