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)
Estes, 37, said he was a divorced, unemployed construction worker living with his mother in Lancaster when he first met Brooks in fall 2008. She was 21 then, a recently divorced mother of a young daughter who lived with her mother at the Belmont Apartments in Harrodsburg. She worked in the electronics department at Walmart in Harrodsburg, which is where they met, he said.
In short order, they became engaged, and visions of a life together as a family began dancing in Estes’ head, with Brooks’ daughter standing in for Estes’ own daughter, of whom he had lost custody in his own divorce.
But instead of working to make those dreams come true, the couple spent their time and money getting high on crack cocaine, Estes said. It was Brooks who led them down that path, he said.
“I had never been arrested before meeting Meagan. I only smoked pot,” he said. “She was smoking crack and said if I didn’t do it with her, she would find somebody who would.”
Estes said he quickly became hooked and dependent on Brooks to find the drugs. She would steal money from her mother or use her car as collateral for drug buys. It got to the point where Debora Brooks kept her money pinned inside her shirt to keep it safe, Estes said.
Estes said Debora Brooks was 44 and worked two jobs. When she wasn’t working, she was often left to care for her granddaughter while her daughter and Estes chased the high life. Debora Brooks was seeking to gain custody of the child, and a court hearing was scheduled for the week after her death.
Estes said the couple were partying especially hard on the day leading up to the killing. Though he told Bradshaw during his confession that they spent $200 or $300 on drugs that day, he said during the jail interview it was actually more than $1,000.
Both had been using crack and methamphetamine all that day, Estes said, and he also was taking Xanax, Klonopin and other pills. The clock had moved past midnight into the wee hours of May 19 when the drugs and money were spent and Brooks first introduced the idea of killing her mother as a solution to their problems, Estes said. It had never been mentioned before that night, he said.
In making her pitch, Estes said Brooks mentioned the possibility of losing custody of her daughter as motivation. She also said her mother had a life insurance policy worth $500,000 that they could use to make their white picket fence fantasies into reality, he said. Brooks never promised to pay Estes any part of the insurance money, just convinced him they would share it to finance their dreams, he said.
“Nah, she wasn’t paying me to do it. It was just we were supposed to be together and start our family,” he said.
Those sweet nothings from Brooks, combined with a mind fried by drugs, finally enticed Estes to creep up those steps to Debora Brooks’ bedroom, he said. When he faltered, his girlfriend was there to urge him to “do it, do it, do it,” he said. So he did. And she did. And he left. And she called 911 to report her mother had committed suicide.
Authorities believed that story for a while, testament to Brooks’ skills as an actress, Estes said, able to cry on cue for investigators and television news crews.
Though a preliminary autopsy turned up no suggestion of foul play, embalmers at a local funeral home noticed suspicious marks around Debora Brooks’ neck as they were preparing her for her funeral. Another autopsy was conducted and determined that she had been suffocated by somebody’s hands other than her own.
As police were closing in on Meagan Brooks as a suspect, Estes said she texted him with instructions: He was supposed to commit suicide after writing a letter stating he had acted alone in smothering Debora Brooks to death.
That text would provide proof that Meagan Brooks was an equal partner in crime, Estes said, but when he asked Bradshaw if he could retrieve it from his cell phone, the detective told him his phone was too small and did not have enough memory to keep it after it had been deleted.
His childhood friend, Frankie Peace, saw the text, Estes said. Peace was scheduled to testify at Estes’ trial last April but suffered a heart attack — leading to the trial’s postponement — and later died. Bottoms has said he has DNA and fingerprint evidence that implicates Estes in the murder. Estes said his prints were the only identifiable ones lifted from the yellow Dollar Store bag, which he explained by saying he carried the bag from the store after buying two-liter sodas.
Estes also said he’s heard from various other inmates at the Boyle jail who were there during Meagan Brooks’ time there, before she was sent to state prison after her guilty plea. “She told them I didn’t get it done, that I was a (expletive deleted), so she had to get the bag and finish the job,” Estes said. “Meagan told them I was wrapped around her finger and would do anything she wanted.
“She used me as a tool.”