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Greenup couple pleads not guilty to murder; bond granted

Jan. 18—GREENUP — A Greenup County couple implicated in the murder of a 5-year-old was granted bond on Thursday morning.

Rachell Waddell, 36, and live-in partner, Christopher "Clay" Stiltner, 38, were booked into Greenup County Detention Center last week, each charged with a sole count of murder.

Their murder charges stem from a lengthy investigation into the "suspicious death" of Waddell's daughter, Aubrey Stowers, who died June 17, 2023, at the couple's Wurtland home.

According to Kentucky State Police, Stiltner and Waddell were arrested without incident after a Greenup County grand jury found probable cause to charge both parties separately with Aubrey's murder.

Authorities have not released details about the pair's specific alleged actions to protect the integrity of the legal process, but the couple's separate indictment suggests the two equally "wantonly engage(d) in conduct which creates a grave risk of death to another person and thereby causes the death of another person," according to the state's murder statute.

On Thursday, Stiltner and Waddell made their first circuit court appearance for arraignment before Greenup Circuit Judge Brian McCloud.

Prior to the court's commencement, the couple fell into line with other inmates transported from the jail and filed into the jury box, with Waddell seated in the far left of the front row and Stiltner blending into the top right.

In addition to their separated seating arrangement, Waddell and Stiltner's emotions also appeared to be divided.

Stiltner, dressed in a blazing orange jumpsuit, sat idle and aloof and stared straight ahead throughout the proceedings before his case was called.

Waddell, however, appeared anxious and emotional before the hearing — as she mostly gazed at her shackled feet, fidgeted with her hands and sniffled, mimicking a quiet sob.

Just after 10:40 a.m., the two were called before Judge McCloud as defense attorney Sebastian Joy officially stated he would be dually representing Stiltner and Waddell.

Joy waived formal arraignment, meaning Waddell and Stiltner's issued indictments were not read aloud to the near-capacity courtroom, and a not-guilty plea was entered on the pair's behalf.

Joy also requested McCloud to take up the issue of bond, as both were originally booked into custody without.

Based on Waddell's lack of criminal history and her previous punctuality in family court, Joy requested a $50,000 bond.

As far as Stiltner, Joy pitched $100,000 as he said he was "familiar" with the case and believed the murder of Aubrey was not an "intentional act" after reviewing the medical examiner and coroner reports.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Joe Merkel brought up Stiltner's previous conviction, which Merkel said involved the abuse of a minor victim. Joy clarified it was previously amended to a misdemeanor.

Merkel said the bond should reflect the seriousness of the charge and requested $500,000 for each.

Judge McCloud ruled $200,000 cash — or property — for each Stiltner and Waddell.

A pre-trial conference is scheduled for April 18.

The two were also tentatively scheduled to stand trial in August of this year.

If convicted by a jury, the couple faces life in prison.

(606) 326-2652 — mjepling@dailyindependent.com