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September 30, 2014

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crime:

Case involving attack on Bellagio dealer, death of 10-year-old headed to grand jury

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Leila Navidi

Brenda Stokes appears in Las Vegas Justice Court for a hearing at the Regional Justice Center on Friday, December 28, 2012.

Prosecutors plan to send the case against Brenda Stokes — the woman accused of killing 10-year-old Jade Morris and attacking a Bellagio co-worker — to a Clark County grand jury later this month.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Robert Daskas revealed the prosecution's plan during a hearing Thursday in Las Vegas Justice Court to discuss Stokes' representation going forward.

Stokes, who appeared in court wearing shackles, told Justice of the Peace Deborah Lippis that she wanted to keep Tony Liker as her defense attorney through the grand-jury process.

The issue of representation arose several weeks ago when it became apparent Liker does not possess certification to handle death-penalty cases. The Clark County District Attorney's Office is evaluating whether it wants to seek the death penalty against Stokes should the case make it to district court.

Lippis said she scheduled the hearing Thursday to make it clear to Stokes that because she has been declared indigent — meaning she does not possess the financial means to hire a private attorney — she has the right to a court-appointed defender.

Lippis pointed out that although defendants have the right to choose their own representation, any court-appointed defender would be certified to try a capital case if prosecutors seek that form of punishment. Lippis also expressed concern about Stokes switching representation midway through the judicial process.

Liker, who last month launched a fundraising campaign for his client, said he intended to remain Stokes' attorney through the grand-jury process.

Lippis lauded Liker's determination to help his client but repeatedly stated she wanted Stokes to understand her rights about representation.

"Your passion for your client is as obvious and as genuine as anything I've ever seen," Lippis told Liker. "But passion is passion."

Stokes ultimately said she understood the situation and her rights but wished to keep Liker as her attorney through the grand-jury process.

Stokes, 50, has been charged with using a deadly weapon to commit murder, attempted murder and first-degree kidnapping, among other charges, according to an amended criminal complaint.

Stokes was arrested the night of Dec. 21 after she slashed Joyce Rhone, a fellow blackjack dealer, with razor blades at the Bellagio, according to a Metro Police arrest report. Rhone survived the attack.

Hours earlier, Stokes had picked up Morris, the daughter of a man she once dated, to go shopping. The girl never returned home, triggering a search that led to the discovery of her body six days later.

The Clark County Coroner's Office determined Morris died from multiple stab and incised wounds.

Prosecutors say Morris' blood was found on the steering wheel and door handle of the car Stokes was driving Dec. 21.

Stokes remains in custody at the Clark County Detention Center without bail.

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