CIRCLEVILLE — It was a very different Tara Lambert who appeared in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday to plead not guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder.
The 35-year-old was dressed down in a plaid shirt, buttoned over what appeared to be a baby bump. Her appearance was a far cry from the fashion model persona she portrayed during her 2016 trial and conviction on one count of plotting to have a woman killed.
That woman was Kellie Cooke, the mother of the children of Lambert’s husband at the time. Video surveillance showed Lambert meeting at the Circleville Walmart with an undercover officer posing as a hit man on July 28, 2015, to finalize the alleged murder-for-hire plans.
Lambert was also charged in 2015 with plotting to kill Cooke’s husband as well, but the jury did not find her guilty on that charge.
The former model was sentenced to seven years in prison and five years post release control. However, Lambert’s lawyer, Samuel Shamansky, filed an appeal that claimed the original indictment was flawed because it did not specify what overt act Lambert had committed in the conspiracy.
Ohio’s 4th District Court of Appeals agreed and overturned Lambert’s case in June 2017. Lambert was subsequently released from the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, on June 9.
But the case was far from over for Lambert and she was re-indicted on both charges. Pickaway County Prosecutor Judy Wolford explained that taking Lambert to trial once again was not considered double jeopardy because once the Appeals Court made their ruling, “It’s as if the original trial never even happened.”
Lambert’s attorney in the original trial was James R. Kingsley. Shamansky is representing her this time around.
The first Lambert case drew state and national attention due to the sensationalism of the case and what some reporters described as Lambert’s model good looks and high-fashion clothing choices during her court appearances.
The atmosphere was markedly calmer at Wednesday’s arraignment, with just Lambert’s family plus Kellie and husband Shawn Cooke sitting on opposite sides of the courtroom.
Lambert was released on her own recognizance and the jury trial was scheduled for April 23 at 9 a.m.