They may be set for separate trials, but an estranged husband and wife charged in the 2011 death of a Pasco woman will appear in a courtroom together next month while their lawyers discuss evidence related to both cases.
Tashia L. Stuart, 38, and Todd D. Stuart, 48, had back-to-back hearings Friday in Franklin County Superior Court.
Lawyers for the two defendants said they'd agreed on an Aug. 17 hearing to argue a number of motions that are expected to be filed by prosecutors and the defense.
"We have some issues that we think we may be able to join in ... in saving the court time," said one of Tashia Stuart's lawyers, Bob Thompson. "It may make sense to have two or three different motions heard at the same time because we have the same interest on certain things."
Never miss a local story.
That includes the admissibility of statements made by Judy Hebert before her March 2011 death and by Tashia Stuart's 7-year-old daughter to police after witnessing the fatal shooting of her grandmother.
The defense attorneys also will address "some issues relating to the toxicology screen" done on Hebert as part of her autopsy, which prosecutors reportedly plan to use as evidence in both trials.
Hebert, 58, died two months after her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter moved into her Salmon Drive home.
Tashia Stuart has claimed self-defense, saying she shot her mother March 3, 2011, after Hebert came at her with an ax. That day, the women argued about a $300 withdrawal Stuart made without permission from her mother's bank account, court documents stated.
Tashia Stuart is charged with first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances.
Both of her attorneys, Thompson of Pasco and Peter Connick of Seattle, were in court Friday and confirmed they're still on track for an Oct. 24 trial start.
Todd Stuart is accused of plotting to kill his mother-in-law less than a month before her actual death.
Prosecutors allege that while living with Hebert, the couple 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, 2011, incident, and reportedly told neighbors and other people that she suspected her daughter and son-in-law were trying to kill her, according to documents.
Todd Stuart moved out of the house three days before Hebert was killed. He was picked up in January on an arrest warrant in California. He is charged with attempted first-degree murder but has been warned he could face a murder charge if the case goes to trial.
Lawyer Jeffery Robinson of Seattle, who was hired by Todd Stuart in late May, said he received an offer from prosecutors Thursday and would review it with his client.
In the meantime, Robinson said he is ready to go to trial and even suggested scheduling Stuart's trial earlier.
"We would like to start the trial as soon as possible. A further delay is problematic," he said.
Stuart's Sept. 12 trial was moved up a couple of days to accommodate a conflict later in the week with Judge Cameron Mitchell's schedule. Jurors will be called in Sept. 10.
Robinson said that once they deal with the issue of publicity and knowledge of the case by potential jurors, he expects to have a panel seated within three days so they can start testimony the following week.
Also Friday, the attorneys said they've set July 20 as the date when scientists at the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory will test DNA on evidence, including the pistol and ammunition. Prosecutors have held off on having the lab complete the work until the defense in both cases could coordinate with their experts since there is only enough DNA to test the items once.