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W.Va. woman takes plea in 1999 slaying

Casey Holt of Inwood pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the beating death of Vatressa Miller. She will serve 13 years and

Casey Holt of Inwood pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the beating death of Vatressa Miller. She will serve 13 years and

March 18, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Under a plea agreement in which she agreed to be a witness for the state, an Inwood, W.Va., woman pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder in Berkeley County Circuit Court in the 1999 beating death of Vatressa Miller.

Casey Holt, 28, will serve 13 years in prison for the charge. That sentence is to run concurrently with a 13-year sentence Holt received after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to charges of being an accessory after the fact to the killing of Miller and not disclosing knowledge of the killing, said Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely.

Holt was one of four people implicated in Miller's death, Games-Neely said.

Andrew Jackson, of 728 Winchester Ave., Martinsburg, and Keyston West, of 908 Wendover Road, Apt. D., Charlotte, N.C., were sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole last year after being convicted on charges in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg.

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A federal jury found Jackson and West guilty of a total of 12 charges, including the allegation that they killed Miller as part of a continuing criminal enterprise.

The fourth person, Vernell Newell of Martinsburg, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of distributing crack cocaine in district court.

Before the federal cases could be completed, Jackson, West, and Holt were each indicted on a charge of first-degree murder in Berkeley County Circuit Court, Games-Neely said.

West's trial is to begin today in Circuit Court and Jackson's is scheduled for May, Games-Neely said.

In Circuit Court Monday, Games-Neely said Holt, Jackson, West and Newell drove to Greystone on the Opequon, which at the time was an undeveloped subdivision off W.Va. 45 west of Martinsburg.

Miller knew Jackson and West well and Jackson, also known as "Sway," would supply her with crack, according to testimony in the federal case.

The four were under the mistaken belief that Miller was a "snitch" and they began beating her to death in the subdivision, Games-Neely said.

"We have the confession of Mrs. Holt," Games-Neely told Circuit Judge David Sanders.

Miller's mother, Roxanne Crist, understood the advantage of allowing Holt to plead guilty to second-degree murder even though she was not happy with the situation, Games-Neely told Sanders.

Sanders allowed Crist to speak on the matter.

"It's a hard bone to swallow, but I'll manage," Crist told Sanders.

Games-Neely said Holt has agreed to be a "favorable" witness for the state in the Jackson and West cases.

The cases against Holt, Jackson and West were pursued in Circuit Court because the cases in U.S. District court did not prosecute for murder, Games-Neely said after Monday's sentencing.

The U.S. District Court case focused on "aggravating circumstances," Games-Neely said.

"Both sides have a right to proceed," Games-Neely said.

There was no case against Newell in Circuit Court because Newell testified before a federal grand jury and to allow that to happen "we had to walk away," Games-Neely said.

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