Westall murder case suspects make court appearance
LAWRENCE CO.—Court security was heavy today in Lawrenceville at the county courthouse for the first advisement of charges for Tyler McQueen, 20, and Helen Marie Westall, 47, both accused in the March 25 murder of Bob Westall, 78, of Lawrenceville.
No fewer than eight officers from both Lawrenceville PD and Lawrence County sheriff’s department attended the hearing today for both suspects, who attended their hearing wearing not only county corrections orange, but bulletproof vests as well.
McQueen, sporting a “faux hawk” hairstyle, appeared at ease and was smiling somewhat (spectators opined that he was happy to see his family and friends). Westall was slumped over and had a kind of “crazed” expression on her face, although whether this was for real or for effect is unknown.
Interestingly, prosecutor Lisa Wade was NOT present, and in her stead was an attorney from the appellate prosecutor’s office, Michael Vujovich. There was no explanation for Wade’s absence, nor whether Vujovich will be trying the case.
Associate judge Mark Shaner was presiding over the day’s events, but court sources tell us resident judge Robert Hopkins will be handling the case from here on out.
The defendants were read their counts: three counts of First-Degree Murder against McQueen, in which it’s alleged in the first two counts that he knowingly stabbed Westall with intent to murder him, and the third in that he stabbed Westall knowing his actions created a strong probability of killing him. Each count is Class M and non-probationable, and carries with them a sentence of 20-60 years each. If it indeed works out to be murder for hire, as is alleged in Westall’s case, the sentence is 60 to life.
Marie Westall is charged with two counts of Solicitation to Commit Murder for Hire, the first in that she requested McQueen to commit the offense; the second in that she offered McQueen $10,000 cash and a 1995 Oldsmobile if he carried out the deed. Each carries a penalty of 30 years DOC.
It was said around the courtroom today—NOT officially, but by those who know Marie Westall—that it’s intent to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. And while that might work in her case, that won’t get her out of detention: she may not ever be tried, but she may be housed in a mental facility for the rest of her life.
Westall has been appointed public defender Brad Vaughan. McQueen announced his intent to seek his own counsel…however, his mother, Karen McQueen, was attempting to motion to her son to accept Vaughan as his counsel as well, and two Lawrenceville police officers, along with a sheriff’s deputy, stepped in front of her, blocking Tyler McQueen’s view of his mom.
Both defendants were appointed preliminary hearings on the same date: April 25, his at 10 a.m., hers at 11 a.m.
No one was allowed to leave the courtroom until both defendants were out of the building and loaded up in vehicles; Westall is being housed in Crawford County, as Lawrence isn’t equipped to handle very many female residents.
Another interesting note: Among the court security today was NOT Dennis York. York has recently been taken off road duty and issued court security, with regular security Josh Green handling the road duty. However, because York was the one who got into a fistfight with Nick McQueen, Tyler’s father, after the elder McQueen was involved in a horse-vehicle accident in September 2009, he was not allowed in as security on this day, even though Nick McQueen wasn’t present today.
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