Judge orders pregnant woman's release

PRESCOTT – Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Janis Sterling on Monday ordered the release of Cindy Hardy, the Prescott Valley woman facing a second-degree murder charge over the death of her infant son, from the Yavapai County Jail.

Sterling said that Hardy, who is seven months pregnant, will go to pretrial services and that she will be subject to random drug testing.

The grand jury indicted the 22-year-old Hardy on charges including second-degree murder, child abuse and possession and use of marijuana. Her husband, Gregory Justin Hardy, 22, also faces the same charges.

The charges all stem from the death of their 7-month-old baby. In June 2002, the Hardys reportedly called 911 and told the dispatcher that their son was not breathing and that blood was running out of his nose. Officials took Caylob G. Hardy to Yavapai Regional Medical Center, where doctors later pronounced him dead.

Authorities perceived the death of the child suspicious and investigated the incident for two months before bringing charges.

Yavapai County Medical Examiner Philip Keen conducted an autopsy and, after initial results were inconclusive, further testing revealed that the infant died because someone had laid on him and smothered him.

During Monday's proceeding, Cindy Hardy's attorney, Chester Lockwood, said that Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk didn't object to the defendant's release from jail.

"Her (Hardy's) major concern is the safety and health of the child," he said, adding that he still believes that the court should sever his client's case from her husband's.

"There is no connection between accidental death and

any conduct of my client," he said.

Previously, Lockwood filed a motion to sever his client's case from her husband's. He argued that trying the two cases together would create a "rub-off effect."

The evidence that the state plans to present to the jury "is clearly and absolutely prejudicial against my client," he said.

"There is a significant disparity in the amount of evidence against these two people," he added. "This is politically motivated prosecution."

During Monday's proceeding, Polk said that Lockwood injected personal attacks against her during his previous arguments.

Because of that and other factors, Joe Butner will represent the state in this case, she said.

Sterling expressed her concern about changing prosecutors so close to the trial date, but Polk assured her that Butner will not be in any different position than Alex Harris, the lawyer who was appointed recently to represent Justin Hardy.

Meanwhile, Harris asked the court to reschedule a pretrial conference. She also filed a motion to sever her client's trial from his wife's.

Sterling didn't rule on any motions, saying she will do that after the state writes its response to the motions.

The judge also set the Hardys' nine-day trial for April 16. She said even if the court severs the two cases, one of the Hardys will go to trial on that date.

In other court news:

• Yavapai County Superior Court Judge William Kiger issued a warrant Tuesday to keep a material witness in custody, thus ensuring his appearance during Earl Ray Lappe's first-degree murder proceedings.

Kiger issued a warrant to keep Marc Tapija in custody after Lappe's attorney, Ken Ray, filed a motion requesting it.

Ray said Tapija is currently in a federal lockup in the Phoenix area.

Ray also said that he and Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Ethan Wolfinger are planning to interview Tapija today.

After the state withheld its objection to the request, Kiger set a $100,000 bond for Tapija's release and said that federal court authorities "need to be made aware of this situation."

Police arrested Lappe, 26, in October 2001 in connection with the shooting death of Anthony Smith.

Police found Smith's body in his Prescott home in the early morning hours of Sept. 7. He had suffered a gunshot wound to the head from a .20-gauge shotgun.

According to court records, Lappe reportedly told a number of people about the shooting. Police reportedly recovered his blood-stained clothes, as well as the alleged murder weapon.

Tapija testified during a preliminary hearing for Lappe that the defendant told him he killed Smith. Tapija reportedly told police that he and another witness were present when Lappe allegedly changed his clothes.

Kiger has set a trial for March 19.

Contact Mirsada Buric-Adam at mburicadam@prescottaz.com or 445-8179 ext. 1099.