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Woman arraigned in fatal beating

Casey Michelle Holt must be tried on the charge of murder within 180 days or the charge will be dropped, officials said.

Casey Michelle Holt must be tried on the charge of murder within 180 days or the charge will be dropped, officials said.

February 04, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - One of the three people charged in the 1999 murder of a local woman must be tried within the next few months or the count of murder filed against her will be dropped, according to Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely.

Casey Michelle Holt, 28, legally requested late last year that the state try to convict her within 180 days, Games-Neely said. Holt was allowed to make that request because she is in federal custody for a related drug conviction.

Holt is accused of participating in the fatal beating of 20-year-old Vatressa Miller in July 1999.

Two men, 26-year-old Keyston J. West, and Andrew Charles Jackson, 25, also were charged with murder in Miller's death. West made the same 180-day request as Holt, but Jackson did not, Games-Neely said. All three were convicted in federal court of drug charges related to Miller's death.

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Circuit Court Judge David Sanders arraigned Holt Monday morning.

Holt, whose dark hair was braided tightly from her scalp down, said "not guilty" when Sanders asked how she pleaded to one count of murder. A grand jury indicted her on one count of murder in May 2000.

The arraignment lasted for a few minutes.

Holt is not eligible for bail because she is serving an 18-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in federal court to one count of being an accessory after the fact to the killing of Miller and not disclosing knowledge of the killing.

An agreement has always been in place that the drug-related charges against Holt, West and Jackson would be handled in federal court, and the murder case in Circuit Court, Games-Neely said.

Holt's trial before Judge Sanders is set to begin in mid-June. West's trial is to begin next month and Jackson's in May. Games-Neely said she expects each trial to last two to three days.

Although the three cases are related and primarily involve the same evidence and witnesses, because of state code, the suspects will not be tried together, Games-Neely said.

West and Jackson were tried together in U.S. District Court.

Miller was killed because she was wrongfully believed to be a police informant, investigators have said.

Jurors in federal court found West guilty of killing Miller in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise, two counts of distribution of crack cocaine and drug conspiracy. He was sentenced to serve two concurrent life sentences, along with two 20-year concurrent prison sentences.

Jackson, who is West's half brother, was found guilty of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, drug conspiracy, four counts of distributing crack cocaine, and carrying two firearms during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. Among other sentences, he was sentenced to serve two concurrent life sentences.

Neither man was granted a chance for parole.

A fourth person - Vernell Newell - who was allegedly present when Miller was killed, was never indicted for murder. She testified in federal court against Jackson and West, and pleaded guilty in March 2000 to one count of distributing crack cocaine. She was sentenced to serve 20 years in prison.

Holt, Jackson, West and Newell allegedly left Holt's house with Miller on July 19, 1999, according to earlier federal court testimony. After taking Miller to a wooded, secluded spot, Jackson, West and Holt allegedly beat Miller with a club, kicked and punched her, Games-Neely alleged.

A passer-by found Miller's body on Aug. 10, 1999.

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