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
"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
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
"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
The main murder charge included the allegations
that Stuart used a firearm and that the crime was against a family
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
“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
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,"
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
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
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,
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."
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
"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
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
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
Adney was one of four witnesses to testify
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
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
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 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
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,
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
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
'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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Stuart murder trial: Firefighter testifies about finding Pasco
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
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
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
Also Thursday, a neighbor, Ryan Rhodes,
returned to the witness stand for an hour to be questioned by the
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
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
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
Stuart cried in court Thursday, when the jury
wasn't present, as the attorneys argued about the relevance of the
Daughter won't testify in
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
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
He added that the defense is trying to protect
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
"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
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
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.
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.
is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of her
mother, Judy Hebert, 58, in March 2011.
Wednesday, Mitchell held an almost daylong hearing on a series of
motions in the case.
Stuart's trial is set for
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
"(Tashia Stuart) knew that if we
proceeded to trial, the charges would be amended to include the
incident in the garage," Sant said.
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
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
Her attorneys have argued that those
charges should have separate trials.
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
Mitchell said there is evidence
of the incident from prior hearings and the trial involving her
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,"
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
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
"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
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
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,
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.
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.
County Prosecutor Shawn Sant asked for a $500,000 bail, saying
Stuart has no ties to the community and poses a "significant
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
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.
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.
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
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,
She was booked into jail at 11:36
p.m., according to jail records.
devastated," Rutt said. "She's very ill. She has horrible
migraines. ... She has pounding headaches and severe ringing in
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.
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,"
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
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
A gun also was on the floor,
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."