Las Vegas CBS KXNT- Brenda Stokes pleaded not guilty through her attorney Wednesday morning to the kidnap and murder of 10-year-old Jade Morris. Stokes was the last person seen with the girl on the Friday before Christmas, when the two of them set off for a shopping trip in a borrowed car. Stokes was alone when she returned the car, and Jade was reported missing the next morning by her mother.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Robert Daskas recounted the investigation leading up to the discovery six days later of Jade’s body. She was dead from multiple stab wounds. Daskas told the court Stokes had used the shopping trip as a “pretense” to kidnap Jade. The girl’s blood had been discovered on clothing belonging to Stokes, and on the door handle and steering wheel of the borrowed car.
Defense Attorney Tony Liker told Judge Deborah Lippis that Stokes has no criminal record, and is innocent of any charges related to Jade Morris. Liker specifically referred to Jade, possibly because Stokes was charged in a separate incident the same night, after she allegedly slashed the face of a blackjack dealer with a razor on the floor of the Bellagio resort. According to the arrest report, Stokes has said to police that she’d have taken the razor attack further if casino security had not stopped her.
Liker described Stokes in court as a single mother who did a good job raising her own three children, one of whom is a journalist in California and the other two in college. Liker also raised questions about whether police might have initially suspected Jade’s parents of the crime, noting that her father, Phillip Morris, is a convicted felon with an “extensive” criminal history, including domestic violence.
Daskas rebutted, pointing to Jade’s blood on clothing which had also tested positive for DNA from Stokes, proving that Stokes was the wearer, and the killer.
Lippis ordered Stokes held without bail until a preliminary hearing scheduled for March.
Jade’s grandfather said following the arraignment that his son was in Montana at the time Jade disappeared, and did not return to Las Vegas until Christmas Eve, when the girl had already been missing for several days. He dismissed the suggestion that either of Jade’s parents might have committed the crime.
“To me, honestly it’s not a who-dunnit,” Phil Tucker said. “It’s a matter of how the system is going to sentence her.”