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Woman gets life without parole for killing 10-year-old, slashing blackjack dealer

A 53-year-old woman who pleaded guilty to killing 10-year-old Jade Morris and slashing a Bellagio blackjack dealer was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jade’s grandmother spoke of “a beautiful child any parent would be proud of” and “a straight A student.”

“She didn’t have anything to do with grown-up problems,” Claudette Jones said. The grandmother then told defendant Brenda Stokes, “I hope you go to prison and think about what you’ve done every day.”

The girl’s mother, Tejuana Reeves, recalled the last thing she told her daughter as she left with Stokes: “Have fun. I love you.”

Stokes had picked up the girl from Reeves’ home at 4:50 p.m. on Dec. 21, 2012, saying they were going Christmas shopping. Stokes was engaged to Jade’s father, Philip Morris, and had a close relationship with the girl for several years.

Jade was wearing bluejeans, a blue “My Little Pony” T-shirt with a white shirt underneath, black shoes and a brown coat the last time her mother saw her.

Now Reeves listens to the last recordings Jade left on her phone.

The girl sang “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys. She would sneak messages when her mother was asleep.

“I got your phone,” she said. “I love you, Mommy.”

Reeves said she is able to find closure in that “I don’t ever have to look at Brenda Stokes again.”

Offered a chance to speak in court, Stokes declined to say anything about the attacks.

Her lawyer, Christopher Oram, said Stokes was raised in “incredibly impoverished” conditions in the Deep South and was physically abused by her father.

“Her life growing up was very, very difficult,” Oram said. “She hopes to take the rest of her life, that she knows will be in prison, and try to give guidance to the younger prisoners.”

Toward the end of Monday’s hearing, Stokes told District Judge Kathleen Delaney that she wanted to say something to Jade’s family. But the judge told Stokes that her time had passed.

“We will give closure to this matter today,” the judge said. “All we can do today is find justice in the outcome of the sentence and hope that Ms. Stokes will do whatever good she can with whatever the remainder of her life is.”

Jade’s body was found in late December 2012 in an undeveloped North Las Vegas neighborhood near Deer Springs Way and North Fifth Street by a person walking a dog.

A little more than 4 feet tall and weighing 102 pounds, Jade suffered 40 sharp-force wounds across her body from a large knife, according to a medical examiner. Some of her injuries — the most serious on her head, chest and abdomen — were so severe that she likely was unconscious within minutes.

The same night Stokes kidnapped the girl, authorities say, she approached a Bellagio blackjack table and began slashing the face of a dealer, 44-year-old Joyce Rhone. Stokes mistakenly believed Rhone had started dating Jade’s father.

Rhone told a grand jury that she suffered cuts to her forehead and right side of her face.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Robert Daskas noted that Stokes agreed to the maximum sentence on all charges against her, including murder with a deadly weapon, first-degree kidnapping with a deadly weapon and attempted murder with a deadly weapon.

“There’s nothing we can do to punish her enough for what she did,” Daskas said.

Morris wore a shirt emblazoned with his daughter’s picture and the date 03-23-02, her birthday.

He didn’t include the day she was killed because, he said, “She’ll never die to me.”

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find @randompoker on Twitter.

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