A 48-year-old man charged with plotting to kill his mother-in-law weeks before her actual death agreed Tuesday to delay his trial until September.
Todd David Stuart appeared in Franklin County Superior Court with his new lawyer, Shane Silverthorn of Ellensburg.
Silverthorn -- one of four lawyers on the Tri-City homicide defense panel -- was appointed by the Benton & Franklin Counties Office of Public Defense to replace Karla Kane.
Stuart faces one count of attempted first-degree murder, though Prosecutor Shawn Sant has said he will add a murder charge if Stuart doesn't accept a plea offer before trial.
Judy Hebert, 58, was fatally shot March 3, 2011, inside her Pasco home. Her daughter, Tashia Stuart, is accused of killing her after the two women had an argument about a bank withdrawal.
Tashia Stuart has her own criminal case for first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances. She has been in the Franklin County jail since her mother's death, which she claims came after her mother tried to attack her with an ax.
Her estranged husband was arrested 10 months later on allegations that while he and Stuart were living with Hebert, the husband and wife tried to kill her by dropping an 18-gallon bin of books on the older woman's head.
Todd Stuart allegedly got Hebert to stand in a certain spot in the garage, while Tashia Stuart hid in the rafters to push the bin.
Hebert suffered a severe head injury in the Feb. 20 incident and reportedly told neighbors and other people that she suspected her daughter and son-in-law were trying to kill her, according to court documents.
The couple, along with Tashia Stuart's 7-year-old daughter, had been living with Hebert for two months.
Todd Stuart moved out of the house three days before Hebert was killed. Detectives wrapped up their investigation into his involvement in November, when they got a judge to sign an arrest warrant. He was taken into custody in January while living and working in California on a decommissioned aircraft carrier.
On Tuesday, Stuart signed a waiver delaying his trial to Sept. 12.
Tashia Stuart's trial is set for the same day, though she is scheduled to be back in court Thursday to address that date. Sant told the court he recently was advised by her lawyer, Bob Thompson, that there is a conflict.
Judge Cameron Mitchell has been assigned to Tashia Stuart's case, and Judge Bruce Spanner agreed Tuesday that it is best for his colleague take on the husband's case as well.
Sant explained that it makes sense for "judicial economy" to have one judge hearing what's expected to be similar or identical legal issues in both cases. That includes the testing of DNA evidence and any questions on the search warrants, he told the court.
Silverthorn agreed it would be best for his client to have one judge on both cases to avoid any prejudice from disparate rulings.
Spanner, in signing an order pre-assigning Mitchell, said the judge can revisit it at a later hearing, if needed.
Pasco murder trial might see delay
The lawyer for a Pasco man accused of fatally stabbing his roommate said he expects the upcoming trial to be delayed.
Joseph William Hart is charged with second-degree murder for the March 6 death of Rodger A. Lincoln.
Lincoln, 53, died of multiple stab wounds to his head and torso caused by a hunting-type knife, according to his autopsy results.
Hart, 27, and Lincoln shared a home in the Sundance Mobile Home Park.
The mobile home is one of several owned by Lourdes Health Network and is used as housing for people with mental illnesses.
Attorney Scott Johnson told the court he still is receiving reports and evidence from prosecutors.
Hart's trial is scheduled May 9.
However, Johnson said he anticipates at the next hearing, April 24, they will be waiving Hart's rights to a speedy trial and pushing that date out while Johnson continues his own investigation into what happened outside the mobile home.
Hart is in the Franklin County jail on $750,000 bail.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org