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Former Las Vegas blackjack dealer pleads not guilty in girl’s death

District Attorney’s Office plans to seek death penalty

Updated Wednesday, March 6, 2013 | 3:57 p.m.

Brenda Stokes Hearing

Claudette Flanagan-Jones, from left, Jade Morris' grandmother, Tejuana Reeves-Morris, Jade's mother, and Andres Mack, Jade's grandfather, watch as Brenda Stokes appears in Las Vegas Justice Court for a hearing Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, at the Regional Justice Center. Launch slideshow »

A former blackjack dealer pleaded not guilty Wednesday to kidnapping, murder and four other felony charges in the death of her ex-boyfriend's daughter and a face-slashing attack on a co-worker at a Las Vegas Strip casino.

Brenda Stokes Wilson, 50, entered her pleas Wednesday before Clark County District Court Judge Kathleen Delaney, who set trial for July 15.

Her lawyer, Tony Liker, told the judge he plans to withdraw from the case pending a decision by Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson whether to seek the death penalty. Liker declined comment outside court.

Later in the day, the Clark County District Attorney's Office said that prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Stokes Wilson. A committee of prosecutors who review potential death-penalty cases met Wednesday and voted in favor of filing capital charges.

Stokes Wilson is accused of killing 10-year-old Jade Morris on Dec. 21, and then going to the Bellagio casino, where she is accused of attacking former friend and co-worker Joyce Rhone with razors.

Stokes Wilson was a former girlfriend of the girl's father, Philip Morris, and a trusted friend to Jade. Police and family members say they think the attacks were motivated by Stokes Morris' mistaken jealous belief that the girl's father had begun dating Rhone.

Stokes Wilson was arrested at the Bellagio, but Jade Morris' body wasn't found until several days later in unkempt brush at an abandoned housing development. The site was about 10 miles from the downtown Las Vegas outlet mall where Stokes was to have taken the girl Christmas shopping.

Philip Morris watched Wednesday's arraignment and shed tears as he emerged from the courtroom. He acknowledged that he had a relationship for many years with Stokes Wilson. He denied any romantic relationship with Rhone.

"My baby died for no absolutely no reason," the slain girl's father said. He added that he wished Stokes Wilson had pleaded guilty.

Stokes Wilson has been held at the Clark County jail since her arrest. She told investigators that she had asked her doctor to admit her to a hospital "due to feeling like she wanted to hurt someone."

A six-count indictment handed up Feb. 22 charges her with first-degree kidnapping and murder with a deadly weapon in Jade Morris' death. She faces attempted murder with a deadly weapon, battery with a deadly weapon with substantial bodily harm and mayhem with a deadly weapon in the attack on Rhone.

Stokes Wilson also is charged with burglary for allegedly entering the Bellagio with intent to commit a felony.

Rhone, who was hospitalized with deep cuts on her face, filed a civil lawsuit last week in Nevada state court seeking damages of more than $10,000 against the Bellagio and Stokes Wilson for her injuries.

Sun staff writer Jackie Valley contributed to this report.

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