Small-town beauty convicted in murder-for-hire plot
03/10/2016 12:39 pm PST
UPDATE July 11, 2018:
Tara Lambert pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated murder in an Ohio courtroom Wednesday, and a judge sentenced her to five years in prison, with credit for time served, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Lambert, also known as Tara Arbogast, had previously been convicted of the same charge in 2016. A court of appeals overturned the conviction due to a technicality in the original charge in 2017. Lambert was freed from a seven-year sentence, having served 16 months. That time served will be credited toward her current sentence.
Appeals court tosses Tara Lambert's criminal conviction because of paperwork error; prosecutors re-indict Lambert on charges that she attempted to hire a hitman to kill two people
UPDATE Feb. 14, 2018: Tara Lambert pleaded not guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder Wednesday in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court, The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday.
UPDATE Feb. 8, 2018: After an appeals court threw out her criminal conviction because of a paperwork error, prosecutors have re-indicted Tara Lambert on charges that she attempted to hire a hitman to kill a couple she viewed as enemies, The Columbus Dispatch reports.
Tara Lambert, 35, of Ashville, is due in court Wednesday for her arraignment on two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, The Columbus Dispatch reports.
UPDATE June 7, 2017: From the Circleville Herald: "Tara Lambert's conviction for conspiracy to commit aggravated murder has been overturned by the Ohio 4th District Court of Appeals.
"Lambert's lawyer, Samuel Shemansky, field an appeal that claimed the original indictment was flawed because it did not specify what overt act Lambert had committed in the conspiracy."
March 10, 2016:
Circleville, Ohio looks like a brochure for small-town American living. And in an understated little community like this, a bleach-blond knockout like Tara Lambert was hard to miss.
As high school friends so often do, Tara Lambert and her friend Ginny Cheadle drifted apart after graduation.
Then, years later, Tara had a problem she thought Ginny might be able to help with.
Kellie Blevins Cooke is the woman Tara called her "problem." She was Tara's husband Brandon's ex, and the biological mother of Tara's two stepdaughters.
And even though Brandon and Kellie had a custody agreement in place, somewhere along the way, things turned ugly. According to reports, Kellie wanted to modify the custody arrangement, and a series of legal battles ensued, battles that by all accounts extended beyond the courtroom walls.
Angry texts, reports of harassment from both sides -- it was clear to all involved that there was no love lost between the Lamberts and the Cookes.
But in this fight, Tara had what she thought was a secret weapon: her old hardscrabble high-school bruiser friend from the other side of the tracks, Ginny Cheadle.
After catching up on old times, Tara had a special request for her old enforcer: She wanted Ginny to make an anonymous phone call to Kellie Cooke, telling her to back off -- or else. Ginny did what Tara asked.
Only a few months after that Tara reaches out to Ginny again, sending her a message indicating she wants help with more than just a threatening phone call.
Almost immediately, Ginny responds and a devious plot is set in motion. In a series of chilling texts and phone calls, Ginny acts as the go-between for Tara and the man she wants to "take care" of her "issue for good."
Over the next several days, Tara and Ginny continue ironing out the details. And just one week after that initial text Tara Lambert is on her way to finalize the hit.
As casually as some people order lunch, Tara proceeds order up a murder. There was just one little problem: Ginny Cheadle was working for police the entire time.
After the meeting with the undercover police officer posing as a hired hit-man and arranging for Kellie's murder, Lambert heads off to take care of other pressing business.
Twenty minutes later, she walks out the front door and into the back of a squad car.
At first, Tara tries to deny even having a major problem with Kellie. But Tara's own words said otherwise.
Even without an actual confession, prosecutors felt they had more than enough to go to trial.
Tara Lambert was arrested and charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, one for the hit she tried to place on her husband's ex, Kellie Cooke, and one for Kellie's husband, Shawn.
For the trial, Tara hires attorney James Kingsley, a man with a reputation as a passionate defender. According to him, Tara was actually entrapped by the state of Ohio and Ginny Cheadle.
In short, once Ginny presented the opportunity, and Tara didn't have the mental capacity to say no, according to the defense.
Her attorney said, "Lambert doesn't know what's appropriate for a situation. She's childlike. Life's a fantasy to her."
After just 40 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned with a verdict of guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit murder. She's found innocent of conspiracy to kill Kellie's husband.
As she's led out of the courtroom, Tara asks her attorney one final question -- What's going to happen to her purse?
When it's finally time for Tara to give her statement, she appears remorseful.
But as Kellie and Shawn Cooke read their victim impact statements, Tara shakes her head and seems dismissive. The judge takes notice, and shows little mercy.
Tara Lambert was sentenced in February to seven years in prison.
In at least one happy twist, Kellie, the same woman Tara wanted Ginny to help kill has now become one of Ginny's best friends.