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Jackson and West get life in prison for Miller death

June 18, 2002|By DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Two men who were convicted in January of killing Hedgesville, W.Va., resident Vatressa Miller as part of a continuing criminal enterprise were sentenced in U.S. District Court Monday to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Andrew Jackson and Keyston West were sentenced to two life terms each during a hearing that was marked at times by tense verbal exchanges between the defendants, a U.S. Attorney and Miller's parents.

U.S. District Court Judge Craig Broadwater handed down maximum prison terms for all the charges against Jackson and West.

Jackson, of 728 Winchester Ave. in Martinsburg, and West, of 908 Wendover Road, Apt. D, Charlotte, N.C., faced 20 years to life on the charge of a killing in the furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise.

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The second life prison term handed down to Jackson was for his conviction on a continuing criminal enterprise charge, which also carried a possible prison term of 20 years to life.

Jackson also received 20-year prison terms on each of four counts of distributing cocaine base, said U.S. Attorney Tom Mucklow and U.S. Attorney Paul Camilletti, who were co-prosecutors in the case.

Jackson will serve the four 20-year prison terms for the cocaine charges at the same time as the life terms.

Jackson also was sentenced to five years in prison for carrying a gun during the distribution of cocaine, said Mucklow.

In addition to the life prison term for the continuing criminal enterprise killing charge, West was sentenced to life in prison on a drug conspiracy charge. Broadwater also sentenced himto two 20-year prison terms for two counts of distribution of cocaine base, said Mucklow.

Jackson will serve the two 20-year prison terms concurrently with his life term.

Miller knew Jackson and West well and Jackson, also known as "Sway," would supply her with crack, Mucklow said in earlier testimony.

The body of 20-year-old Miller was found Aug. 10, 1999, in an undeveloped section of Greystone on the Opequon subdivision. She was beaten to death July 19, 1999, according to testimony.

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

Roxanne and Michael Crist, Miller's parents, had harsh words for Jackson and West Monday.

Roxanne Crist told Jackson and West she wished they could be hanged on the square in downtown Martinsburg and left there for three days for everyone to see.

"Be glad the government has you," Roxanne Crist told Jackson.

"I have four words for you: May you know fear," she later told West.

Michael Crist took notice of the necklace West was wearing.

"I notice you're wearing a cross," he said. "Were you wearing that when you beat my daughter's head in with a log?"

At one point, Jackson told Miller's parents, "I'm sorry for your loss."

West told Miller's parents that DNA evidence showed he was not at the scene where Miller's body was found.

"I didn't have anything to do with your daughter," West said.

"I know you did it, little man," said Roxanne Crist.

Mucklow referred to Jackson and West as thugs and called Jackson a "blight on any community. He's a thug, a miserable little thug."

Jackson, West and a third defendant, Casey Holt, face first-degree murder charges in the case in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

The three defendants have not been arraigned on those charges, Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said Monday.

Holt struck Miller with an ax handle she pulled from her pants, according to previous testimony.

Holt, 27, of Inwood, W.Va., pleaded guilty Jan. 11 to being an accessory after the fact to the killing of Miller and not disclosing knowledge of the killing.

Holt was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

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