Todd D. Stuart's DNA was found on the gun that killed his mother-in-law, but a forensic expert testified Monday that doesn't prove Stuart ever handled the gun.
Todd Stuart isn't charged with killing Hebert. Instead, he's on trial in Franklin County Superior Court with attempted first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder about a week before Judy Hebert's death.
Prosecutors claim Todd Stuart lured his mother-in-law to her garage where his wife Tashia was hiding in the rafters with an 18-pound bin of books to dropped on her. Hebert was injured but not killed.
His estranged wife Tashia L. Stuart is charged with shooting her mother to death a week later.
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Washington State Patrol forensic scientist Anna Wilson testified Monday that DNA from Todd and Tashia Stuart and Hebert were found on the revolver. But Wilson said there is no way to prove how Todd Stuart's DNA ended up on the weapon or how long it was there.
She said she analyzed a number of pieces of evidence from the shooting, and the gun was the only item that had a sample that matched Todd Stuart's DNA.
However, Wilson said that she could not say how Todd Stuart's DNA ended up on the weapon or how long it had been there.
"If you live in a house around other items, it's not uncommon to have your DNA on those items," she said.
Also, the samples taken from the gun were mixed, which increases the likelihood there were other individuals who may have had DNA on the weapon but didn't provide test samples to compare to, Wilson said.
Forensic Detective Robert Benson with the Richland Police Department testified Monday that text messages sent by Tashia Stuart to Todd Stuart in the days before Hebert's death indicate the couple's relationship was in turmoil.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Robinson of Seattle said his client wasn't involved in any plot, is estranged from his wife and was trying to get away from his troubled marriage when Hebert was killed.
Benson examined two cellphones, including one belonging to Tashia Stuart.
Her phone contained text messages sent to her husband just days before Hebert's death saying things such as "Please come home," "I love you do you still love me?" and "Is it because I haven't gone to see a shrink?"
Todd Stuart's occasional replies voiced his desire to get away and sort out the relationship, he said.
Mitch Nassen, another forensic scientist from the state crime lab, testified about his examination of the crime scene after Hebert's death.
He said the blood spatters found in the house show Hebert was likely incapacitated after she was first shot, damaging her thumb and sending a bullet fragment into her spine.
"Judy (Hebert) was probably just outside her bedroom door when she sustained the shot to her thumb," Nassen said. "I don't think she had any real purposeful movement after that."
An emergency physician at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland and a registered nurse who worked at the medical clinic Hebert used for health care testified briefly Monday afternoon.
The doctor said he examined Hebert on Feb. 25 after the bin of books fell on her in her garage, giving her neck and head injuries.
The nurse said she took a call from Hebert in late February asking for a refill on her pain medication as a result of the injury.
Testimony began Thursday in the case and is expected to wrap up this week. Tashia Stuart's trial is scheduled Oct. 24.
-- Ty Beaver: 582-1402; email@example.com