Tashia Stuart's ex-husband takes the stand in murder trial

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldJune 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 mother.

"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 killed.

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 the ground.

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 Mitchell.

Adney was one of four witnesses to testify Thursday.

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 her.

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 her mother.

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 said.

"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 her up.

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, she said.

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 strong evidence."

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 originally.

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