Appeals Court Overturns Conviction of Ex-Model Who Tried To Hire Hitman

A former model from Pickaway County who went to prison last year for hiring a hitman to kill the mother of her two stepdaughters has had her conviction thrown out on appeal because the indictment against her was “fatally flawed.”

A judge in the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled that because of a prosecutor’s error in the indictment language, the case against Tara Lambert, 34, never should have even been allowed to proceed.

Criminal defense attorney Sam Shamansky, who represented Lambert in her appeal, said he expects she will be released Friday from the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville.

Pickaway County Prosecutor Judy Wolford did not return a call for comment about whether her office will appeal this ruling, re-indict Lambert on the same felony charge, or offer her a plea deal to some lesser offense.

A Pickaway County jury convicted Lambert in February 2016 on a first-degree felony charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.

Prosecutors said that Lambert gave a man — who turned out to be an undercover detective $125 as down payment to kill Kellie Cooke, who had once been in a relationship with Lambert’s husband and had two daughters with him.

Jurors acquitted Lambert on a charge that she also wanted Cooke’s current husband, Shawn Cooke, dead.

The Cookes had custody of the teenage girls, but the two couples had long been engaged in an escalating and bitter dispute about visitation schedules and rules.

The murder-for-hire deal took place in a Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot in Circleville and was caught on hidden cameras in the detective’s car.

In addition to the down payment, Lambert provided the detective with a photo of Kellie Cooke, her address and a typed description of her vehicles and her schedule.

Following the trial, Pickaway County Common Pleas Judge P. Randall Knece sentenced Lambert to seven years in prison.

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