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Defendant was 'controlling,' witness claims

January 18, 2002

Defendant was 'controlling,' witness claims

Testimony continues in trial of men accused in 1999 slaying


By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - During the third day of testimony in the trial of Andrew Charles Jackson Thursday, a witness testified the man accused of killing a suspected drug informant was "controlling" and once slammed her daughter against the wall over a bag of missing drugs.

Veda Brown, the mother of Vernell Newell, who used to sell crack for Jackson, recalled on the witness stand a time when Jackson slammed her daughter against a wall in her apartment after some drugs were missing from their bedroom.

Jackson, of 728 Winchester Ave., Martinsburg, is charged with killing 20-year-old Vatressa Miller on Aug. 10, 1999, as part of a continuing criminal enterprise.

Jackson, also known as "Sway," is standing trial this week in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg along with co-defendant Keyston J. West of 908 Wendover Road, Apt. D, Charlotte, N.C.

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Federal prosecutors allege Jackson started a drug operation after moving to Martinsburg in 1995 and used threats, physical violence and intimidation to run his operation.

Prosecutors think Miller was killed because she was suspected of being a drug informant.

Brown testified she often stayed at her daughter's apartment because she wanted to protect her granddaughter from the people who would show up there looking for drugs.

Brown testified she was preparing to play a Walt Disney video for her granddaughter one day in the apartment when a bag of crack cocaine fell out of the inside of the video.

Brown said she flushed the drugs down a toilet.

Jackson threw Newell against the wall when the couple came home later and went into the bedroom, Brown testified. Brown said she assumed that Jackson believed her daughter was responsible for the disappearance of the drugs.

Brown testified her daughter danced in a local strip club, but she believed Jackson wanted her to do it.

"He was so controlling of her," said Brown.

Witnesses testified Thursday they saw Jackson handling firearms.

Brown said she once saw Jackson with two handguns and witness Jon Velasquez said Jackson showed him a rifle one day at an apartment on Moler Avenue where Jackson was staying.

Linda Taylor, one of two jailed people who were brought into court to testify, estimated she bought up to $20,000 worth of drugs from Jackson.

Taylor, who was addicted to crack cocaine and heroin, said she would buy drugs from Jackson up to three times a week.

If she wanted drugs late at night, another person known as "Tim" would sometimes show up at her apartment over the former Fanny's restaurant on Queen Street to deliver the drugs, Taylor said.

Witnesses also testified to seeing Jackson with lots of money.

Taylor recalled a time when Jackson fixed up an apartment for one of his friends and went to a furniture store in Martinsburg to buy new furniture for the apartment.

"He just walked in and spent thousands," said Taylor.

Richard Shedd Jr. said Jackson took him in after his mother kicked him out of his house. Shedd, 18, said he helped Jackson package crack cocaine at the Moler Avenue apartment where Jackson was staying.

Shedd said he saw stacks of money held together with rubber bands.

"I seen thousands," Shedd told jurors.

U.S. Attorney Tom Mucklow said he believes Jackson became suspicious of Miller, who was also a crack user, after she was released from jail in the summer of 1999.

According to Mucklow, Miller, Jackson, West, Newell and a woman known as Casey Holt got in a car together at Holt's house on Pennsylvania Avenue and went to Greystone on the Opequon, a subdivision off W.Va. 45 east of Martinsburg, said Mucklow.

During the car ride, Miller was struck in the face, Mucklow said. After the group arrived in the subdivision, West struck Miller with a club on the back of her head and Jackson kicked her, Mucklow told the jury in his opening statement Tuesday.

Miller's body was found about five weeks later in a remote, undeveloped section of the subdivision.

Holt and another defendant, Kirk Leon Grantham, have entered guilty pleas in the case.

Newell and Holt are expected to testify today.

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