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Jackson, West found guilty

January 24, 2002

Jackson, West found guilty



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


A U.S. District Court jury on Wednesday found Andrew Jackson and Keyston West guilty of kill-ing Vatressa Miller as part of a continuing criminal enterprise.

The jury reached the verdict after about four hours of deliberations.

CONTINUED

West, of 908 Wendover Road, Apt. D, Charlotte, N.C., rested his fingers against his face and Jackson, of 728 Winchester Ave., sat motionless after the verdict was read.

The count that charged the two men with the killing of Miller carries a prison sentence of 20 years to life.

Prosecutors could have sought the death penalty under the charge but decided against it.

U.S. District Court Judge Craig Broadwater delayed sentencing pending receipt of a pre-sentence report.

Attorney Bill Cipriani, who represented West, said he expects appeals to be filed on behalf of both West and Jackson.

Jackson also was found guilty of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise from late 1995 to January 2000. Conviction on that charge carries a prison sentence of 20 years to life. He also was convicted on a drug conspiracy charge, which carries a prison sentence of 10 years to life; four counts of distributing cocaine base, each count of which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison; and carrying two firearms during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, which carries a mandatory five-year prison term.

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In addition to the charge of killing Miller, West was found guilty of drug conspiracy and two counts of distribution of cocaine base.

The body of Miller, 20, of Hedgesville, W.Va., was found Aug. 10, 1999, in an undeveloped section of the Greystone on the Opequon subdivision. Prosecutors said she was beaten to death July 19, 1999.

Prosecutors said Miller was killed because she was suspected of being a police informant.

Following the verdict, U.S. Attorney Tom Mucklow said he could not say whether Miller was a police informant, but said there was no evidence in the trial to support that idea.

Miller's parents were present for most of the trial.

Mucklow said Miller was beaten "savagely" and an anthropologist who examined Miller's skeleton said he found a large fracture on the left side of her head, two broken nasal bones, a jaw fracture and fractures around one of her eyes.

Vernell Newell, one of dozens of witnesses to testify, said on the stand that Jackson punched and kicked Miller and West struck her with a log.

Casey Holt, another co-defendant in the case who entered a guilty plea just before the trial, struck Miller with an ax handle she pulled from her pants, Newell testified.

Holt, 27, of Inwood, W.Va., pleaded guilty Jan. 11 to being an accessory after the fact to the killing of Miller and to not disclosing knowledge of the killing. She faces up to 15 years in prison on one charge and up to 3 years imprisonment on the other charge.

Newell, 31, of Martinsburg, pleaded guilty in March 2000 to one count of distributing crack cocaine. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Jackson, who went by the names of "Sway" and "The President," came to Martinsburg around 1995 and set up a crack cocaine operation, Mucklow alleged. Newell sold crack for Jackson, who would periodically travel to New York to replenish his supply, Mucklow said.

West, who is Jackson's half-brother, came to Martinsburg in 1997 and used Jackson as his supplier, Mucklow said.

Miller was jailed on cocaine charges in October 1988, and when she was released in the summer of 1999, Jackson began to wonder whether she had started working with the police, Mucklow said.

Earlier on the day Miller was killed, she went to a house on Pennsylvania Avenue where Holt had been staying, Mucklow said. Miller, Holt, Jackson and West left the house in a car and headed for Greystone on the Opequon off W.Va. 45 west of Martinsburg, Mucklow said.

It was late at night when the five people arrived at the subdivision and Miller was beaten, Mucklow said.

Jurors were shown photographs of Miller's decomposed body laying in the woods, a pair of shorts and a skirt near her body and a soiled shirt hanging in a tree.

The trial took eight days, and Broadwater called it one of the most time-consuming cases he has ever presided over.

"It's a huge decision for any jury to make. It's a lot of evidence," Mucklow said.

Mucklow credited the success of the case to the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force, police whom he said work "day in and day out" on such cases.

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