PASCO -- A 48-year-old man who allegedly tried to help kill his Pasco mother-in-law last year has agreed to come back to Franklin County and face the charge.
Todd David Stuart waived extradition during a Thursday hearing in Alameda County Superior Court, the district attorney's office has confirmed.
Stuart had been living and working in California on a decommissioned aircraft carrier on San Francisco Bay when he was arrested Tuesday.
He was wanted on a charge of first-degree attempted murder, though likely did not know police were after him because the arrest warrant had been sealed.
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Stuart should appear in Franklin County Superior Court sometime in the next week or two, said Prosecutor Shawn Sant.
The timing all depends on when the jail can arrange for Stuart's transport on the state chain, which moves people in custody on out-of-state warrants, as well as weather conditions. The Franklin County jail employee who normally coordinates those matters is out of the office until Monday, he said.
Stuart is accused of positioning his mother-in-law, Judy Hebert, in the right spot in her garage so an 18-gallon bin of books would fall on her.
Hebert suffered a severe head injury in that 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 in Stuart's case.
Hebert, 58, was found dead March 3 from a gunshot wound to the chest in her west Pasco home.
Daughter Tashia Stuart, 38, is charged with first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances. Her case has been on hold with no trial date set because defense lawyers questioned her mental health.
Todd Stuart, his wife and their 7-year-old daughter moved to the Tri-Cities to live with Hebert in January 2011. He apparently left his wife three days before Hebert was killed, then contacted Pasco detectives March 8 when he learned of the homicide on the Tri-City Herald website.
Police believe the Stuarts had been conspiring to kill Hebert and first acted on it when they pushed the book box from the rafters.
After Hebert's death, Detective Brad Gregory talked to family and neighbors who all shared similar stories that the victim suspected her prescription medications were being switched and was taking notes on the unusual incidents at her home.
Gregory found Hebert's own crime scene photographs in her bedroom safe and a calendar with relevant dates and measurements in the home office. A diagram of the garage, with an "X" marking the spot where Hebert was standing when the bin fell, also was located in the Stuarts' bedroom, documents said.
Officers had not been at Hebert's Salmon Drive home before the March 3 incident, Capt. Jim Raymond said while looking through his department's records system. So apparently Hebert didn't go to police with her suspicions.
Officers who responded to the residence after a 911 hang-up call found Tashia Stuart distraught when she answered the door. She told them there was no problem inside and closed the door, but police persisted after a neighbor told them about hearing gunshots from inside the home.
Stuart allegedly claimed she had to fire the gun because her mother came at her with an ax. She was taken into custody that day.
Prosecutor Sant, when asked about the delay in going after Todd Stuart, said investigators received a lot of information in those initial days and weeks, including statements about the husband's alleged involvement.
His office had to proceed with Tashia Stuart's case because she was caught at the scene, but that gave detectives time to develop the case against her husband. The investigation included the testing of evidence collected at the scene, including software, memory drives and other electronics, Sant said.
"We wanted to wait and see if anything additional would come of that, and we didn't have that information until a couple months later," he said. "It finally got to the point we felt we need to go forward with what we have now and pick him up."
An arrest warrant for Todd Stuart was signed Nov. 22 by Judge Craig Matheson. The warrant and a five-page affidavit showing probable cause for his arrest was kept under seal "to make sure that it wouldn't tip him off to where he might flee," Sant said.
"He might have been expecting that it was coming but, the element of surprise, we didn't want him going underground, so to speak," he added.
Pasco police had an idea of Stuart's whereabouts and were in contact with detectives in Oakland, Calif., during the past several months, Sant said.
One location they thought was good turned out to be unconfirmed, but the U.S. Marshals Office got involved once the warrant was issued and discovered he was living and working on the USS Hornet, which now is a public museum.
Marshals coordinated the arrest with Pasco so that Detective Gregory and Cpl. Jeff Harpster could be there. They were assisted by authorities from Alameda and Oakland.
The Pasco investigators since have returned to the Tri-Cities.
Sant told the Herald that it is hard to say if the new allegations against Todd Stuart will affect his wife's case. Prosecutors could opt to add a charge of attempted murder for the prior alleged incidents if Tashia Stuart takes her case to trial.
As she is charged now, Stuart is looking at 20 years to 26 years and eight months if convicted.
Sant added that he always will entertain a guilty plea if someone is interested, but said his concern is talking with the victim's family members first and finding out their interests now that both suspects are behind bars.
"The way I look at this case is this was ongoing," he said. "This started with her and Todd, and Todd basically left the area before it was completed."