Pasco slaying suspect said to be faking mental illness

By Paula Horton, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 21, 2012 

PASCO -- A Pasco woman appears to be feigning psychological symptoms and incompetency to evade being prosecuted for the shooting death of her mother last March, a state psychologist said.

Tashia L. Stuart, 38, was evaluated at Eastern State Hospital for 15 days in December to determine if she is competent to stand trial.

"It is my opinion that Ms. Stuart is portraying herself as cognitively impaired, but she is not," psychologist Randall Strandquist wrote in a report sent to Franklin County Superior Court.

He also said the "preponderance of the data indicate Ms. Stuart meets the criteria for malingering."

Stuart has been in the Franklin County jail since the March 3 shooting of her 58-year-old mother, Judy Hebert. Stuart is charged with first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances.

The women reportedly argued about a $300 withdrawal Stuart made from Hebert's account without permission before Hebert was killed, court documents stated.

Stuart has claimed self-defense, saying she shot her mother after Hebert came at her with an ax.

An evaluation was ordered in July after a jail nurse expressed concerns about Stuart's mental health.

Stuart's trial date was stricken pending the evaluation and she was due in court Friday for a review hearing. The hearing was canceled, however, after the courthouse was closed because of the weather. It has not been rescheduled.

According to Strandquist's report, Stuart was observed at the state psychiatric hospital being polite, helpful and pleasant while interacting with staff and peers.

Her moods, however, began changing more quickly the longer she was there and when she knew she was being watched, documents stated.

Stuart claimed she had attempted suicide more than a dozen times and described her psychological symptoms as "like a hurricane going around in my head."

Medical records show she has had frequent visits to emergency rooms reporting severe headaches and seeking pain medications, documents stated.

Shortly after her arrest, Stuart's lawyers claimed she was being mistreated in the Franklin County jail because she was not being given her migraine medications.

At Eastern State Hospital, she told staff that she has a "little green man" that jumps on an ice pick and causes her to have headaches. She said the green man has been with her since she was 18, documents stated.

Stuart was given two psychological tests during which she consistently "over-endorsed psychiatric symptoms rarely seen in individuals with a mental disease," documents said.

When Stuart was admitted Dec. 1, she claimed she didn't know the day, date or year and was not sure when she was born, documents stated.

She denied suicidal or homicidal thoughts but said she had hallucinations.

"She told her psychiatrist that she sees her mother, either by her side or following her," documents stated.

Stuart reported Dec. 2 that her mother was following her on the ward and yelling at her, keeping her up at night, documents stated.

The following day, she also reported her mother had punched her in the nose and made it bleed.

On both days, however, she also was seen using the phone, laughing and joking with others and trying to help staff by handing out coffee during snack time.

A few days later, she began interacting with a specific male patient, spending the majority of her free time with him, watching movies, playing cards and talking about life, documents stated.

One night, the man was caught exposing himself to Stuart, but she didn't report any distress about the event, documents stated.

Staff noted that Stuart selectively attended groups and had minimal participation but got along well with her peers and enjoyed playing bingo and cards and watching movies.

On Dec. 10, Stuart woke up requesting Vistaril, a medication she had received that is used to treat anxiety, and blamed her anxiety on her mother, documents stated.

Three days later, Stuart reported the "green man" in her head was telling her to kill herself and said she was having nightmares every night.

She also was upset that she had gotten a disease from her husband and was placed on suicide watch, documents stated.

The psychiatrist noted that Stuart was "sad and weepy" at the beginning of the session, and upset about not knowing how to contact her husband so she could yell at him.

But, by the end of the session she was smiling and giggling.

Stuart was characterized as having a "tendency toward dramatics and exaggeration," documents stated.

Strandquist interviewed Stuart on the last day of her stay, and she claimed she didn't know why she was arrested beyond saying, "I guess I got in trouble," he wrote.

She also said she didn't know her attorney's name but claimed her attorney told her not to eat while in jail so the nurse would get in trouble, documents said.

Strandquist said Stuart functioned well with other patients, displayed no memory deficits while learning the routine on the ward and was able to concentrate and respond to things consistently.

He said there is no clinical basis for why she would be able to discuss the shooting of her mother with arresting officers in March but have no idea why she was arrested nine months later, documents stated.

"The violent death of an individual and being charged with murder are significant and salient items that an individual would scarcely forget without incurring significant brain injury," Strandquist wrote.

Because there is no evidence of a brain injury or impairment, Strandquist said he believes Stuart is malingering.

He also said that if found guilty, he believes Stuart is "most likely a substantial danger" to others or presents a likelihood of "committing criminal acts jeopardizing public safety or security."

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