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

Tri-City HeraldJune 13, 2013 

— 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.

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