Local News

Victim's Sister: Murder Case Has Lost Focus

Posted April 16, 2008 5:17 p.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2008 9:47 p.m. EDT

— 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."