A former teacher in Harford County's alternative education program has been accused of plotting to kill his wife in order to be with a student with whom he was having a sexual relationship.
Ethan Richard Estevez, 31, of the 2600 block of Peery Drive in Churchville, was charged last week with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. He was indicted earlier this year on charges of sex abuse of a minor and fourth-degree sex offense.
His lawyer, Karen Jones, said Estevez was suspended in March from teaching. A school system spokesperson said he has since been discharged.
Estevez was released from jail Friday after posting $75,000 bond on the conspiracy charge.
Estevez was originally suspected March 14 of sexually abusing a 17-year-old girl after the student allegedly told others she was in a sexual relationship with Estevez, according to court charging documents. The Harford school system was already monitoring his emails, according to the documents, after another school employee had expressed concerns about the relationship.
Jones said Friday the girl was not his student at the time.
In April, the Harford County Sheriff's Office found messages from February between the student and someone else discussing the murder, according to the charging documents.
One message from the student said, "Like it has to look like an accident because of life insurance and stuff...," according to the documents.
In other messages, the student also said she would "just need it to really happen before [Sunday]."
In later interviews, according to charging documents, the student told detectives she "really was not gonna kill" Estevez's wife. The girl said Estevez allegedly talked to her a few times about it but she thought he was joking around.
In July, an unidentified person the girl had texted told detectives that Estevez allegedly explained someone would need to drive by in a dark vehicle, shoot a gun with a silencer, shoot his wife first and then shoot him in the arm to make it look more random, according to the charging documents.
In the earlier charges of sexual abuse, the student's mother agreed to call the student and Estevez, with a detective recording the conversation. During the call, made in March, Estevez said he was in love with the student and wanted to marry her. He denied having sexual intercourse but admitted to kissing her.
Later that month, an iPhone seized from the student showed she and Estevez were still sending text messages and Estevez allegedly admitted to having sex with her, according to charging documents.
The girl is identified only by initials in the court documents regarding both the conspiracy and sex abuse cases.
In setting a $75,000 bail during a bail review on the murder conspiracy charge Friday, Harford County District Court Judge David Carey said he "cannot ignore the seriousness of the charge."
"It's about as serious as it gets, but he is entitled to some bail, I believe," Carey said.
An assistant state's attorney said in court that Estevez "absolutely" poses a risk to the community as well as the victim. Carey called the new charges "an unusual situation in a lot of ways."
Estevez's parents were in the courtroom. Jones, his lawyer, told the judge he could return to their home in Churchville.
Jones said after the bail review she did not know why the new charges were being brought at this time.
"He intends to vigorously defend against the allegations," she said about her client.
Estevez formerly taught in the alternative education program at the Center for Educational Opportunity in Aberdeen, Jillian Lader, manager of communications for Harford County Public Schools, said Tuesday. The school serves students in grades seven through 12.
"Alternative Education provides a continuation of educational services to students who may have experienced crisis," according to the school system website. "This program also exists to meet individual needs of those students who have dropped out of school or have not been successful in a traditional school environment."
According to Lader, Estevez was hired in August 2012 and placed on administrative leave March 7, 2014, "pending an outside agency investigation." His employment terminated on June 4, 2014, she said.
This story has been updated to reflect a change in the address of Ethan Estevez.