Crime

Judge Overturns Woman's Conviction For Hiring Hitman

| by Michael Doherty

An ex-model from Ohio who was sentenced to prison after she allegedly tried to hire a hitman to kill her husband's ex-wife has had her conviction overturned after a judge called the indictment "fatally flawed."

Tara Lambert, 35, gave who she reportedly thought was a hitman $125 to kill her husband's ex, Kellie Cooke, according to the Daily Mail. The person Tara gave the money to turned out to be an undercover sheriff's deputy, and Tara was arrested.

Tara was convicted for conspiracy to commit aggravated murder in February 2016 and spent a year in prison, The Columbus Dispatch reports. But an appeals court judge has overturned her conviction because a prosecutor made an error in Tara's indictment.

Tara was reported to have suggested that the deputy she believed was an assassin could use a wood chipper to get rid of Kellie's remains after killing her.

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According to Tara, she was joking. She also gave the deputy Kellie's address and described her car. She was later cleared of a charge of conspiring to kill Kellie's husband, Shawn Cooke, if he was home when the supposed assassin arrived to kill Kellie.

The alleged deal took place in a KFC parking lot, and was captured on hidden cameras in the deputy's car. Tara also reportedly supplied the fake hitman with a photo of Kellie, as well as her schedule.

The trial never should have proceeded because of an error in Tara's indictment, said the Fourth District Court of Appeals.

Prosecutors would have needed to state what "overt act" Tara did to make the murder occur.

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"Did she buy a gun, for example?" asked defense attorney Sam Shamansky. "The prosecutor had to spell out exactly what that underlying overt act was that contributed here. The state did not do that."

Tara and Kellie had been involved in a custody battle involving Tara's two stepdaughters -- Kellie is the girls' mother, and Tara's husband, Brandon Lambert, is their father.

In court, psychologist Jolie Brams said the former fashion model had eating disorders along with drug and drinking problems and was "developmentally challenged" after growing up around violence and being abandoned by her parents in childhood.

Brams said that Tara's body image issues led her to undergo more than 20 cosmetic procedures -- at one point, Brams said, Tara was told that her sweater didn't fit, and she immediately headed to a plastic surgeon for surgery.

The Cookes made it clear they were unhappy with the court's decision to release Tara, which her attorney said could happen as soon as June 9.

"She's not innocent. She's getting off on a technicality," said Kellie. "We're not going to let this go. We're going to fight until she's back where she needs to be: in prison."

"She had the full intention of my wife being killed, there's no doubt about that," said Shawn.

Shamansky said he expected the prosecution to move to re-indict Tara, who he said would "get another bite at the apple with new counsel," according to People.

Sources: Daily Mail, The Columbus Dispatch, People / Photo credit: Pixabay

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