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Bond denied in Miller slaying case

February 22, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG - Two defendants facing federal charges in the death of a 20-year-old Hedgesville, W.Va., woman last year will stay in custody until their trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.

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U.S. Magistrate Judge David L. Core rejected defense attorneys' requests to release on bond Keyston J. West, 22, of Charlotte, N.C., and Casey Michelle Holt, 25, of 84-T Apple Way, Inwood, W.Va.

Authorities have charged West, Holt and Andrew Charles Jackson, 21, of 728 Winchester Ave., Martinsburg, with taking 20-year-old Vatressa Maria Miller into the woods last summer and beating her to death with an ax handle. Her body was found Aug. 10 at Keystone on the Opequon subdivision.

The three also are charged with running a crack cocaine ring, and prosecutors allege Miller was killed because she was suspected of being a police informant.

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A fourth person, Kirk Leon Grantham, 22, of Avery Street, Martinsburg, is charged with being part of the alleged drug ring but not in Miller's slaying.

Last month, U.S. District Judge W. Craig Broadwater ordered Grantham held without bond, too.

Holt, West, and Jackson have been charged specifically with conspiracy to sell crack cocaine and attempting to further a criminal enterprise by killing Miller. Conviction on the charges can bring the death penalty or life in prison.

All four defendants are scheduled to go on trial in federal court in Martinsburg on April 18.

Testifying Tuesday, Martinsburg Police Detective Timothy Catlett, a member of the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force, said he saw an ax handle in the woods near where Miller's body was found.

A medical examiner estimated that Miller had been dead for about three or four weeks when her body was found, Catlett said.

During Holt's detention hearing, Catlett and police Cpl. Samuel Harmon, another member of the task force, testified that an unnamed witness to the killing told police Holt had pulled the ax handle from her pants and used it to hit Miller.

According to Holt's attorney, Barry Beck, Holt has admitted she was present when Miller was killed, but said she hit Miller only with her hand.

Harmon said police were unable to recover any fingerprints from the ax handle.

The witness, who has not been charged, is Jackson's girlfriend, and he has threatened her in the past, so her credibility should be questioned, Beck said.

Holt's mother and grandmother, who live together with Holt's two children, both testified that she could live with them if she were released.

Holt's grandmother, Martha Floyd, said she would put up her house as collateral for a bond.

Holt's mother, Pat Fefel, said she thought her daughter, who recently worked as a bouncer, could get a job at a fast food restaurant or convenience store near their home.

Core said Holt is probably not a risk to flee the area, but doubted that someone would hire her while charges are pending.

Further, Holt has a history of violence, including two convictions of assaulting police officers, he said.

"I don't think the danger element (to the community) is one that can be dealt with through any kind of condition of release," he said.

During West's hearing, his attorney, Joe Matyskiela, said West's father has offered to take in his son and give him a landscaping job in Louisiana. West's sister has also offered him a place to stay and financial help, Matyskiela said.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McWilliams said West failed to appear in court on a marijuana charge last year and has no ties to this area.

Core said it would be tough to trust West to travel back and forth to Martinsburg for court proceedings.

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