By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: February 2, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.
DINWIDDIE – The man accused of murdering a beloved Dinwiddie High School student has now had his charges upgraded to capital murder following a meeting of the county’s grand jury.
This month, a Dinwiddie County grand jury found there was sufficient evidence to move forward with felony capital murder charges against 21-year-old Anton Deonte Coleman in connection with the abduction and slaying of 16-year-old Ke’Asia Adkins in June 2018.
Adkins was reported missing on June 25 when she failed to show up for cheerleading practice at Dinwiddie High School. An outpouring of community support was present almost immediately after she was reported missing as dozens of people made their way across the county in an effort to bring the teenager home safe, forming search parties and hosting prayer vigils.
The search would take a tragic turn as days later, the teenager’s body was found near her U.S. Route 1 home by authorities, plunging the entire county into a state of mourning following the death of a young woman who had so much promise and a full life ahead of her.
That same day, Dinwiddie authorities arrested Coleman, initially charging him with one count of abduction before a Dinwiddie County grand jury would indict him on abduction and first-degree murder charges.
That is where the case stood for several months as the defense made motions in the case until early February when Dinwiddie County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill announced her office does not plan to pursue the death penalty and that they were preparing to present the January seating of the grand jury with evidence to support the pursuit of a capital murder charge.
That grand jury granted the prosecution’s request, issuing a true bill, meaning evidence was sufficient to move forward with the charge on January 15.
As part of that process, days earlier, the first-degree murder and abduction charges were “Nolle Prosequi,” meaning prosecutors have declined to move forward with those charges as the capital murder charge is the higher charge in the case.
In an interview leading up to the grand jury’s ruling this month, Baskervill walked through what has changed over the last few months to lead to this upgraded murder charge.
“The capital murder charge as it now stands was brought by criminal information, which is a way to bring a charge before a circuit court immediately and allow proceedings on that,” she explained. “As a matter of procedure, one cannot face trial solely on ‘criminal information,’ and instead trial can only occur upon an indictment, so the charge was presented to the grand jury that met on Jan. 15. Then both “papers” merge together and become the same charge, the same case.”
She stressed there isn’t any new evidence that has suddenly made the pursuit of capital murder a more viable avenue for prosecution, adding the evidence has become more “refined” since the summer of last year.
“Our evidence has refined since the summer, as any case would/should, and it has become more of a ‘true case’ as analyses come in and the prosecution works with law enforcement to put everything together,” Baskervill detailed. “Capital murder is the most serious charge under Virginia law, and I am not willing to take that charge lightly. We needed to get all open analyses in, and we needed to continue to gather evidence, and we/I needed to seriously ponder the case, on behalf of the community.”
She continued, “In addition to the gravity of the charge to lodge against a defendant, a capital murder case can make for a grueling trial and trial process, including pre-trial litigation. That, too, is part of what I don’t take lightly. It should be, and was and is here, a charge resulting only from a very deliberative, thoughtful, well-considered evaluation.”
Another thing she said her office looked at were their available resources, stressing that it is important everything available can be utilized for the effective prosecution of this case, and any case their office takes on.
“I am not going to pursue a case that I cannot pursue appropriately fairly, diligently, competently, and effectively,” Baskervill said. “The community and my ethical obligations count on me for that. Over the summer our office’s resources were stretched painfully thin. While I can make it work, I am not irresponsible. I have been candid with the beautiful victim’s family, with the community, with opposing counsel, and with the Court about that,” noting her office is now fully staffed and in better positioned in terms of resources to pursue a capital murder charge.
Regarding the charge, Baskervill said the foundation for the capital murder charge has always existed, but tactical and logistical considerations had to be made.
“The foundation of the charge is inherent in the two indictments original lodged against the defendant,” she explained, referring to the initial indictments in the summer of 2018 of first-degree murder and abduction with the intent to defile, but without the detailed evidence that has poured over since the summer, charging Coleman outright with capital murder at that time would not been the correct course of action.
“During our tragic week at the end of June, our community was reeling,” she said. “When Ke’Asia went missing, everyone in the community was doing their part to support however we could. When her body was found several days later, the gravity and tragedy intensified.”
“To fan those flames,” Baskervill detailed, “had I then filed the most serious charge in the land, without full information and without due consideration and thoughtfulness, would have been unconscionable. My duties are to be smart, responsible, effective, and just. We also cannot try a case locally if we cannot seat an impartial jury. The community shares my commitment to trying Dinwiddie cases in Dinwiddie. I don’t jeopardize that.”
According to the Virginia Courts Information System, the case is expected to be set on February 19 in Dinwiddie County Circuit Court.