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Former Vegas casino dealer sentenced to life without parole for killing 10-year-old girl

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Brenda Stokes, left, looks at Tejuana Reeves, mother of murder victim 10-year-old Jade Morris, while she walks to the stand to make a victim’s statement at Regional Justice Center, today in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS >> Family members of a slain 10-year-old girl wept as a former Las Vegas blackjack dealer was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole for abducting and killing the girl, and slashing a casino co-worker in a jealous rage in December 2012.

Brenda Stokes, 53, stood still, staring straight ahead, and didn’t speak when offered the chance — then tried at the last second to say something to Jade Morris’ mother, grandmothers, father and others in the Las Vegas courtroom.

Clark County District Court Judge Kathleen Delaney stopped her, said grieving family members were entitled to the last word, and then sentenced Stokes to spend the rest of her life in prison for murder, kidnapping, attempted murder, burglary and mayhem.

“Jade lives on the way she does in the memories of people who loved her and cared for her,” the judge said. “All we can do today is find the justice in the outcome of the sentence.”

Stokes’ lawyer, Christopher Oram, told the judge his client no longer uses the last name Wilson. He said she overcame a “horrible” childhood on a plantation with a physically abusive father to become a casino dealer in Mississippi and then Las Vegas, and to raise three college-educated children.

“She hopes to take the rest of her life, that she knows will be in prison, to give guidance to other prisoners,” Oram said.

Tejuana Reeves, the girl’s mother, told Stokes she should use her time to “remember that sweet little girl that you killed like a dog.”

Stokes lost a bid last month to take back her January guilty plea, in which she admitted abducting and killing Jade, and slashing co-worker Joyce Rhone’s face with a straight razor at the Bellagio casino.

She could have faced the death penalty if the case had gone to trial.

Stokes had dated the child’s father, Philip Morris, for about four years and was a trusted family friend. She was supposed to take the girl Christmas shopping when she hacked her to death with a knife.

The child’s body was found six days later at a construction site.

Police and prosecutors believe Stokes was enraged because she thought Rhone had begun dating Philip Morris.

Morris, who now lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said nothing about his relationships during a tearful recollection of a girl who got good grades in school and liked to read books and sing songs.

“I knew it was too good to be true,” he sobbed, “because people that great don’t get to be on this Earth that long.”

Rhone was hospitalized with deep cuts on her face. She filed a civil negligence lawsuit in 2013 in Nevada state court seeking damages from the Bellagio for her injuries. The case is pending before the Nevada Supreme Court.

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