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An Amiable Serpent

Updated: Jan 1

There comes a point in time during adulthood, that we hope to make the best choices for ourselves. We hope the path we pave for ourselves leads to everything we have ever wanted. Occasionally some choices we make send us down a dirt path, only to realize maybe the decision was not the best. Sometimes, we even allow people into our lives that don’t have our best interest. Initially meeting someone charming that showers you with love can be what you have always wanted. We must remember that sometimes things can be too good to be true and maybe a chance encounter with someone could change the destiny of our future. This story is a tragic one, that ponders the question, if one thing intercepted two people crossing paths, would one of them still be here.

Stephanie "Stacy" Wasilishin

First, I would like to thank Nicole, Stephanie’s daughter, for speaking with me. She was only 10 years old when her mother unexpectedly passed. The past couple years Nicole has been a strong force in her mother’s case. She started from the beginning, dusted off her mother’s case file and went for it. She has had many successes and has taken many steps that led to where she is today. Her mother’s case is reactivated.

Stephanie Marie Wasilishin was born on June 1, 1961. Born in Chicago to Benice and Harry. Stephanie was part of a growing family; Stephanie was one of five siblings.

The Wasilishin Siblings

The majority of Stephanie’s upbringing is unknown, however recently, Nicole found out her mother was a twin. She had a twin brother named Steven. Steven was seven months old when he passed away from a contagious disease. The Wasilishin family moved to Arizona and where Stephanie would be raised to adulthood. Stephanie who also liked to be called "Stacy" was very close with her sister Wendy. Wendy remembers her little sister as playful and funny but more importantly a great mother.

Wendy, Nicole & Stephanie

When Stephanie was nineteen, her brother Mike, who worked for a construction company, introduced his sister to a coworker Craig Daley. Craig and Stephanie hit it off. Within a few years Stephanie became pregnant with Nicole. Stephanie worked as a pastry chef. One day while working in Phoenix she unfortunately, would cross the path of Russell Peterson, and her future hung in the balance. Stephanie was not satisfied with her relationship with Craig and because of that Russell sweet talked her into leaving Craig. Stephanie had been waiting for a guy like Russell. She hoped he would show her the grass was greener on his side.

Stephanie & Nicole

Shortly, Stephanie and Russell began dating and rented a home on Coffee Pot Drive in Sedona. The couple had a daughter Kristina. At some point they were supposed to marry but Russell had other plans. Everything was set and the big day was just around the corner, at the last second Russell decided marriage with Stephanie was not in the cards for him. They still decided to make a big career move. Both Stephanie and Russell worked in the food industry. Russell was a chef and Stephanie’s skills in pastries. The couple bought a fine Italian Restaurant in Sedona. After this purchase is when things in the relationship started going downhill. The stress and tension started to chip away at the relationship. Russell spent many nights out later than expected and took to the bottle more and more.

On the night of July 9, 1993, Nicole vividly remembers at approximately 11PM kissing her mother good night. Stephanie was sitting on the couch in the living room. It was unknown to Nicole but that moment in time would be the last time she would see her mother. Shortly after Nicole retreated to her bedroom, Russell would return home from work. In the early morning hours Russell phoned 911 at approximately 1:40 AM. During that call he stated that his girlfriend had been shot. When asked if he was involved in this Russell responded, “yes”. He then told the operator “He might have shot her, or she might have shot herself.”

Nicole woke up to police with shining flashlights in her eyes as she woke. She was helped out of bed and rushed out of the home to a waiting police vehicle. Not before seeing Russell sitting in the living room and the police standing around him. Inside the cruiser was her younger sister. Kristina repeatedly told Nicole “Papa killed mommy”. She urged her sister to stop saying that. In Nicole's young mind she had just been woken up by police and now she is sitting in a police car. She has no idea what is going on and was overwhelmingly scared and confused. She just seen their mother and said good night. The confusion she felt was not over. Russell was put into the same vehicle as the children. Nicole remembers Russell grabbing her leg tight and whispering to her” I’m sorry, I love you, I want to keep the family together.”

The home Stephanie & Russell shared

That morning while being interviewed, Russell told the police he and Stephanie were in an argument. The fight escalated when an upcoming trip Russell was taking was bought up. This was a two-week culinary trip in New York. According to Russell it was at this time Stephanie fled to their bedroom only to reappear holding Russell’s 44. Magma Redhawk revolver. (

She shot at him but missed, a struggle ensued and he “heard a pop, and she dropped” Russell also reviled he did not call 911 immediately, he first had to “decide where to place the gun”. Picking up the gun and placing it back in the closest. Only after a few minutes of thinking did he retrieve the revolver and place it back down on the ground. Investigators attempted twice to make an arrest in the homicide of Stephanie. However, prosecutors shut it down due to "insufficient evidence". After his interview Russell was able to walk out of the Sedona police station and back to his life. Nicole living back with her father Craig and Kristina staying with Russell. Unfortunately, the sisters would never develop a bond.

Medical Report ruling the manner of death

The following day the medical examiner performed Stephanie’s autopsy. He determined her death was a homicide and ruled as such. There was one entrance wound on the left side of her neck, from a gun. Her hands were also tested for gunshot residue. He discovered Stephanie did not have any residue in her right hand but on her left hand on the ulnar side. Which was odd, not only was he informed Stephanie was right hand dominant but if she shot the pistol with her left, it would not just be present where it was located. This was a huge clue to what happened, at least according to him. This was determined to be defensive posture and positioning. Meaning the residue was on her hand in that spot due to her raising her hand in defense.

What really happened on the night of July 9, 1993? What transpired after Stephanie's children laid their heads on their pillow? Nicole knows her mother was making plans to leave Russell. The relationship soured and Stephanie was giving no more chances. There is no question what the manner of death was. In black and white the medical examiner report ruled her death as homicide. What more evidence did prosecutors need to pursue charges? Stephanie and Russell were the only two adults in the home that fateful night. Why would Stephanie use a gun she never shot before? One thing is for sure, if her path never crossed an amiable serpent, Stephanie "Stacy" Marie Wasilishin would still be here today.

If you have any additional information that could help the case, please contact Nicole Wasilishin. She is active on social media platforms about her mother's case.

Please help Nicole by signing the petition:

News, media coverage for Stephanie's case:


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Thank you for taking the time to give my mother a voice.

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