PASCO — A Pasco woman accused of fatally shooting her mother inside their west Pasco home might claim self-defense.
But court documents indicate Tashia Stuart told a Pasco officer who had responded to a 911 hang-up call from the house Thursday that there was no problem and told dispatchers she was just changing the smoke detector battery.
When a neighbor called after hearing what sounded like gunshots from the home, Stuart reportedly told him something had "blown up" on the stove and that "mom" would call him back in a few minutes, documents said.
Judy Hebert, however, was found dead inside the single-story house at 7907 Salmon Drive, and her daughter was arrested in connection with her death. Hebert, who moved into the newly constructed home in 2007, was 58.
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An autopsy is expected to be completed today by Dr. Daniel Selove, a forensic pathologist from Everett, said Franklin County Coroner Dan Blasdel.
Stuart, who will spend her 38th birthday in the Franklin County jail Sunday, is being held on $200,000 bail.
She looked frail and emotional during a brief initial court appearance Friday in Franklin County Superior Court, where Judge Craig Matheson found cause to hold Stuart on suspicion of second-degree murder.
Charges must be filed by Tuesday or she will be released. Her next court appearance would be March 15.
Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant asked for a $500,000 bail, saying Stuart has no ties to the community and poses a "significant flight risk."
Defense attorney Matt Rutt, who was appointed along with Bob Thompson to represent Stuart, told Matheson that his client has no known criminal history, was born and raised in Post Falls, Idaho, and moved to the Tri-Cities in January.
He said Stuart "does realize this is a serious charge," and asked that she be released on her own recognizance or have a lower bail.
Matheson set bail at $200,000, but said it could be re-addressed once Stuart's reported lack of criminal history is confirmed.
Matheson also said Stuart could not have contact with her daughter, who prosecutors said was present at the time of the shooting and is in protective custody.
After court, Rutt said Stuart's daughter is 7. Stuart, her husband of five years, Todd, and her daughter, moved in with her mother in January because of financial issues, he said.
Todd Stuart was not home when the shooting occurred, and Rutt said he did not know where he was.
Rutt said he was able to meet with Tashia Stuart for about two hours before court Friday and said it might be a case of self-defense.
He said the shooting stemmed from an argument between mother and daughter and indicated the "alleged victim may have been armed" at the time. Rutt also said he was curious to see the toxicology results on Hebert because "my understanding is she was heavily intoxicated."
Rutt said a revolver that apparently was recovered by police was owned by Hebert.
Rutt said his client hadn't eaten since the incident, which occurred around 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Stuart was arrested inside the home, and then taken to the Pasco police station for questioning, Rutt said.
She was booked into jail at 11:36 p.m., according to jail records.
"She's devastated," Rutt said. "She's very ill. She has horrible migraines. ... She has pounding headaches and severe ringing in the ears."
Rutt said Stuart has prescription medication to treat the migraines but didn't know if it had been seized by police. He said he hoped the medications are turned over to the jail so Stuart can take them.
Pasco police detectives spent most of the day Friday at Hebert's home collecting evidence with the assistance from the Washington State Patrol Crime Response Team.
Police and court reports detail the police response following the 911 hang-up call from the home and the smoke detector battery answer when an emergency dispatcher called back.
When a police officer arrived at the home, Stuart appeared distraught when she answered the door but told him there was no problem inside.
She told the officer she needed to put her dog away so it wouldn't bite him and said something was burning on the stove.
She then she closed the door, leaving the officer outside.
A neighbor then contacted the officer and said he had heard gunshots from the house. The witness said he had called the home and didn't get an answer. When he called back a second time, the phone was answered by "Natasha," who told him the sound was not gunshots but rather something on the stove that had "blown up," documents said.
The Pasco officer then called for back-up units, and when he returned to the house, Stuart came to the front door and said, "She came at me with an ax," documents said.
After the officer told Stuart what the neighbor had said, she admitted she had fired shots and that she had hit the person she fired at, documents said.
The officer then went inside and found Hebert dead on the floor in the hallway.
A gun also was on the floor, documents said.
Neighbors said Friday that they still were reeling from the incident in their normally quiet neighborhood, which is in west Pasco north of Sandifur Parkway and west of Road 68. They said Hebert, who reportedly moved to Pasco from Coeur D'Alene was retired.
"Judy was a well-loved woman in the neighborhood," said next-door-neighbor Sheri Crowe. "We were all shocked at the news of her death. The fact that she passed in such a violent manner in her own home, which she loved, is hard to grasp. It's a sad day."
Hebert was a Master Gardener who had a large flower garden in her backyard. She always waved to passing neighbors and greeted people with a "Hello darling" or "Hi sweetie," Crowe said.
"The violence in her death is so hard to take," Crowe said. "That's just hard to grasp, and the terror she must of felt."