Victim's Family Surprised by Guilty Plea in Fatal Beating - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

01/06/06

Victim's Family Surprised by Guilty Plea in Fatal Beating

Samantha Morgan-Major in court today. Samantha Morgan-Major in court today.

Today, one of the two people charged with brutally killing a physically disabled man in Beaufort pled guilty. WTOC has been following this story since Brett Kinney went missing nearly two years ago. We talked with his family outside the courthouse today, and of course they were happy Samantha Morgan-Major pled guilty, but they know they've got a long way to go before this is all over.

Despite Morgan-Major's mental illnesses, experts from both the prosecution and the defense agreed she was competent to stand trial. But what set out to be a competency hearing turned into a guilty plea for torturing and killing Brett Kinney.

A plea that surprised Kinney's family. "I'm very happy, very relieved," said Marlene Kinney, Brett's sister. "I'm very relieved that she did the right thing and pled guilty."

But family members say they don't feel Morgan-Major showed any remorse.

"I don't think she feels any remorse," said Connie Cormier, Brett Kinney's other sister.

Morgan-Major was charged with murder, kidnapping and armed robbery after investigators say she lured Kinney into a car and demanded his ATM card. When he wouldn't give it to them, she stabbed him, stuffed him in the trunk of a car, tortured him repeatedly and left his body in the woods.

"It's been a horrible ordeal," said Marlene. "You never get over something like this, you just never get over something like this."

"You can't get over it, when this is a continuing factor in our lives," said Connie Cormier.

Morgan-Major faces the death penalty in this case and family members are hoping justice will prevail. "We're unanimous on the death penalty," said Marlene.

"The state made the decision to pursue the death penalty and our family all supports it," agreed her sister.

Next month begins the sentencing phase and the presiding judge will determine if Samantha Morgan-Major will receive the death penalty. If she does, she will be the only woman on death row in South Carolina in recent history. In fact, Susan Miller never even got the death penalty for drowning her kids.

Solicitor Duffie Stone told us today the trial has not yet been set for the other defendant in this case, John Dykeman. But he's facing all the same charges and could also receive the death penalty.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

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