CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Marmet woman originally charged with murder was sentenced to six to eight years in prison on lesser charges Tuesday morning in a tense courtroom packed with family members of both the victim and the defendant.
Kelsey Marie Legg was given the maximum possible sentence for her role in the death of Kareem Hunter, Kanawha Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib said. Legg was credited with time already served and will be eligible for parole in about a year and a half. After the sentencing, a brief fight broke outside the courthouse and a member of each family was arrested.
Legg pleaded guilty in March to accessory after the fact to first-degree murder, and attempting to aid and abet another person in concealing a dead body. She agreed to those charges and agreed to help the prosecutor, who then charged two men in Hunter’s death.
Prosecutor Dan Holstein credited Legg’s cooperation with helping authorities arrest Miguel Quinones, of Charleston, and Deveron Patterson, of Beckley. Both are charged with first-degree murder in Hunter’s death.
In asking for lenience, Legg read a two-page typed statement that was mostly inaudible, but in which she apologized.
“I wish I could take it all back,” she said. “I can’t express in words how sorry I am.”
Her lawyer, Matthew Victor, cited her cooperation and her youth — Legg is 20 — in asking for home confinement.
But in sentencing Legg to the maximum, Zakaib said that she “voluntarily participated in the activities that resulted in the death of Kareem Hunter.”
“No amount of cooperation is going to bring him back.”
About 30 of Hunter’s friends and family packed one side of the courtroom.
Hunter’s mother asked Zakaib to impose the maximum sentence, saying that his death had left his four children without a father and that even with the maximum sentence Legg will still be in her 20s when she is released.
“As a mother, I will never get over the death of my son,” Linda Hunter said. “No punishment will ever be enough to compare to what has been taken from our family.”
Hunter went missing on Sept. 23, 2013, and Legg was charged with his slaying on Oct. 3. Police believe Hunter was lured to Legg’s Marmet apartment before he was killed. His body was found about a month later in a shallow grave in Raleigh County.
When she pleaded guilty to the lesser charges in March, Legg told Zakaib she saw Hunter die and knew the two people who killed him.
Legg had about 20 friends and family members in the courtroom, several of whom left in tears after the sentencing.
The two families were divided by the court’s center aisle, but the bitterness ran high from the beginning.
Among the first to arrive were two of Legg’s relatives. They sat down in the same row as Hunter’s girlfriend, who told them that they were on the wrong side of the courtroom.
After the two moved, Hunter’s side of the courtroom filled up first. A court officer told them to turn off their cellphones.
Later, but before the hearing began, a phone rang on Legg’s side of the aisle. Hunter’s girlfriend asked the officer why he didn’t say anything to them, and she was ejected from the courtroom.
“Anybody else has a problem, you can leave too,” the officer said.
Kareem Hunter’s father then implored those with him to stay calm.
“Please, whatever happens today, let’s just keep peace,” Anthony Hunter said. “Everybody’s emotional, but let’s control our emotions.”
After the hearing, officers had Legg’s family leave first, hoping to avoid a confrontation.
It didn’t work.
As the two families milled about on the sidewalk outside the courtroom words were exchanged.
It’s unclear what was said, but Anthony Bryant, Hunter’s brother, appeared to push Legg’s great-aunt, Sheryl Williams.
“[He] came over and got up right in my brother’s face,” Williams said. “All I did was go up to him and said, ‘No, no, don’t do this,’ and that’s when he pushed me.”
Williams, who had a skinned elbow and a knot on the back of her head, was led away in handcuffs but was not arrested.
As about 15 officers attempted to break up the scene, Williams’ brother, Terry Lee Phillips, pointed at Bryant and used an obscenity and a racial slur. He told a sheriff’s deputy, “That f------ n-----, he came over here and pushed my sister.”
Phillips was arrested and charged with obstructing an officer, a misdemeanor.
Bryant was arrested and charged with battery, also a misdemeanor.
Reach David Gutman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5119.