Nation & World

Ohio model found guilty of arranging murder of husband’s ex gets conviction overturned

Tara Lambert is escorted out of court in on Feb. 24, 2016, in Circleville, Ohio, after being sentenced to seven years in prison for attempting to hire a hit man to kill her husband’s ex. A federal appeals court judge overturned Lambert’s conviction his week.
Tara Lambert is escorted out of court in on Feb. 24, 2016, in Circleville, Ohio, after being sentenced to seven years in prison for attempting to hire a hit man to kill her husband’s ex. A federal appeals court judge overturned Lambert’s conviction his week. The Columbus Dispatch via Associated Press

They met covertly last year in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the parking lot of a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Circleville, Ohio.

Former model Tara Lambert thought she was talking to a hitman and arranging for the murder of her husband’s ex, the mother of her two teenage stepdaughters. The ex, Kellie Cooke, was fighting with her husband over visitation rights.

But the tattooed man whom Lambert handed a $125 down payment was an undercover detective. The car had hidden cameras that captured the murder-for-hire deal.

“I need her away. Gone,” Lambert told the undercover cop, referencing Cooke. “Just put her in a chopper, you know like one of those lumberjack chopper things.”

She laughed and said, “I’m just kidding.”

Then, not laughing, she said, “That’s how much I hate her, though.”

Last February the woman, whom one media outlet nicknamed the “Circleville Femme Fatale”, was convicted and sent to prison for seven years on a first-degree felony charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.

A judge in the Fourth District Court of Appeals overturned the conviction this week, ruling that the case against Lambert should have never proceeded because of a prosecutor’s error in the indictment language, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Sam Shamansky, Lambert’s lawyer for the appeal, told the newspaper his client was expected to walk out of the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville on Friday.

For a conspiracy to commit aggravated murder charge, the law required prosecutors to say specifically what “overt act” Lambert did to make it happen, Shamansky argued.

“Did she buy a gun, for example? The prosecutor had to spell out exactly what that underlying overt act was that contributed here,” Shamansky told the Dispatch. “The state did not do that.”

Appellate court judge Peter B. Abele wrote that Lambert’s then-attorney James Kingsley should have caught the mistake and asked to have the case dismissed. He described the indictment as “fatally flawed,” according to the Associated Press.

Cooke told the newspaper a victim’s advocate and a detective called her Wednesday to tell her about the ruling and that Lambert will be out of prison soon.

“She’s not innocent. She’s getting off on a technicality,” Cooke told the Dispatch. “We’re not going to let this go. We’re going to fight until she’s back where she needs to be: in prison.”

There was no word Friday on what the county prosecutor’s next move might be.

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