Trish Bennett, Editor
CIRCLEVILLE – It took less than an hour for a jury of eight men and four women to return a guilty verdict in the murder-for-hire trial of Tara Lambert on Wednesday.
Lambert, 33, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder in the charge involving Kellie Cooke of Lucasville. She was found not guilty on the charge involving Cooke’s husband, Shawn.
Lambert was taken into immediate custody and will be held without bond in the Pickaway County Jail until her sentencing at 11 a.m. Feb. 17 in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court.
“I think it was the right verdict,” said Judy Wolford, Pickaway County Prosecutor. “It shows the jury really reviewed the information and listened as the case was presented.”
Conspiracy to commit aggravated murder is a first-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of 11 years in state prison.
Kellie and Shawn Cooke said after the verdict they didn’t feel it was over until Lambert was handcuffed and removed from the courtroom on Wednesday. Once that happened, though, they felt an enormous sense of relief.
Shawn said he hopes Lambert receives the maximum sentence, but regardless, the lives of their family will never be the same. He said they are constantly on guard and aware of their surroundings to the point of feeling “like the Secret Service.”
“She had the full intention of my wife being killed, there’s no doubt about that,” Shawn said.
Lambert was arrested July 28 by detectives from the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office on charges that she attempted to hire a hit man to kill Kellie Cooke, her husband’s ex, and Shawn, Kellie’s current husband, regarding a visitation issue involving their two teenage daughters.
According to court testimony, Lambert approached a former high school classmate, Ginny Cheadle, to see if she knew someone who needed extra cash and might be up for the job.
Concerned by the request, Cheadle took the information to the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office, and detectives moved quickly to arrange for an undercover Franklin County deputy to play the part.
Lambert met with the undercover deputy July 28, 2015, in the parking lot at KFC in Circleville and paid him $125 in cash as a down payment for the job. She also provided him with a photo of Kellie Cooke and information about her home, vehicles, work habits and other details.
Lambert was arrested about 20 minutes later leaving the nearby Walmart store. She was released on bond and had been under house arrest until her conviction on Wednesday.
This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal