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Family court: Affair, custody battle preceded fatal stabbing
After an affair ended Annastasia and Matthew Hester's marriage, the divorced couple waged a bitter custody battle over their only child, Alice. The dispute ended with Annastasia's death.
Police allege that Matthew Hester's new wife, Angela McCraw-Hester, killed Annastasia. Years earlier, a court-retained counselor had warned that Angela's behavior toward Matthew's ex was "not appropriate."
"(Angela) is certain that Matt cannot defend himself against his 'abusive' ex-wife," official court records report. "It appears that the parents got along very well until the father started dating Angela."The counselor conducted many interviews of all three Hesters, their friends and family before submitting her 28-page report to Multnomah County Family Court.
The 911 call arrived at 3 a.m. Friday, June 10, 2016, police say. Annastasia had been stabbed repeatedly inside her one-bedroom unit at East Park Apartments, 193 S.W. Eastman Parkway in Gresham. She died in the hospital.
In the weeks that followed, news crews would speculate endlessly about the apartment's proximity to the Springwater Corridor and its well-publicized population of homeless campers. But the story pieced together by the Gresham Police Department begins and ends much closer to home.
Annastasia Diane (Holmes) Hester spent her days in a call center. But she was really a pirate.
The 34-year-old worked as a team leader for Stericycle, a medical waste disposal company, and spent her weekends painting faces at local festivals. When she took a vacation, it was to adult pirate camp.
She married Matthew James Keone Hester, 36, a Verizon Wireless salesman from Troutdale, on July 14, 2008.
Matthew's first marriage to a Tigard woman ended after he cheated, he told an investigator from Multnomah County family court. The pattern repeated in November 2011, a few weeks after Alice was born on Nov. 1, 2011.
"Emotional and physical contact continued for several months," the family counselor wrote. "Ann shared that (after the affair) she felt she could not trust him and decided it would be better for Alice if they got a divorce."After the split, Annastasia started sleeping in her living room so Alice could have the only bedroom in Unit 60.
In Matthew's telling, the couple had an open marriage. Regardless, the divorce was finalized in August 2012. In May, Matt lost his monthly income of $2,100 because his cellphone sales were down.
In 2013, he moved in with Angela Rose McCraw as a roommate, though they were dating within a month, court records describe. Wedding bells rang on Sept. 22, 2014.Blaming the mother
Angela Rose McCraw Hester saw mental illness in many places.
Out of work since 2006, Angela depicted herself as suffering from severe anxiety that made her reluctant to venture out in public, court records say. The 35-year-old collects Social Security checks because the father of her daughter killed himself.
Angela had diagnosed all three of her children with mental illnesses ranging from autism to obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Both Angela and Matt believed that Alice, then a toddler, suffered from bi-polar disorder. Carol A. Jansen, a licensed professional counselor who specializes in mental health, cautioned that the couple had likely "pathologized" normal behavior like tantrums.
"It is very dangerous to label a child and see normal developmental behaviors in a pathological manner," she wrote in her October 2015 report. "The father has not explored any other possibility for Alice's behavior other than blaming the mother."
Psychologists who study bipolar disorder have no formal diagnosis standard for children younger than 6, she noted.
At first, Matt and Annastasia had an "easy, friendly" working relationship after the divorce, court records state.
In the eyes of the law, Annastasia was the sole legal guardian for Alice. In reality, Matthew was unemployed and cared for Alice while Annastasia worked 9 to 5. Neither parents adhered to the written parenting plan submitted in court.
Then Angela entered the picture.
"Things went downhill fast," recalled Elizabeth McBride, Annastasia's mom.
Without Angela, it's like he's "missing an arm," said Jana Pearce, Matt's friend since high school.
Even Matthew admitted that his new wife was a "crutch to lean on."
Months after the alleged murder of his ex-wife, Matthew Hester highlighted that he had never gotten a penny of the life insurance.
"The maternal grandmother got the $100,000 life insurance policy. So it's not like the estate even needs the money," Hester wrote on Facebook on March 31, 2016. "Yeah it is pretty ridiculous," he added later.
Matthew Hester did not respond immediately to an interview request. But court and online records portray him as a man often immersed in fantasy realms of the imagination.
Friends and family agreed that Matthew Hester had a tendency to "zone out" or "climb into a game and ignore people," according to court docs.
He wrote and posted online short sci-fi vignettes and made efforts to design a card game similar to Magic: The Gathering, a popular game where players summon magical creatures while pretending to be a wizard.
"I've been playing Magic since 1994," he told his YouTube audience. "I absolutely fell in love with the game and I've been playing ever since."In 2017, the Hester family, including Alice, left behind Angela's rent-subsidized Section 8 four-bedroom home for a new life in Pocatello, Idaho. Gresham detectives told Elizabeth McBride they were well aware of the move, according to court records.
Though Annastasia had been unable to describe her killer from her deathbed, police believed they have finally solved the case.
Pocatello police arrested Angela McCraw-Hester without incident on Wednesday, Oct. 4. Police say Matthew interfered with officers while standing outside his front door.
"Don't touch me!" he cried, throwing an elbow toward law enforcement officers serving the search warrant, according to a police report.
Two officers pulled him to the ground. Matt tucked his arms beneath him. He was eventually handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car. Officers charged him with resisting and obstructing an officer. He was released a short time later
Angela Hester agreed to a trial in Multnomah County, telling reporters in Idaho, "I just want to get this over with." Matthew Hester is not facing additional charges.
"It is my understanding that Matthew Hester is not a person of interest at this point," noted Detective Brandon Crate with the Gresham Police Department.