87-year-old woman killed her granddaughter in self defense, says attorney

Wanda Lee Roberts, 87, enters Yakima County Superior Court on Monday for a preliminary hearing in the shooting death of her granddaughter.
Wanda Lee Roberts, 87, enters Yakima County Superior Court on Monday for a preliminary hearing in the shooting death of her granddaughter. Yakima Herald-Republic

Yakima police say an 87-year-old woman fatally her shot her granddaughter in a North Third Street apartment early Monday.

A Yakima County Superior Court judge ordered Wanda Lee Roberts, 87, held in lieu of $50,000 bail on suspicion of second-degree murder in the death of Tiffany LeAnne Roberts, 34.

Wanda Roberts appeared in court in a jail uniform, slowly walking to the bench and only speaking to answer Judge Gayle Harthcock’s questions about whether she understood her rights and if she needed a public defender.

Roberts told a 911 operator around 12:20 a.m. that she “had to shoot” her granddaughter, according to a police affidavit. She said Tiffany Roberts was threatening her when she fired.

Police found Wanda Roberts at the doorway of the apartment at 602 N. Third St., and Tiffany Roberts in the hallway with a gunshot wound in her upper chest. A neighbor told police he heard a woman yelling “Let me in!” from the apartment.

Tiffany Roberts was taken to Astria Regional Medical Center in Yakima, where she died at 1 a.m. An autopsy has been scheduled for Tuesday, Yakima County Coroner Jack Hawkins said.

Police said Wanda Roberts fired the shot through her closed bedroom door. Officers spotted a black handgun and a single shell casing in the room.

Wanda Roberts moved in with her granddaughter to help “get her life straightened out,” said police Lt. Mike Pollard.

“She underestimated the problems the granddaughter had, and became fearful,” Pollard said.

Tiffany Roberts has prior convictions on drug charges, first-degree theft and residential burglary, according to court records.

Court records show that Wanda Roberts attempted to get a protective order against Tiffany Roberts last year, citing how Tiffany Roberts pushed her grandfather down.

Superior Court Judge Blaine Gibson denied the request for the order. Wanda Roberts has no prior criminal record.

During Monday’s hearing, defense attorney Andres Muñoz argued that there was no evidence to warrant holding Wanda Roberts on suspicion of murder. Instead, he said, Wanda Roberts acted in self defense.

He pointed to Wanda Roberts calling authorities and telling them what she did and where to find the gun, as well as the previous incidents where police were called to the house and the attempt to obtain a restraining order.

“It seemed to me that my client was essentially trapped inside her bedroom, and felt she had no other means to protect her safety except to fire her firearm,” Muñoz said.

But Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Steve Jackson said when police tried to question her, Wanda Roberts exercised her constitutional right to remain silent, which he said meant prosecutors did not have her full version of events. Also, Jackson said, some of the evidence on the scene, when viewed in a light favoring prosecutors, did not lend itself to a self-defense scenario.

“The only handgun is the one that Ms. Roberts had, and Tiffany Roberts was unarmed at the time, the gunshot was through the door,” Jackson said.

While Harthcock said she agreed there was probable cause for second-degree murder. She said she also could see it as manslaughter or reckless endangerment, a decision that will need to be made after detectives complete their investigation.

She also scheduled a hearing Wednesday to determine if Wanda Roberts’ bail should be reduced or replaced with release on her own recognizance.

Tiffany Roberts’ death is the 26th homicide this in Yakima County, and the 16th in the city.

Donald W. Meyers can be reached at 509-577-7748 or Twitter: @donaldwmeyers.