Kees gets life sentence for felony murder

January 08, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG - Despite what some defense lawyers might claim, drugs are not an excuse for committing a crime, Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes told Nicole Kees Friday morning when she was sentenced for a felony murder conviction.

"You'll have a period of time (in prison) to reflect on that," Wilkes told Kees after formally sentencing her to serve a life sentence. Kees, 21, will be eligible for parole.

Last September, a jury found Kees guilty of felony murder in the drug overdose death of 18-year-old Jashua Frocke. Kees provided heroin to Frocke, who died in a room at the Krista-Lite Motel in Martinsburg.


Members of Frocke's family were in the courtroom for the sentencing hearing, but declined to address Kees when given the chance.

Kees also chose not to make a statement, although one of her attorneys, Craig Manford, said he believes she has matured and that he is hoping for the best for her.

Wilkes said he echoed Manford's hopes about Kees' future.

"If you serve time and make parole, there are pluses that you have in your life, there's no question about that, and there are minuses you will have to overcome," he said.

Before being sentenced, Kees pleaded guilty to additional charges of forgery and destruction of property. She told Wilkes that she forged two checks by signing her name on them without permission.

The destruction of property happened after the jury returned its verdict. Kees, angry over the verdict, started screaming and threw open a courtroom door while bailiffs escorted her out. The door handle slammed into the wall, causing a gash in the drywall that still remains.

Kees was ordered to pay $100 in restitution to the county, and $919 in restitution to the person whose checks she forged. In addition to serving the life sentence, she also must serve two sentences of one to 10 years in prison for each of the two counts of forgery. Those sentences are to be served concurrently with the life sentence.

Manford has said that he intends to appeal the verdict to the state Supreme Court, in part because jurors were not given the option of finding Kees guilty of a lesser drug charge instead of murder.

Manford also has said that he does not believe the circumstances in Kees' case equal murder.

Kees, Frocke and another friend were together on Jan. 12, 2004, when the stolen checks were cashed and Kees bought heroin. As many as five people later gathered in the motel room, where they all used the heroin, according to testimony during the two-day trial.

Kees and another friend left the motel room after Frocke died. A motel employee found Frocke's body the next morning. He was facedown on the floor, with a piece of heroin in one of his pockets.

West Virginia State Police Trooper R.T. Dyroff said that he also found on Frocke a spoon and syringes, which are items used to inject heroin.

Kees, whose outburst after the jury's verdict drew a reprimand from Wilkes, was calm and quiet on Friday. Her face was red when she turned to look at members of her family, who consistently have sat behind her during court proceedings.

Kees will be eligible for a parole hearing after serving around 15 years in prison.

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