Pasco mom had inkling kin were out to kill her

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 19, 2012 

Judy Hebert had an idea that her daughter and son-in-law allegedly were trying to kill her.

When an 18-gallon bin of books fell on her inside her Pasco garage, she took her own crime scene photographs and measurements and noted the incident on her calendar.

The 58-year-old grandmother also started sharing her suspicions with others.

"They did it," Hebert said of Tashia and Todd Stuart when telling a neighbor who to look at if she was killed.

Hebert was shot dead March 3 inside her Salmon Drive home.

Her daughter, Tashia Stuart, has been charged with that crime and is awaiting trial.

But now the murder suspect's husband has his own case in Franklin County Superior Court for allegedly trying to help kill Hebert two weeks earlier.

Todd David Stuart, 48, was picked up Tuesday in California for first-degree attempted murder.

His eventual return to the Tri-Cities to answer to the charge depends on whether he waives extradition in an Alameda County courtroom.

The Franklin County arrest warrant was signed Nov. 22 by Judge Craig Matheson, but was sealed until after Stuart's capture. The warrant and a five-page affidavit showing probable cause for his arrest were released Wednesday.

Those court documents detail what Pasco police believe was a murder conspiracy, first acted on by the Stuarts on Feb. 20.

Tashia and Todd Stuart and their 7-year-old daughter had moved to the Tri-Cities to live with Hebert in January 2011.

The following month, Todd Stuart and his mother-in-law reportedly were measuring the garage to complete the dry wall when a heavy container suddenly fell on Hebert. Her head and neck were severely injured.

Hebert told a neighbor a short time later that "she believed Tashia and Todd were trying to kill her" because it was only after Todd had directed her where to stand in the garage that the box of books fell, the court documents show. Tashia Stuart is alleged to have been in the rafters and intentionally knocked the box down.

Hebert also said she suspected the couple of switching her medications because she had noticed the numbers had been scraped off each pill. She also told the neighbor that Tashia Stuart had been pushing her father to share the combination to Hebert's safe, documents said.

The neighbor, who spoke with detectives after Hebert's death, was told by Hebert that Tashia Stuart had said to her father, "Mom is gone and whatever is in the safe is mine." Her father reportedly refused to give her the combination, claiming he did not know it.

Judy and Rolfe Hebert were divorced, but the two had remained good friends and talked on the phone three or four times a week.

Detective Brad Gregory, the lead investigator on the case, wrote in the court documents that he was at the crime scene following Judy Hebert's death when he got a call from Rolfe.

He told the detective that he had located Tashia Stuart's ex-boyfriend, who had a story to share about the couple dropping a box of books on Hebert's head.

When interviewed by Gregory, Charles Adney reportedly talked about a Feb. 24 phone call with his ex in which Tashia Stuart admitted to dropping something on her mother so she was bleeding from her eyes, nose and head, the documents said.

Stuart allegedly told Adney that she was in the rafters when her husband got Hebert into position, and she pushed the box onto her mother. She also asked Adney to be a witness so she could change her mother's will.

It is not known if Hebert ever went to police with her suspicions.

Before her death, the mother and daughter reportedly fought over a $300 withdrawal that Tashia Stuart made from Hebert's account without permission.

Hebert died from a gunshot wound to her chest.

Stuart claims she shot her mother after Hebert came at her with an ax, according to court documents in her case. She is charged with first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances, and her lawyers have said they plan to argue that she acted in self-defense.

Todd Stuart apparently left his wife three days before his mother-in-law's death. He then contacted Pasco detectives March 8 when he learned of the homicide.

Asked about the incident in the garage, Stuart talked about how they had been measuring the room when a gray tote fell. He said he helped Hebert into the house to sit down on the couch.

Gregory asked what Tashia Stuart was doing at the time. "Todd hesitated for a few seconds, then said Tashia was supposed to be giving (her daughter) a bath," documents said.

Detectives believe Hebert did her own crime scene investigation, trying to build up evidence against the suspects in case something happened.

Gregory located in Tashia and Todd Stuart's bedroom a diagram of the garage, with an "X" marking the spot where Hebert was standing when the bin fell.

In Hebert's home office, a Feb. 20 calendar entry said, "Got hurt ... 18 Gal tote full of books." The entry also referenced where Hebert had been standing.

Gregory said he used those coordinates and discovered an opening in the rafters where something had been. The space was big enough to fit the bin.

Gregory noted that there was a pickup parked in the garage, and the dust on top of it "was disturbed enough, it was apparent someone or something had been on it to climb up."

A bottle of pills also were found in a jacket pocket in Hebert's closet. The numbers were scraped off all the pills, court documents said.

During the investigation, police spoke to other neighbors who said Hebert had expressed concerns about the couple. One woman said Hebert had set up a password in case she was in trouble, and if the woman ever heard it she was to contact police.

Hebert's banker spoke with Detective Justin Greenhalgh and relayed a conversation between the two about the book box incident.

Hebert claimed that Todd Stuart called her into the garage for some unknown reason and was asked to help measure, being told to back up small amounts at a time until the tote suddenly came down. She told the banker that she believed her son-in-law was trying to kill her, adding, "Honey, there's no way that bucket could have fallen on my head."

Detectives reviewed the files on Tashia Stuart's cellphone after her arrest and uncovered a video taken from inside Hebert's closet.

The video lasts more than 18 minutes, and Gregory says in court documents that it clearly shows the husband and wife were working together to get access to Hebert's safe.

At the time of his arrest Tuesday, Todd Stuart had been living and working in Alameda on a decommissioned aircraft carrier that operates as a public museum in the San Francisco Bay.

Pasco Capt. Jim Raymond could not comment Wednesday on the delay in charging or arresting Todd Stuart, but told the Herald that his office located Stuart with the assistance of the U.S. Marshal's Office. Gregory and Cpl. Jeff Harpster traveled to the Bay Area to be there when Stuart was picked up, he said.

Stuart is being held on $500,000 bail, according to his arrest warrant.

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