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Martinsburg woman sentenced in crack case

June 13, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Martinsburg woman was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison for her part in a crack cocaine operation that's been connected to the slaying of a Hedgesville, W.Va., woman.

U.S. District Court Judge W. Craig Broadwater sentenced Vernel Michelle Newell, 29, of 226 North Spring St., in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg.

The prison term will be followed by three years of supervised release, according to Fawn Thomas, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Melvin W. Kahle Jr.'s office.

Newell pleaded guilty in March to distributing crack cocaine in Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Martinsburg in June 1999. At the time of the plea, Thomas said Newell could receive a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

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Newell's case is connected to a pending murder case.

Authorities say members of a crack cocaine ring beat 20-year-old Vatressa Miller to death because they were afraid she would reveal their operation.

Miller's body was found in the woods in the Opequon subdivision last Aug. 10.

Casey Michelle Holt, 25, of 84-T Apple Way, Inwood, W.Va.; Keyston J. West, 22, of Charlotte, N.C.; and Andrew Charles Jackson, 21, of 728 Winchester Ave., Martinsburg, are charged with conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and with attempting to further a criminal enterprise by killing Miller.

Holt, West and Jackson could face the death penalty if they are convicted.

Newell was not accused of killing Miller, but was part of the same drug operation as Holt, West and Jackson, according to court records.

A fifth defendant, Kirk Leon Grantham, 22, of Avery Street, Martinsburg, pleaded guilty in April to distributing about a gram of crack cocaine on May 13, 1999, in exchange for $150.

Grantham is scheduled to be sentenced on June 26, and faces the same maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

Like Newell, he is not charged with killing Miller, but is accused of taking part in a drug operation with Holt, West and Jackson.

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