Local News

Victim's Sister: Murder Case Has Lost Focus

Posted April 16, 2008

— The sister of a Smithfield man who was shot to death nearly two years ago says the focus of what happened to her brother is no longer about justice – but politics.

"It's your worst nightmare," Janet Tedder said Wednesday. "I've lost all faith in the judicial system."

Her brother, Donald "Keith" West, was found dead in his bedroom July 18, 2006. His girlfriend, Tiffany Ann Bassett, is charged with first-degree murder.

West was the president and chief executive officer of West-Tek Inc. of Smithfield, which provides security and private investigations in several area counties and has several spinoff companies throughout the United States. He was also a former Smithfield police officer.

Last week, Tedder said, she learned Bassett's murder trial has been delayed indefinitely, partly because the presiding judge recused himself.

In an order filed April 10, Superior Court Judge E. Lynn Johnson cited matters of "unintended consequences" and said activities have "impaired the ability" of the state to proceed.

The details are unclear, and the court sealed all records that might explain it. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have declined to comment on details that sparked the changes.

A trial had been scheduled for last month in Cumberland County, but Johnson continued it after publicly reprimanding Johnston County Assistant District Attorney Greg Butler for turning over a 437-page file to defense attorneys only five days before trial.

The district attorney's office said it turned over the file immediately after discovering it was missing from material supplied to the defense.

"I feel like the judge who issued the public reprimand prejudiced the case on both sides," Tedder said.

The trial date was then continued to April 21.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Holcombe was appointed this week as the new prosecutor in the case.

A new judge will also have to be appointed before another trial date can be set.

"Thankfully, we are going to get a new judge," Tedder said. "I'd just like to know when and where."


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  • kansaswho Apr 17, 2008

    What makes me sick here is the comments that are being made by folks who have probably never been in this situation. Why cant you just offer these families involved your dondolences and more forward with your day.Obviously you have nothing better to do than sit at your computer, drink coffee and scratch yourself.
    My condolences to the families..may each one of you have your prayers answered and find some closer to this horrible travesty in your lives. God Bless You All!!!

  • catalyst74 Apr 17, 2008

    If this were Salem Mass in 1692, Tiffany Bassett would have already been burned alive at the stake. Seriously people...does the term, "innocent until proven guilty" mean anything to you? Apparently not. You're so easily coaxed into the "mob mentality" that it's sickening. I truly feel saddened by the family's tragic loss of a man who has done so much for his family, friends, and community, but let the evidence speak for itself. The media is no better than a child poking an angry bee's nest. The psychology they're using is so basic, yet you're suckling at it like a new born baby. WRAL and the News and Disturber both reference pictures of Keith in his officer's uniform, and Tiffany with a very "feral" look from her courtroom appearance. In imagery alone, you're more than convinced she's guilty just by her picture. Is she guilty or innocent? A jury will decide based on evidence.

  • Meandmytwo Apr 17, 2008

    Hope justice is served soon. I could only imagine the frustration she and the family is feeling. Praying for closure and comfort.

  • Dayum Sessy Apr 17, 2008

    RIP Keith.

    You are missed.

  • Adelinthe Apr 17, 2008

    "In an order filed April 10, Superior Court Judge E. Lynn Johnson cited matters of "unintended consequences" and said activities have "impaired the ability" of the state to proceed."

    That judge is NUTX!!!

    Praying for this man's loved ones - praying for justice.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Reason Apr 17, 2008

    the article says the DA's office turned over the material as soon as they realized the defense did not have it. Not the DA's offices fault. There was no malicious conduct on their part. A public reprimand was uncalled for. The judge removed himself because he knows he screwed up and delayed this trial unnecesarily.

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxx Apr 17, 2008

    It's good to know that the accused is at least in jail. It would be doubly tragic if she was out living her life knowing that she could kill somebody and possibly never go to trial.

  • 2assume Apr 17, 2008

    She is jail.

  • colliedave Apr 16, 2008

    In the meantime is the accused siting in County jail or is she out on bond.

  • St Ives Apr 16, 2008

    Judge did the right thing.