"Femme Fatale" Tara Lambert, now Tara Arbogast, Pleads Guilty to Hiring a Hit Man

Suzanne Goldsmith

Former aspiring model Tara Arbogast (known at the time of her 2015 arrest as Tara Lambert) pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder for hiring a hit man to kill Kellie Cooke, the mother of her two stepdaughters. Arbogast, who recently gave birth to a child of her own, was sentenced to five years in prison, with 16 months’ credit for time served.

This second conviction—her first was overturned because of an error in the language of the original charges, according to The Columbus Dispatch—concludes a salacious story that, in its earlier chapters, involved an apparently unrepentant defendant who treated the courtroom like a runway, lifting a foot as she arrived each day during her initial trial to give photographers a better look at her designer stilettos, wrote reporter Holly Zachariah in her April 2016 feature for Columbus Monthly. Zachariah, a Dispatch reporter, attended that trial.

“The Lambert case intrigued everyone from the start,” wrote Zachariah two years ago. “ ‘I don’t mean to stereotype, but I think we were all kind of like, ‘What the heck?’ when we saw this young, gorgeous blonde with a family and a decent job,’ ” Chief Deputy Rick Minerd of the Franklin County Sheriff’s office said. “ ‘She was not what we expected.’”

Minerd was one of “a small army” of undercover law enforcement officers who were positioned throughout a Circleville shopping plaza on July 28, 2015, when Lambert met in the KFC parking lot with a tattooed man who was, in actuality, another undercover cop, and gave him a $125 down payment for the hit.

“They all watched that day as Lambert paid a man for murder—she had told him to just go ahead and kill [Kellie Cooke’s husband] Shawn Cooke, too, if he happened to be home—and then went shopping,” wrote Zachariah. “A Franklin County deputy in street clothes followed her into Wal-Mart. ‘It’s not like she was struggling with what she’d just done,’ [Pickaway County Sheriff Robert] Radcliff said. ‘She went prancing in like she didn’t have a care in the world.’ ” On the way out of Wal-Mart, Lambert was arrested.

You can read Zachariah’s story, “The Inside Story of Circleville Femme Fatale Tara Lambert,” on our website.


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