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Jurors to deliberate in Tashia Stuart murder trial

Jurors in the Tashia Stuart murder trial will begin deliberating her fate Tuesday, more than a month after the proceedings began.

In closing arguments Monday, the prosecution portrayed Stuart as motivated by greed when she intentionally killed her mother, Judy Hebert, inside their Pasco home.

"Judy opened her home to her daughter," said Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant. "She was killed for no other reason than greed."

Defense attorney Bob Thompson countered that Stuart faced imminent danger when she shot her mother.

"She had an absolute right to protect herself," Thompson said.

Stuart is charged with first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances, as well as attempted first-degree murder. The jury will have the option to convict her of three lesser charges -- second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter or second-degree manslaughter, Sant said.

Sant laid out a timeline of the days leading up to Hebert's death and the day Stuart shot her mother with a .357 revolver. He spent much of his time attempting to discredit defense witness Kay Sweeney, a forensic scientist who testified Stuart shot her mother in self-defense as she came at her with a hatchet.

Sant showed jurors a Washington State Police crime scene video of Hebert's body sprawled out on her bedroom floor with a hatchet near her head.

The placement of the bullets and the blood splatter on walls throughout the house don't match up with Sweeney's testimony, he said.

Sweeney testified Hebert's hand was touching the gun when Stuart fired the fatal shot.

He also testified Hebert was near a doorway and going into the bedroom when Stuart fired three shots, hitting her once in the chest and once on the right side.

Hebert wasn't in the doorway of her bedroom or touching Stuart when she died, Sant said.

Hebert's friends and family began crying in the courtroom as Sant showed the graphic video.

Thompson, who spoke to jurors for a little more than 45 minutes, said the case boils down to one thing -- the hatchet.

Hebert also had a chop wound to the back of her head. Stuart told police in a taped interview played in court she hit Hebert with the hatchet as the two struggled with it.

If the hatchet wasn't placed by Stuart near Hebert's body, it proves that Hebert had the hatchet raised and Stuart shot her in self-defense, Thompson said.

"Was the hatchet there or not?," he asked. "If that hatchet is there my client isn't guilty."

Sweeney testified the hatchet had tissue splatter from Hebert's body on both sides and it was in motion when Hebert was shot.

"How does the hatchet, not in motion or not in the room, get tissue on both sides?" Thompson said.

Thompson asked the jury to consider Sweeney's testimony and review the four-hour tape of Stuart's interview before making its decision.

Stuart was searching the Internet for motels in Oregon and ways to break into a safe hours before Hebert died, Sant said.

The prosecutor argued that Stuart's life was not in danger and the defense did not prove she was in "reasonable fear" when she shot her mother.

"This is a killing (that was) premeditated," Sant said. "She planned this."

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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