Jurors see Tashia Stuart video of police interview

Tri-City HeraldJune 26, 2013 

Tashia Stuart Jury Court

Tashia Stuart in Franklin County Superior Court alongside her attorneys Bob Thompson, left, and Peter Connick during the jury selection process for her trial. She is accused in the March 2011 shooting death of her mother Judy Hebert in Pasco.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Tashia Stuart told a police detective in a videotaped interview played in court Wednesday that she was scared for her life when she fatally shot her mother inside their Pasco home.

She claimed in the video that her mother, Judy Hebert, chased her with a hatchet and punched and slapped her during an argument over money the day Hebert was shot.

Stuart also claimed she was forced to shoot Hebert in self-defense with a .357 revolver she found in a safe as her mother came after her in a hallway with the hatchet.

"I was just so afraid," Stuart told Brad Gregory as he interviewed her shortly after she killed her mother.

Nearly three hours of the heavily redacted video was played for jurors as Stuart followed along with a written transcript from the defense table. The rest of the video will be played Thursday.

Stuart, 40, is charged with first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances for shooting Hebert on March 3, 2011. Hebert, 58, also had a chop wound to her head, which prosecutors say was made by a hatchet after she fell to the ground.

She is also charged with attempted first-degree murder for allegedly trying to kill her mother on Feb. 20, 2011, in an incident where a large bin of items fell on Hebert's head as she took measurements in her garage with Stuart's husband, Todd Stuart.

Hebert told neighbors and friends after the incident she believed Stuart and her son-in-law were trying to kill her.

Todd Stuart -- who was acquitted last year by a Franklin County jury of conspiring to kill Hebert -- testified briefly Wednesday that he and his estranged wife never planned to kill Hebert. He was adamant the bin incident was an accident.

In the video, Tashia Stuart claims Hebert was violent with her on multiple occasions and even tried to strangle her when they lived in Idaho.

"Mom was always mean to me," she said.

Hebert became irate the day of the shooting when she realized someone had used her debit card to withdraw money from her account, Stuart said. Stuart claims she tried to calm her mother down and even offered to pawn some of her husband's tools to pay back the money.

"I tried so hard to get her to calm down," Stuart said.

Hebert kept going back and forth between the office and the garage while screaming at her, Stuart said. As the fighting escalated, Stuart told the detective she was near the bathroom when she turned around and Hebert had a "black thing," which is later described as a hatchet, in her hand.

"I turned around and she's got this black thing in her hand and she tried to hit me with it," Stuart said.

The two struggled with the hatchet and Stuart eventually got it from her mother, then hit her with it, she said. Hebert grabbed the hatchet back from her as she was falling to the ground and began chasing her with it.

Stuart ran to her mother's room to hide and saw the revolver in an open safe, she said. She picked up the gun and at some point, shot her mom in self-defense.

"It just happened so fast," Stuart said.

Throughout the video Stuart is sobbing and has trouble speaking. Jurors had to follow the interview by reading from their transcripts because most of what Stuart was saying was not clear in the courtroom.

Gregory questioned Stuart about why she lied to four people -- including a 911 dispatcher, two neighbors and a police officer -- who questioned her moments after the shooting.

The dispatcher called following a 911 hang-up and sent an officer to the house to make sure everything was all right. The neighbors called after hearing a commotion coming from the house.

Stuart didn't mention the shooting to anyone who called and claimed the commotion was from smoke detectors going off. Stuart eventually told the officer her mother was shot after first denying it.

"You have four people you could have told you were afraid of your mom," Gregory said.

He went on to say that Stuart lied to cover up the killing.

"You lied to the dispatcher," he said. "You lied to (the neighbor). You lied to (the neighbor). You lied to the officer that was there."

Stuart was too scared to tell anyone what happened and was even too scared to check on her mother after she shot her, she said. She wanted to check to see if her mother was still breathing, but was afraid Hebert might still be alive and would attack her, she added.

"I was afraid if I touched her she would of grabbed me," Stuart said.

The defense hopes to begin its case Thursday after the rest of the video is shown.

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