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Closing arguments likely today

January 23, 2002

Closing arguments likely today



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


Attorneys for the defense and prosecution are expected to make closing arguments today in the case of two men standing trial in the 1999 beating death of Vatressa Miller.

Keyston West, 24, of 908 Wendover Road, Apt. D, Charlotte, N.C., and Andrew Jackson, 23, of 728 Winchester Ave., Martinsburg, are on trial in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg on federal charges of killing Miller to protect a criminal enterprise of running a crack cocaine ring.

The body of 20-year-old Miller, of Hedgesville, W.Va., was found Aug. 10, 1999, in the Greystone on the Opequon subdivision near Martinsburg.

West on Tuesday took the stand in his own defense and, at the prosecutor's request, hefted a log that was placed in evidence in the trial.

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West was accused in testimony Monday of striking Miller with a log when she was beaten in a rural area of Berkeley County.

West hesitated when U.S. Attorney Tom Mucklow asked him to stand up and hold the log, then he stood and held it.

Mucklow asked West to hold it like a baseball bat.

"Now, take a swing with it," Mucklow instructed.

One of West's attorneys objected to Mucklow's request.

U.S. District Judge Craig Broadwater said Mucklow was simply trying to demonstrate how West gripped the log.

West, who did not swing the log, testified that he had never seen the log or put his hands on it before Tuesday.

On Friday, Vernell Newell, 31, of Martinsburg testified that West struck Miller with a medium-sized log. Newell testified that Casey Holt also struck Miller with an ax handle and that Jackson punched and kicked Miller.

Holt, 27, was a co-defendant in the trial until Jan. 11, when she pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to the killing of Miller and for not disclosing knowledge of the killing. She faces up to 15 years in prison on one charge and up to three years in prison on a second charge.

Newell pleaded guilty on March 14, 2000, to one count of distributing crack cocaine. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors finished presenting their case Tuesday. West was the only defense witness.

West denied Tuesday that he got in a car with Jackson, Holt, Newell and Miller and headed toward Greystone on the Opequon in the summer of 1999 as Mucklow has alleged.

West testified that on July 19, 1999, the day it is believed Miller was killed, he made arrangements to meet a woman behind the 7-Eleven store on East Moler Avenue in Martinsburg after the woman called him looking for drugs.

West said he left town after meeting the woman.

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