Wednesday, August 11, 2004
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Teen girls to be tried as adults in woman's death

Charges were certified against Nakisha Waddell, 15, and Anastasia Belcher, 16, in the stabbing death of Waddell's mother.

WYTHEVILLE - Two teens tried to recruit a third friend to help kill the mother of one of the girls in the days before May 28, when they carried out the plan by inflicting 43 stab wounds on the woman, according to testimony Tuesday.

The teens then carried Vaughne Thomas, 42, of Max Meadows behind her house and, after unsuccessfully trying to destroy her body by burning it in the woods, buried her in a shallow grave in the back yard, witnesses testified in Wythe County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. Judge Lee Chitwood certified to a grand jury the charges against Thomas' daughter, Nakisha Waddell, now 15, of Max Meadows, and her friend Anastasia Belcher, now 16, of Fort Chiswell. That ruling means both teens will be tried as adults on charges of first-degree murder, robbery, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit robbery, intimidation of a witness and solicitation of murder.

The next Wythe County grand jury meets Oct. 18.

Waddell, through her defense attorney, Dave Warburton, waived her right to a preliminary hearing, stipulating that the state's evidence would be enough for Chitwood to certify the charges.

Belcher, represented by attorney Jonathon Venzie, did not.

Wythe County Commonwealth's Attorney Keith Blankenship called 12 witnesses, including 15-year-old Stephanie Richardson, who said Waddell spoke of a plan to kill Thomas as early as May 25, when Thomas' husband and stepson left for a trip to Texas.

"She told me she was thinking about killing her mom and wanted me to help her," Richardson testified. "I told her she shouldn't do it. I didn't think she'd do it."

Waddell asked four more times between then and the afternoon of May 28, when Waddell and Belcher came to Richardson's house and said Thomas was dead, Richardson testified.

"I asked her [Waddell] how she done it, and she said she stabbed her as many times as she could," Richardson testified.

Blankenship said Thomas suffered 43 wounds from a hunting knife that Thomas' stepson kept in his truck. Wounds covered her face, neck, shoulders and entire back, Dr. Michael Stoker, Wythe County's local medical examiner, testified.

Waddell and Belcher called May 29 and warned Richardson that if she told anyone, they would "do the same to me that they did to Nakisha's mom," she testified.

Vaughne Thomas' husband, Bobby Thomas, and stepson returned home May 30 and found the house ransacked. Bobby Thomas testified that he called relatives looking for his wife and Waddell and called Wythe County sheriff's deputies when no one could tell him where they were.

Richardson heard that sheriff's deputies were at the Thomas house and called the house twice. During the second call, she told the deputy what she knew, she testified.

Deputies found Vaughne Thomas' body buried face down in a shallow grave in the back yard. Belcher and Waddell were arrested at Belcher's home, where deputies also said they found the knife, bloody sheets and other evidence.

Belcher first told investigators that she wasn't there when Waddell killed her mother and agreed to help destroy evidence when Waddell went into a panic, Wythe County Capt. Keith Dunigan testified.

She later changed her story, admitting that she was at Thomas' home but in a different room at the time of the stabbing, Lt. Doug Tuck testified.

Belcher told investigators that they first put Vaughne Thomas' body into a small storage building, drove to Virginia Beach to find a friend of Waddell's to help them, came back when they couldn't find him and then tried to clean up the house and yard, Dunigan testified.

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