Home News Trial begins in murder-for-hire case

Trial begins in murder-for-hire case


Trish Bennett, Editor

Tara Lambert reviews notes taken during the first day of her trial Monday in an alleged murder-for-hire plot. (Photos by Trish Bennett)

Ginny Cheadle testified regarding her role as a confidential informant during day one of the Lambert trial.

CIRCLEVILLE – Day one in the murder-for-hire trial of Tara Lambert in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court was capped off Monday by video footage of the suspect’s meeting with an undercover detective to allegedly seal the deal.

Lambert is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder after prosecutors say she attempted to hire a hit man to kill her husband’s ex, Kellie Cooke, and Cooke’s current husband, Shawn Cooke, of Lucasville.

Judy Wolford, Pickaway County Prosecutor, told the jury in her opening statement that they would see and hear evidence that proved Lambert clearly intended to have the couple murdered to resolve an ongoing custody dispute involving the children Kellie Cooke shared with Lambert’s husband.

Jim Kingsley, Lambert’s attorney, countered that Lambert is “mentally disturbed” and does not process information the way other people do. Her intent, he said, was simply to scare or injure Mrs. Cooke, not to kill her, and that the murder plot was forced upon her during the undercover operation in a case of entrapment.

The trial began with testimony from Ginny Cheadle, a former high school classmate whom Lambert reportedly approached for help in hiring a hit man.

Cheadle testified she had had assisted Lambert once before in March of 2015 by calling Cooke and threatening her to “leave Tara alone.” With the exception of Facebook interaction, Cheadle said the next time she heard from Lambert was July of 2015 when Lambert asked if she knew anyone who needed some cash because she wanted to “take care of the problem for good.”

Cheadle testified she was concerned and took the information to Deputy Stacey Eitel, Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office, who in turn put her in contact with the detective bureau. Detectives called in an undercover deputy from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office to pose as the hit man and arranged for a meeting with Lambert.

The jury was shown photos of Facebook messages between Lambert and Cheadle regarding the arrangements and heard audio playback of four phone calls between the two recorded by the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office.

The final playback of the day Monday was the video of Lambert’s meeting with undercover Detective Stanford Crayton in the parking lot of KFC in Circleville, which Crayton described as Lambert “placing a down payment and providing instructions on the killing of her husband’s ex-wife.”

Lambert reportedly brought with her a photo of Cooke with details about her home, vehicles and other information typed on the back, along with a $125 down payment for Crayton’s services.

In the video, Lambert told Crayton he should commit the crime while the children were gone on visitation with their father, which happened every other weekend. She also told the so-called hit man he could throw Cooke into “one of those lumberjack chopper things. That’s how much I hate her.”

On the video, the two agreed that Lambert would pay the balance she owed him after the crime was committed. Crayton said he would provide Lambert with a “burner cell phone” that she was instructed to destroy once he sent her a photo of the crime scene to let her know the deed was done.

On Tuesday, jurors are expected to hear testimony from Detective Rex Emrick, Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office, and view the video interview Emrick conducted with Lambert the day of her arrest before the state rests its case. At that point, the defense will present its case in the trial, which is expected to be completed by Wednesday.

This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal