Court in Tashia Stuart murder trial views Pasco crime scene photos

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldJune 17, 2013 

Dozens of crime scene photos were shown in court Monday as a forensic scientist described where he found bullet fragments, blood and other evidence after the fatal shooting of Judy Hebert.

Jurors in the murder trial of Tashia Stuart spent 35 minutes viewing the pictures on a large hanging screen in the courtroom.

Typically, lawyers in Benton-Franklin Superior Court refrain from showing graphic photos to the public, and instead pass them one by one around the jury box.

However, Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant opted to do a slide show format as Mitch Nessan explained where each picture was taken in the Salmon Drive home and what the evidence markers or pen marks were showing.

Nessan was one of three scientists with the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab to testify Monday. They responded to Hebert's Pasco home to process the scene and collect evidence after the March 3, 2011, shooting.

Stuart, 40, is accused of trying to kill her mother, Hebert, on Feb. 20, 2011, then following through with it less than two weeks later.

Hebert, 58, died from a gunshot wound to the chest. Her daughter, Stuart, along with her son-in-law and 7-year-old granddaughter had been living with her in the Pasco home for a couple months.

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

She has denied being in the garage that February when a bin full of books fell on her mother's head, causing severe pain to Hebert's head and neck. Then, a couple weeks later, she claims she shot her mother after Hebert tried attacking her with a hatchet.

Stuart's daughter was inside the home at the time of the shooting.

Stuart didn't look at the big screen Monday as jurors viewed overall and close-up pictures of Hebert's body, found inside the master bedroom.

The pictures included an apparent gunshot wound to Hebert's left thumb, the gunshot wound to her chest and possible gunpowder on the right side of her face, Nessan said. There was a yellow file folder next to Hebert's body, which Nessan said she probably had in her hand at the time she was shot.

Nessan told jurors that blood spatter and tissue in the hallway and kitchen indicate Hebert was just outside the master bedroom door when she was shot in the hand.

He said based on a bullet hole and clothing fibers found near the bottom of a laundry basket -- which was in the bedroom connected to the laundry room -- Hebert was fairly close to the ground when she was hit with the fatal shot.

Defense attorney Peter Connick questioned if blood found on a towel hanging from the door of the kitchen oven was from the shooting or another incident.

"I'm assuming that since Judy was the only one bleeding at the scene," replied Nessan, who said they initially tested a number of stains at the scene to confirm they were blood before gathering more samples.

Connick also asked why one photo showed the kitchen towel hanging, and another picture from the defense file had the towel on the floor.

Nessan said he couldn't explain the discrepancy, but said he remembers seeing it hanging when the forensic scientists first documented the scene. He said he knows someone tested the blood on the towel, and suggested it may have fallen after that.

The trial continues today in the Franklin County Courthouse.

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