Judy Hebert was a "really sweet lady" who befriended other Salmon Drive residents when she moved into the west Pasco neighborhood in 2007.
Tonya Amende told jurors Thursday that it didn't take long for the two women to become close.
Every time they would see each other, Hebert would give the stay-at-home mom a hug and a kiss. She was like a grandmother to Amende's son, and the women often would walk to the park with Amende's son and Hebert's granddaughter.
So in early 2011 when Hebert, 58, was scared for her safety, it wasn't surprising that she shared with her neighbors her darkest suspicions about her daughter Tashia Stuart.
Hebert questioned how a bin of books could fall on her head from the garage rafters in February 2011, and later she told Amende that she believed her daughter was switching her medications.
She told her neighbor she would lock her bedroom door at night and put chairs against the door in an attempt to feel safe.
Hebert had become sicker and more withdrawn, until March 3, 2011, when she was shot dead inside her home.
Her daughter, now 40, is on trial for killing her. Stuart claims she was defending herself when her mother came at her with an ax.
Stuart is charged in Franklin County Superior Court with first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances and attempted first-degree murder.
Amende recalled how just hours before her friend's death, she called Hebert because the two women were supposed to go shopping.
"She said she wasn't feeling good and was tired," Amende testified. That was at 11:20 a.m. and the women agreed to talk later.
At 2:24 p.m., a 911 dispatcher answered a call from the home, but a woman's frantic statements couldn't be understood, and the line disconnected.
Police were sent to the west Pasco home to make sure everything was OK.
Meanwhile, Amende said another neighbor asked her to call the Hebert home "because he thought he'd heard something." He'd called but couldn't reach anyone.
So Amende said she dialed her friend's number and Stuart answered.
She said her mother was "in the bathroom throwing up, something had blown up on the stove and the smoke alarm was going off," Amende told jurors. "She told me everything was OK and would have her mom call back when she could."
When Amende saw a patrol car pull up to the house, she said she got scared and called Hebert again. This time she got the answering machine.
"I thought the worst," she said.
The neighbors could hear Stuart's 7-year-old daughter screaming inside the house, so they let police know that the girl was comfortable with Amende and others if they'd let her come out. The trembling girl walked out of the house and was scooped up by the neighbors.
When Prosecutor Shawn Sant asked Amende in court what the girl said to them, the defense attorneys quickly objected and asked to talk with the judge. The jury was taken out of the room so the lawyers could argue in open court.
Peter Connick, one of Stuart's two attorneys, asked for a mistrial.
Connick claimed Sant repeatedly was asking questions that were not permissible and was trying to create the impression that Stuart was a horrible mother and had dumped her daughter on Hebert.
"We have had to be vigilant to stop this," Connick argued. "How many pretrials have we done in this case? ... This has probably been the most litigated case that I've done in terms of hearsay and what (statement) comes in and what doesn't."
Connick pointed out that the judge ruled before the trial that if either side wanted to go into statements involving Stuart's daughter, it would need to be discussed outside the presence of the jury. He accused Sant of violating the ruling.
"The defense feels sandbagged. I want you to understand that," added defense attorney Bob Thompson.
Sant apologized, saying he thought he'd set the proper foundation to question Amende about what the young girl said. He replied that it wasn't hearsay but an "excited utterance" by a visibly shaken girl, which he said the jury should be allowed to hear.
Judge Cameron Mitchell said it did not warrant a mistrial because nothing was said before the jury.
He said he was under the impression that all these issues had been addressed before the trial started May 28, but agreed to let the defense interview Amende and another neighbor today in court without the jury to see if they have any other statements that Connick and Thompson don't know about.