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Tashia L. STUART

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Argument about money
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 3, 2011
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: March 6, 1973
Victim profile: Judy Hebert, 58 (her mother)
Method of murder: Shooting (Smith & Wesson .357 revolver)
Location: Pasco, Franklin County, Washington, USA
Status: Sentenced to 45 years in prison, with a 25-year mandatory minimum, on September 4, 2013
 
 

 
 

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Tashia Stuart sentenced to 45 years in prison

She could be seek release in 25 years

By Kristin M. Kraemer - Tri-City Herald

September 4, 2013

Pasco — Convicted killer Tashia Stuart told a judge Wednesday she didn't "do anything wrong to deserve this fate worse than death," then turned her anger on her father and accused him of lying so she would be locked away possibly for the rest of her life.

A soft-spoken Stuart started her nearly 15-minute speech saying she misses her mother terribly and still loved her no matter what, then raised her voice as she blamed her mother's drinking, medication use and mental health issues for the March 2011 shooting that ended her life.

Stuart claimed Judy Hebert used to have "screaming rages and fits," and her father abandoned her when she desperately needed him, and questioned why no one ever called the police if they really believed she was plotting to kill her mom.

Telling the court she is forever broken-hearted, Stuart said "without their lies and deceit, there is no case against me. I hope that I will get a new trial so that the truth really will come out."

Judge Cameron Mitchell denied that request, saying the defense didn't raise any new issues that caused the court to reconsider earlier rulings.

He then ordered Stuart to spend 45 years in prison, with a 25-year mandatory minimum that must be served before a state board will even consider her release.

"The court believes that this is a very heinous, permanent crime," Mitchell said.

Hebert's loved ones and friends, along with Pasco police and a couple jurors from Stuart's trial, were in court for the sentencing.

After the hearing, Rolfe Hebert said he wasn't surprised that his daughter directed her outburst at him. He said the truth has always escaped Stuart and that nothing was ever her fault in her life.

Rolfe Hebert responded out loud with, "You're a liar," when Stuart turned on him during the hearing.

He earlier told the judge that he only wants two things -- to have Judy back and for the nightmares to stop for his granddaughter. "There's nothing I will say here today that will make that happen," he said. "Judy was a loving, wonderful person. She had a heart of gold and she always opened her door to me."

"The only thing that I could ask is that the court extend to Tashia the same level of compassion that she extended to Judy on March 3, 2011," he added.

Stuart did not testify at her Franklin County Superior trial, which ended two months ago with guilty verdicts for first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.

She said Hebert was trying to attack her with a machete and she acted in self-defense when she fatally shot Hebert inside her mother's Salmon Drive home. Hebert also had a cut wound on her head that was made by the machete after she fell to the ground.

Stuart's then-7-year-old daughter was in the home when her grandmother was killed.

Prosecutors said Stuart had been planning to kill her mother for a few weeks, trying to get access to Hebert's safe where she kept her will and pushing a heavy bin of books from the garage rafters onto Hebert's head.

Stuart is planning to appeal the convictions.

She begged Mitchell on Wednesday not to place a restraining order on her for her daughter, who turns 10 at the end of the month.

"I would rather be dead than to never have my daughter or her love ever again," Stuart said, wiping her eyes with a tissue. "She's the best thing that I have ever done or that has ever happened to me, and now my dad has taken her away from me. To me that is a fate worse than death."

The girl is being raised by her father, Charles Adney, but also has regular visits with her grandfather and his wife, Rolfe and Nicola Hebert. "My baby is going to end up a sad, suicidal kid just like me. ... It's not fair what anyone is doing to me," Stuart said. "My husband (Todd Stuart) and I never did anything to mom except love her. ... She had nothing monetary we wanted, just her love and her happiness."

Adney wrote a letter to the court, explaining that he couldn't attend the hearing because when he's gone for a long period of time, his daughter knows where he is at and it causes more pain and turmoil for her.

Adney said his daughter and her Nana had a very special relationship, and that Stuart used the girl as a tool to get money or something else she wanted. It was Hebert's generosity that got her killed, he said.

He said he is trying to help the girl cope with the loss of her Nana, while also trying to heal from seeing Hebert shot three times and then hit with a machete.

"How do I help my 9-year-old daughter try to understand the pure evilness of this crime?" Adney wrote. "What do I say to (his daughter) when she asks why her mother had to kill Nana that loved her so much? How do I ease my daughter's mind that she was not responsible for Judy's murder?"

Nicola Hebert said her husband's granddaughter confides in her about that horrible days, and the conversation always ends up in tears with them holding each other.

The girl "says she should have taken the bullet. What do I say to that?" Nicola Hebert said. "What do I say to this precious little girl when she says ... her Nana was asking for her help, and why couldn't she help her?"

Stuart's daughter can't erase the vivid memory of seeing her Nana's blood all over the wall, Nicola Hebert said. "I can't seem to grasp that a 7-year-old girl not only had to witness that, but that she had to watch her Nana die and seeing her mother do it," Nicola Hebert said.

John Coffey, Stuart's ex-fiance who first met Judy Hebert in 1994, spoke about the victim's unconditional love and self-sacrificing nature. He said Hebert was capable of getting annoyed and angry like most other people, "but she always forgave and always gave."

Coffey, who remained close friends with Rolfe Hebert, said he had the gruesome task of helping clean up the house after the shooting, which there was no reason for in the first place.

"The loss of Judy was not necessary," he said. "I hope and I know that Judy is in a better place today."

Stuart had no criminal history before this case.

The main murder charge included the allegations that Stuart used a firearm and that the crime was against a family member.

The verdicts also included aggravating factors -- Stuart acted with deliberate cruelty, the crime was within sight and sound of a minor child, and it involved a destructive and foreseeable impact on persons other than the victim.

Prosecutor Shawn Sant said it was clear from all the evidence that it was a premeditated and egregious crime and asked for a 60-year prison term, above the total standard range of 40 to 51 1/2 years.

Defense attorneys Peter Connick and Bob Thompson said a more reasonable sentence was at the bottom of the range.

Judge Mitchell ordered her to serve 20 years for the murder and 15 years for the attempted murder, both at the bottom of the range for the crimes. They must be done back-to-back, in addition to a mandatory five-year term for using a gun in the crime and another five years for shooting Hebert with a child nearby.

Prosecutors apparently are still working out how much Stuart should reimburse the state's Crime Victims Compensation Program. An initial amount of $5,400 was crossed off on court documents and will be determined at a later time.

But Stuart was told she must pay $180,434 for her court-appointed attorneys and other defense costs, along with other fines and fees.


Tashia Stuart guilty of first-degree murder, attempted murder

By Kristin M. Kraemer - Tri-City Herald

July 3, 2013

Pasco — Tashia Stuart may have been 5 when she was adopted, but Rolfe Hebert never referred to her in that way. In his mind, she was his daughter.

That all ended March 3, 2011, when Stuart killed her mother, Judy Hebert — Rolfe’s former wife of 30 years.

On Wednesday, Rolfe Hebert couldn’t help but shed happy tears and pump his fist in victory as guilty verdicts were read that could put his 40-year-old adopted daughter in prison for the rest of her life.

“Justice got served better than I had anticipated,” he said, becoming emotional with each cellphone call he made from the courtroom to share the news.

A Franklin County Superior Court jury rejected Stuart’s self-defense claims and convicted her of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. The main murder charge included the allegations that Stuart used a firearm and that the crime was against a family member.

The verdicts came after a monthlong trial and 81⁄2 hours of jury deliberations. Jurors had 443 items of evidence to consider.

Stuart wept and dabbed at her eyes with a tissue as she learned her fate.

“Tashia killed the only person (who) ever loved her. … Judy gave up everything for Tashia,” Nicola Hebert, Rolfe’s wife, told the Herald.

The couple waited two years and four months for the conviction.

“Praise God,” she said, hugging Judy Hebert’s former Salmon Drive neighbors who showed up for the verdicts.

Stuart faces 40 to 511⁄2 years in prison, though prosecutors can ask for additional time based on a number of aggravating factors, prosecutor Shawn Sant said.

“This was definitely a victory, and I don’t say it for me. This was a collaborative effort of everybody in the office,” Sant said of his first major trial win since taking office in January 2011.

He spent 11⁄2 hours talking with jurors after the verdicts. They indicated they were split at first and didn’t have a clear direction of which way they were going, he said. But after comparing their notes and reviewing the evidence, they unanimously agreed Stuart was guilty as charged.

The verdicts also included aggravating factors — Stuart acted with deliberate cruelty, the crime was within sight and sound of a minor child, and it involved a destructive and foreseeable impact on persons other than the victim.

Stuart’s daughter, then 7, was inside the home when Judy Hebert was shot. She’s 9 now, living with her father, and often visits her grandparents.

Sant described the verdicts as a big relief, as he’s come to think of Nicola and Rolfe Hebert and others in this case as extended family and wanted a happy ending.

“I think today they felt a sigh of relief knowing that the person responsible for taking Judy’s life will go away,” he said.

Sant wants to talk to family and friends, and listen to any arguments the defense may have, before recommending a sentence, he said.

Sentencing tentatively is set for July 30, though Sant anticipates it being pushed into August or September to accommodate everyone’s schedules.

Stuart’s defense attorney, Bob Thompson, didn’t mince words about the jury’s decision.

“I felt I got kicked in the gut,” Thompson said. “Frankly, I feel it was the wrong verdict. … I’m not going to fault them for it, but I think it was the wrong verdict.”

Thompson had an idea of the eventual outcome when the jury asked two questions 30 minutes earlier about a typo on a special verdict form and a missing date line on another.

The special verdict forms only were to be used if the jury settled on first-degree murder — not for the lesser options of second-degree murder and first- or second-degree manslaughter.

Thompson stood by Stuart’s side for the reading. Co-counsel Peter Connick returned earlier this week to his Seattle office.

Thompson, who has practiced as an attorney for 30 years, questions how the jury didn’t find reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case.

It obviously was difficult news for his client and the defense team, but they knew it was a possibility, he said. He just hopes they get another chance at trying the case.

The verdicts could be “a conceivable life sentence” for Stuart given her age, Thompson said.

“The only chance Ms. Stuart has lies with the Court of Appeals and some of the decisions that were made and some of the techniques that were utilized during trial,” Thompson said.

Jurors must have heard and saw things differently than he did, he said.

“I think we out-attorneyed the other side. Maybe the facts weren’t on our side that the jurors got to hear, but that’s what makes it difficult,” Thompson said. “If they couldn’t see reasonable doubt, especially with (forensic scientist) Kay Sweeney’s testimony, you have to sit back and think, maybe the system didn’t work in this case but maybe it will work later.”

But to Ryan Rhodes — Judy Hebert’s neighbor, who heard the gunshots that day as he worked in his driveway — justice was served.

“I loved her. Her favorite thing to do, I think, was hug me,” Rhodes said, a smile spreading across his face at the memory. “To get this today, it’s very gratifying and hopefully there will be some closure with it. I miss Judy every day and every day I walk out of my house and look at her house and her plants.”

Judy Hebert loved to dig in the dirt, had a degree in horticulture from Spokane Community College and was involved with the Master Gardener programs in Spokane and the Tri-Cities, Rolfe Hebert said. She shared her passion for planting flowers and vegetables with her granddaughter.

Judy and Rolfe stayed “best buddies” even after their divorce in 2007, he said.

Judy took custody of Tashia when she was six months old because her twin sister was unfit to raise the girl, he said. The Heberts were married when they adopted Tashia together.

When their granddaughter came along, the Heberts decided they were going to be the young girl’s hope, even after going separate ways. Rolfe Hebert said Judy left everything to him in her will, and that was used to establish a trust fund for their granddaughter.

“She was a wonderful person. She was not pretentious,” he said. “In the 35 years I knew her, I can honestly say she didn’t make a single enemy.”

He disputes many of the claims made by the defense team as they tried to show that Judy Hebert attacked Stuart, which led to the older woman being shot. She never did drugs, and she was not an alcoholic, he said.

Stuart called Rolfe Hebert two times the morning after her arrest, and both times asked for money, he said. She called again later that month, told him the shooting was an accident and again wanted money, saying she would pay him back once she got out and got a job. He made it clear she was never getting out, and that was the last conversation they had.

He wears Judy Hebert’s wedding band on a chain around his neck, along with his own band. She was 58 when she was killed.

“I feel her around me,” Rolfe Hebert said of his continuing connection to Judy.

He referred to Wednesday’s news as “epic” for the entire family.

“This becomes part of your being. We’ve been doing this since March 3, 2011, and it monopolizes every moment of your time. You wake up with it in the morning, you go to bed with it at night and you dream about it too,” he said. “I get a sense of being renewed, and it’s not for me, it’s for my granddaughter.”


Jurors to deliberate in Tashia Stuart murder trial

By Tyler Richardson - Tri-City Herald

July 1, 2013

Jurors in the Tashia Stuart murder trial will begin deliberating her fate Tuesday, more than a month after the proceedings began.

In closing arguments Monday, the prosecution portrayed Stuart as motivated by greed when she intentionally killed her mother, Judy Hebert, inside their Pasco home.

"Judy opened her home to her daughter," said Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant. "She was killed for no other reason than greed."

Defense attorney Bob Thompson countered that Stuart faced imminent danger when she shot her mother.

"She had an absolute right to protect herself," Thompson said.

Stuart is charged with first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances, as well as attempted first-degree murder. The jury will have the option to convict her of three lesser charges -- second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter or second-degree manslaughter, Sant said.

Sant laid out a timeline of the days leading up to Hebert's death and the day Stuart shot her mother with a .357 revolver. He spent much of his time attempting to discredit defense witness Kay Sweeney, a forensic scientist who testified Stuart shot her mother in self-defense as she came at her with a hatchet.

Sant showed jurors a Washington State Police crime scene video of Hebert's body sprawled out on her bedroom floor with a hatchet near her head.

The placement of the bullets and the blood splatter on walls throughout the house don't match up with Sweeney's testimony, he said.

Sweeney testified Hebert's hand was touching the gun when Stuart fired the fatal shot.

He also testified Hebert was near a doorway and going into the bedroom when Stuart fired three shots, hitting her once in the chest and once on the right side.

Hebert wasn't in the doorway of her bedroom or touching Stuart when she died, Sant said.

Hebert's friends and family began crying in the courtroom as Sant showed the graphic video.

Thompson, who spoke to jurors for a little more than 45 minutes, said the case boils down to one thing -- the hatchet.

Hebert also had a chop wound to the back of her head. Stuart told police in a taped interview played in court she hit Hebert with the hatchet as the two struggled with it.

If the hatchet wasn't placed by Stuart near Hebert's body, it proves that Hebert had the hatchet raised and Stuart shot her in self-defense, Thompson said.

"Was the hatchet there or not?," he asked. "If that hatchet is there my client isn't guilty."

Sweeney testified the hatchet had tissue splatter from Hebert's body on both sides and it was in motion when Hebert was shot.

"How does the hatchet, not in motion or not in the room, get tissue on both sides?" Thompson said.

Thompson asked the jury to consider Sweeney's testimony and review the four-hour tape of Stuart's interview before making its decision.

Stuart was searching the Internet for motels in Oregon and ways to break into a safe hours before Hebert died, Sant said.

The prosecutor argued that Stuart's life was not in danger and the defense did not prove she was in "reasonable fear" when she shot her mother.

"This is a killing (that was) premeditated," Sant said. "She planned this."


Tashia Stuart's ex-husband takes the stand in murder trial

By Kristin M. Kraemer - Tri-City Herald

June 20, 2013

Sometime in the two weeks between her mother's head injury and fatal shooting, Tashia L. Stuart told her ex-husband she had dropped a box on the older woman's head and that she should be dead from it, he testified Thursday.

Charles Adney told jurors in Stuart's murder trial that he had a hard time later relaying the conversation to Pasco police because of how his former wife had talked about her mother.

"That bi--- should be dead," Adney claimed Stuart said during their phone conversation. "... She said that she dropped something on (Judy Hebert's) head and she was bleeding out of her eyes and her nose. After that (Stuart) said, 'Learn it from me: If you drop something on someone's head, make sure it's round instead of flat.'"

Adney couldn't pinpoint when that conversation occurred, admitting he has memory issues and that more than two years have passed.

But when he got the call from his ex-father-in-law about Hebert's death on March 3, 2011, he remembered the conversation he'd had with Stuart and shared it with Rolfe Hebert, he said.

He then gave the details to Detective Brad Gregory, who was the lead investigator on the case.

Stuart, seated at the defense table, was heard calling Adney a "liar" at one point during his testimony.

Adney and Stuart have a daughter together. She was 7 and inside the Salmon Drive home when her grandmother was killed.

Stuart, 40, is on trial in Franklin County Superior Court for allegedly trying to kill her mother on Feb. 20, 2011, then following through with it a couple of weeks later.

She is charged with attempted first-degree murder and first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances.

Judy Hebert, 58, died from a single gunshot wound to the chest. She also had a chop wound to the back of her head, which reportedly was made by a hatchet after she was down on the ground.

Stuart claims Hebert was trying to attack her with the hatchet, so she grabbed a .357 revolver from her mother's open safe to defend herself.

The trial started May 28 before Judge Cameron Mitchell.

Adney was one of four witnesses to testify Thursday.

The Spokane man said he'd been trying to reach Stuart since before Christmas 2010, but kept finding that her phones were disconnected so he couldn't even leave a message for her.

He finally got ahold of Hebert about a month or so before her death. Hebert confirmed that Stuart, their daughter and Stuart's husband, Todd, were living with her and said she would have them give Adney a call, but it was a couple more weeks before his ex rang, he said.

Stuart reportedly told Adney their daughter was fine and that her husband was gone, then started complaining about her mother.

Stuart offered to pay Adney and his older daughter $1,000 if they'd witness the changing of Hebert's will so Todd Stuart could be taken out, Adney said.

"At first I'm saying no, and then I could tell she's getting a little irritated and at that point I said, I don't care. I don't care," Adney testified.

Tashia Stuart said she'd call him back in a few days, but the next call Adney got from the family was when Rolfe Hebert shared the news of his ex-wife's death and Stuart's arrest, he said.

"He was crying and he goes, 'She shot her. She's dead,' " Adney told jurors. He also learned his daughter was in foster care and he needed to drive to the Tri-Cities to pick her up.

Lorraine Heath, a supervising forensic scientist with the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab in Cheney, said evidence submitted for DNA analysis included a hatchet, cartridge cases, a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver, and three reference samples from the Stuarts and Judy Hebert.

There was very little DNA on the cartridge cases and scientists weren't able to get a DNA profile from them, she said.

Blood stains on the face of the hammer -- the other side of the hatchet -- along with the hatchet blade and handle all matched Hebert, Heath said. There also was DNA from at least two other people on the handle.

DNA found on the revolver, which was left by someone touching or handling the firearm, was a mixture of the Stuarts and Hebert. Heath said they all were included as possible contributors on the DNA profile, which means it's "not terribly strong evidence."

The jury is on recess until Tuesday, when prosecutors plan to wrap up their case.

Defense attorneys plan to call their first witness, Todd Stuart, that day. The estranged husband already has told both sides he plans to assert his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself on certain questions.

Todd Stuart was acquitted last fall of having any role in a plot to kill Hebert. However, he reportedly is worried about facing other charges that weren't pursued originally.


Doctor discusses 'serotonin syndrome' in Tashia Stuart murder trial

By Kristin M. Kraemer - Tri-City Herald

June 18, 2013

Several prescription drugs in Judy Hebert's blood system together created a clinical phenomenon that can be quite serious and is known as "serotonin syndrome," a medical expert said Tuesday.

When the 58-year-old Pasco woman died from a gunshot wound in 2011, tests showed she had anti-depressants, chronic-pain relievers, sleeping aids, cannabis and alcohol in her body.

Some medications, particularly the Valium, were at levels considered quite high for therapeutic levels, Dr. Robert M. Julien told jurors in the murder trial of Tashia Stuart. He added that he normally would see some of those levels in a person tested after bedtime, not in the middle of the afternoon.

The combination can be fatal, Julien said, though he acknowledged that in this case there were other reasons for Hebert's death.

Julien was called out of order as a defense witness because of his limited availability.

Stuart's lawyers had scheduled Julien because they anticipated putting on their case this week. However, prosecutors still are presenting evidence and don't expect to wrap up until Friday.

Stuart, 40, is accused of trying to kill her mother by dropping a heavy bin of books on the older woman's head, then fatally shooting her two weeks later.

The trial started May 28 in Franklin County Superior Court.

Julien was on the stand Tuesday for almost 30 minutes. He is a retired anesthesiologist who in 1975 wrote the first textbook on psychopharmacology, which looks at how drugs affect a person's brain and their behavior.

The Lake Oswego, Ore., doctor said he was asked by attorneys Bob Thompson and Peter Connick to interpret the significance of Hebert's toxicology results.

Stuart claims her mother tried to attack her with a hatchet March 3, 2011, so she fired the gun in self-defense. She has denied being in the Salmon Drive home's garage on Feb. 20, 2011, when Hebert was injured by the falling bin.

Thompson told jurors in his opening statement that Hebert -- who was on drugs for pre-existing medical conditions, in addition to the new head and neck injury -- overmedicated herself which led to irrational behavior.

Hebert's blood-alcohol level when she died was 0.09 percent, just above the legal limit to drive in Washington.

Julien testified that she had "just a touch" of cannabis in her blood. He couldn't say if it was from smoking pot recently or perhaps days before, and didn't know if she had a medical marijuana card.

As for Hebert's high levels of prescription drugs, Julien said he did not know if it was from her taking extra amounts of drugs or because she had Valium in her system which could raise the other levels.

But together the drugs can increase the serotonin in a person's brain and lead to behaviors resembling someone on LSD, he said.

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome include agitation, increased blood pressure, hallucinations, disorientation, confusion, restlessness, fevers and chills, and ultimately a breakdown in proteins and kidney failure.

Prosecutor Shawn Sant questioned if there's a test to see if a person has been experiencing serotonin syndrome.

Julien said the blood tests to see what drugs are present and at what levels must be correlated with a person's behavior.

In this case, since he wasn't in the home more than two years ago to see Hebert and couldn't interview her, they would have to depend on others about Hebert's behavior to see if it was consistent with the symptoms. But Julien said he only was asked to interpret the meaning of lab results and would have to leave the rest with the court.

"Isn't that an important part to see if someone is going through serotonin syndrome?" Sant asked.

Julien agreed that interviews with people who had regular contact would be a part of the diagnosis to see if they observed any symptoms in Hebert.

He clarified for Connick that things like confusion, paranoia and depression are easily visible and, though a layman not familiar with the syndrome might not pick up on the symptoms, a physician hopefully would see something was wrong.

Dr. Daniel Selove, a forensic pathologist from Everett who performed the autopsy, said Hebert's cause of death was the gunshot wound to the chest, not the drug levels in her system.

Selove added that the bullet went through Hebert's left thumb before entering her upper chest, passing through a lung, severing an artery and eventually hitting the spine. At that point, she would have lost control of her lower body and crumpled to the floor in the direction she was moving, he testified.

Selove said he doesn't believe the indentation in Hebert's skull directly below a "chop wound" could have killed her. It is believed that wound was caused by a hatchet that was found at the scene, along with a .357 revolver.

The jury Tuesday also heard more testimony from forensic scientist Mitch Nessan, along with Pasco police Detective Justin Greenhalgh and Sgt. Jeff Harpster.

The attorneys need to address a couple evidence issues with Judge Cameron Mitchell before testimony starts today, so jurors will return to the Franklin County Courthouse at 10 a.m.


Tashia Stuart murder trial: Firefighter testifies about finding Pasco woman's body

By Kristin M. Kraemer - Tri-City Herald

June 13, 2013

Pasco — Firefighters spent just three minutes inside a west Pasco home before backing out because they couldn't resuscitate Judy Hebert and didn't want to disturb potential evidence.

Jerry Anderson, a Pasco firefighter and paramedic, testified Thursday that they attached the electrodes to Hebert and she was "flatline, meaning no activity to the heart."

Anderson said other than placing the sensors, they did not disturb the body. "With a potential crime scene, we try to leave it intact as much as we can," he testified.

Anderson was one of several witnesses called Thursday in the trial of Tashia Stuart, who's accused of fatally shooting her mother on March 3, 2011.

Hebert, 58, died inside her Salmon Drive home from a gunshot wound.

Stuart is claiming self-defense, saying her mom came at her with a hatchet.

She also is accused of trying to kill Hebert less than two weeks earlier by pushing an 18-gallon tote full of books and other items from the rafters onto Hebert's head. Stuart has denied being in the garage when that happened Feb. 20, 2011.

Stuart, 40, is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances and attempted first-degree murder.

Anderson said his fire station was dispatched to Hebert's home at 2:43 p.m. that March day for reports of gunshots. They arrived nine minutes later.

Anderson said that while walking down the hallway, he stepped over a revolver. He noted that Hebert, who was lying partially in a bedroom doorway, had a "mangled" left hand in addition to an injury to the back of her head and a gunshot wound to her chest.

The paramedics "very quickly" determined she was dead, then waited outside in case police had questions.

Dana Crutchfield, a Franklin County deputy coroner at the time, testified that she was sent to the home with colleague Mavis Williams, but they had to wait outside while police made sure the scene was safe and evidence was secured.

Twenty-four hours later, the deputy coroners were allowed inside to remove Hebert's body and take it across the river to the Benton County morgue for an autopsy, Crutchfield said.

Crutchfield, who also is a registered nurse at Lourdes Medical Center, said the blood analysis showed Hebert had at least five medications in her system, as well as marijuana and possibly two byproducts of Valium. She added that "all of them are very sedative."

Also Thursday, a neighbor, Ryan Rhodes, returned to the witness stand for an hour to be questioned by the defense.

Attorney Peter Connick asked if Rhodes would describe Hebert as being an "abrasive, rough-and-tumble kind of lady?" Rhodes agreed, saying his late neighbor had an edgy side to her.

The neighbor testified that he did not like Todd Stuart and believed Hebert's son-in-law was intimidated by him because Rhodes is a large man and was Hebert's friend.

He claimed that Hebert told him several times that Todd Stuart made sexually inappropriate comments to her and was trying to come on to her.

Rhodes recalled Hebert sharing her suspicions about her daughter and son-in-law, telling him a couple of times that "Tashia and Todd would be the death of me. ... All I'm just saying is one day if I turn up dead, they're the ones who probably did it."

A Franklin County jury last fall acquitted Todd Stuart of charges he plotted to kill his mother-in-law.

Tashia Stuart's trial is in recess today. Testimony resumes Monday at the Franklin County Courthouse.

In the meantime, Judge Cameron Mitchell said he will review a number of motions from the lawyers. That includes the prosecution's request to introduce paperwork showing that about 30 minutes before Hebert was shot, Stuart downloaded documents on her cellphone relating to how to kill people or oneself.

Stuart cried in court Thursday, when the jury wasn't present, as the attorneys argued about the relevance of the evidence.


Daughter won't testify in Stuart trial

By Kristin M. Kraemer - Tri-City Herald

May 23, 2013

A young girl who may have witnessed her grandmother's fatal shooting more than two years ago will not be called to testify in her mother's upcoming murder trial, the Franklin County prosecutor said Wednesday.

The decision will please the girl's family, who had been concerned about the possibility of her being forced to testify against her mother, Tashia L. Stuart, Shawn Sant said. She was 7 when her grandmother was killed in her Pasco home.

The girl had been considered a key witness in the prosecution's case.

Last October, the judge ruled she was competent to testify because she understands the difference between truth and lies, and has sufficient memory of the events of March 3, 2011. However, there have been some discrepancies in her interviews, including when she talked to police within hours of the shooting and again six months later.

Stuart, 40, is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with first-degree murder with aggravated circumstances and attempted first-degree murder.

Prosecutors allege she killed Judy Hebert, 58, after the two women argued about money.

Stuart, her daughter and her husband had been living with Hebert on Salmon Drive for a couple of months. She has claimed self-defense in the murder, saying she shot Hebert after her mother came at her with an ax.

Stuart's trial starts Tuesday after the holiday weekend, and is expected to last about four weeks.

The clerk's office is calling in 190 prospective jurors.

Bob Thompson, one of Stuart's attorneys, said the defense has "no intent of causing more hardship to this child" by telling the jury that the girl will corroborate her mother's statements.

He added that the defense is trying to protect the girl.

Thompson, who talked about the matter with Sant during a court recess, said the decision not to call her will resolve a lot of problems in the case.

The defense wanted to interview the daughter if prosecutors planned to call her.

Judge Cameron Mitchell said given the agreement, the court will not allow the girl to be called for testimony.

"I think that both parties have made a good effort here to minimize further damage to this young child, and I appreciate that," Mitchell said. "So she will not be allowed to be called by either party at this point for any purpose. And if something changes, then I will have to deal with that. ... That is the court's order."

The charges against Stuart include the allegation that 11 days before Hebert's death, Stuart set up her mother to be in the garage when a 32-pound plastic bin fell from the rafters. Hebert was hit but not severely hurt.

Stuart's estranged husband, Todd Stuart, was acquitted by a jury last fall of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the garage incident.

Hebert reportedly made statements to friends and neighbors before she was killed that she suspected her daughter was up to something.

Those statements can be used in the trial because of a state law that says a defendant may not kill a witness and then argue that the witness is not available to testify.

Earlier this month, Thompson and co-counsel Peter Connick asked the Washington state Court of Appeals to take up the issue because they don't have the opportunity to cross-examine Hebert.

A court commissioner recently said the matter will not be heard by an appeals panel because the law is clear.

Also Wednesday, Mitchell refused to dismiss the case on defense claims that Stuart's rights were violated when Franklin County jail staff took legal documents from her cell during a search.

The judge said there is no evidence that prosecutors read the contents that will put the state at a tactical advantage, or the defense at a disadvantage for violation of attorney-client privilege.

Mitchell, though, said he does have some concern about the length of time between the request to get the items returned and when Stuart actually received them.


Tashia Stuart to also face attempted murder charge

By Ty Beaver - Tri-City Herald

February 28, 2013

A Pasco woman charged with killing her mother will face an attempted murder charge for allegedly dropping a bin of books on her mother's head two weeks before shooting her.

Franklin Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell also ruled Wednesday that it's too soon to decide to move Tashia Stuart's trial out of the Tri-Cities because of extensive media coverage. Mitchell delayed a decision on tossing out some evidence in the case.

Stuart is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of her mother, Judy Hebert, 58, in March 2011.

On Wednesday, Mitchell held an almost daylong hearing on a series of motions in the case.

Stuart's trial is set for April 15.

Mitchell agreed to Prosecutor Shawn Sant's request to add the charge of second-degree attempted murder. That stems from an incident two weeks before the fatal shooting when a heavy container of books was dropped on Herbert in her garage.

"(Tashia Stuart) knew that if we proceeded to trial, the charges would be amended to include the incident in the garage," Sant said.

Her estranged husband, Todd Stuart, was acquitted in late September of plotting with his wife to kill Hebert so the couple could inherit the Pasco woman's property. They had moved in with Hebert in January 2011.

Tashia Stuart has claimed she shot her mother because she was going to attack her during an argument about money. But Stuart has said she wasn't in the garage when the books fell.

Her attorneys have argued that those charges should have separate trials.

"What we need to know, especially with how discovery has been delayed and dribbled in, is what evidence they have of Ms. Stuart physically dropping the books on her mother," said Seattle-based attorney Peter Connick.

Mitchell said there is evidence of the incident from prior hearings and the trial involving her husband.

And he ruled that concerns about Tashia Stuart facing both charges simultaneously don't outweigh the ability of a jury to consider them on their own merits.

"I think it's reasonable to think a jury could separate the two," Mitchell said.

Connick said combining the two charges in one trial could raise problems with a jury if Stuart testifies to self-defense on the murder charge but doesn't testify on the attempted murder charge.

Mitchell said he had to weigh several factors in his decision to not separate the charges, including the court's time and the strength of the charges. He ultimately decided the charges are interrelated.

The defense also asked Mitchell to throw out evidence from Tashia Stuart's cellphone.

Pasco attorney Robert Thompson said authorities didn't have a warrant for the memory card in Tashia Stuart's phone and it's not indicated on evidence lists.

"I haven't heard anything indicating the SD card was in the phone when it was seized," he said.

Walla Walla Police Detective Mike Boettcher, who is director of the agency's computer forensics laboratory, testified Wednesday that data on the memory card is consistent with what he would find on one used in Tashia Stuart's phone. However, there aren't markers or other identifiers to tie an SD card to a specific phone.

Sant said officers seized the phone in its entirety and it wasn't tampered with before it reached Boettcher for analysis.

Mitchell said he would need to review his notes from prior hearings before making a decision on that issue. He also will allow two Pasco police officers to testify on the issue.

Thompson also argued Wednesday that the trial needs to be moved because of the amount of coverage of her and her husband's cases. Mitchell said media coverage is a relevant issue but he agreed with Sant that it is too early to make that decision.

-- Reporter Michelle Dupler contributed to this report.

 


Pasco daughter held in mother's death

By Paula Horton, Herald staff writer

March 5, 2011

A Pasco woman accused of fatally shooting her mother inside their west Pasco home might claim self-defense.

But court documents indicate Tashia Stuart told a Pasco officer who had responded to a 911 hang-up call from the house Thursday that there was no problem and told dispatchers she was just changing the smoke detector battery.

When a neighbor called after hearing what sounded like gunshots from the home, Stuart reportedly told him something had "blown up" on the stove and that "mom" would call him back in a few minutes, documents said.

Judy Hebert, however, was found dead inside the single-story house at 7907 Salmon Drive, and her daughter was arrested in connection with her death. Hebert, who moved into the newly constructed home in 2007, was 58.

An autopsy is expected to be completed today by Dr. Daniel Selove, a forensic pathologist from Everett, said Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel.

Stuart, who will spend her 38th birthday in the Franklin County jail Sunday, is being held on $200,000 bail.

She looked frail and emotional during a brief initial court appearance Friday in Franklin County Superior Court, where Judge Craig Matheson found cause to hold Stuart on suspicion of second-degree murder.

Charges must be filed by Tuesday or she will be released. Her next court appearance would be March 15.

Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant asked for a $500,000 bail, saying Stuart has no ties to the community and poses a "significant flight risk."

Defense attorney Matt Rutt, who was appointed along with Bob Thompson to represent Stuart, told Matheson that his client has no known criminal history, was born and raised in Post Falls, Idaho, and moved to the Tri-Cities in January.

He said Stuart "does realize this is a serious charge," and asked that she be released on her own recognizance or have a lower bail.

Matheson set bail at $200,000, but said it could be re-addressed once Stuart's reported lack of criminal history is confirmed.

Matheson also said Stuart could not have contact with her daughter, who prosecutors said was present at the time of the shooting and is in protective custody.

After court, Rutt said Stuart's daughter is 7. Stuart, her husband of five years, Todd, and her daughter, moved in with her mother in January because of financial issues, he said.

Todd Stuart was not home when the shooting occurred, and Rutt said he did not know where he was.

Rutt said he was able to meet with Tashia Stuart for about two hours before court Friday and said it might be a case of self-defense.

He said the shooting stemmed from an argument between mother and daughter and indicated the "alleged victim may have been armed" at the time. Rutt also said he was curious to see the toxicology results on Hebert because "my understanding is she was heavily intoxicated."

Rutt said a revolver that apparently was recovered by police was owned by Hebert.

Rutt said his client hadn't eaten since the incident, which occurred around 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Stuart was arrested inside the home, and then taken to the Pasco police station for questioning, Rutt said.

She was booked into jail at 11:36 p.m., according to jail records.

"She's devastated," Rutt said. "She's very ill. She has horrible migraines. ... She has pounding headaches and severe ringing in the ears."

Rutt said Stuart has prescription medication to treat the migraines but didn't know if it had been seized by police. He said he hoped the medications are turned over to the jail so Stuart can take them.

Pasco police detectives spent most of the day Friday at Hebert's home collecting evidence with the assistance from the Washington State Patrol Crime Response Team.

Police and court reports detail the police response following the 911 hang-up call from the home and the smoke detector battery answer when an emergency dispatcher called back.

When a police officer arrived at the home, Stuart appeared distraught when she answered the door but told him there was no problem inside.

She told the officer she needed to put her dog away so it wouldn't bite him and said something was burning on the stove.

She then she closed the door, leaving the officer outside.

A neighbor then contacted the officer and said he had heard gunshots from the house. The witness said he had called the home and didn't get an answer. When he called back a second time, the phone was answered by "Natasha," who told him the sound was not gunshots but rather something on the stove that had "blown up," documents said.

The Pasco officer then called for back-up units, and when he returned to the house, Stuart came to the front door and said, "She came at me with an ax," documents said.

After the officer told Stuart what the neighbor had said, she admitted she had fired shots and that she had hit the person she fired at, documents said.

The officer then went inside and found Hebert dead on the floor in the hallway.

A gun also was on the floor, documents said.

Neighbors said Friday that they still were reeling from the incident in their normally quiet neighborhood, which is in west Pasco north of Sandifur Parkway and west of Road 68. They said Hebert, who reportedly moved to Pasco from Coeur D'Alene was retired.

"Judy was a well-loved woman in the neighborhood," said next-door-neighbor Sheri Crowe. "We were all shocked at the news of her death. The fact that she passed in such a violent manner in her own home, which she loved, is hard to grasp. It's a sad day."

Hebert was a Master Gardener who had a large flower garden in her backyard. She always waved to passing neighbors and greeted people with a "Hello darling" or "Hi sweetie," Crowe said.

"The violence in her death is so hard to take," Crowe said. "That's just hard to grasp, and the terror she must of felt."

 

 

 
 
 
 
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