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Third suspect arraigned in murder of Anchorage teenager

Laurel Andrews
Demetra Alex speaks to reporters outside the Anchorage Correctional Complex on April 3, 2014. Alex's daughter, 15-year-old Precious, died after being shot twice in her bed at a residence in the Mountain View area of Anchorage. Loren Holmes photo

A third suspect in the murder of 15-year-old girl Precious Alex was arraigned Friday as the victim’s mother stood in the front row, flanked by family members and holding a framed photograph of her slain daughter. Karlie West, 21, was charged with murder in the second degree and assault in the third degree for her alleged involvement as the getaway driver in the incident.

Appearing at the Anchorage Correctional Complex on Friday, West covered half her face with a piece of paper as the victim’s family looked on. The victim’s mother, Demetra Alex, stood holding her daughter’s photograph, her eyes rarely leaving West. Alex’s fiancée Quintin Hargrove sat next to her.

The courtroom was only slightly less packed than it was during arraignments for Lamar Burney and Jamal Townsend, the two men charged with shooting 15-year-old Precious Alex of Mountain View during the early hours of April 1. More than 20 of the victim’s family members overflowed from the courtroom on Friday, and an extra security officer had been brought in to stand guard during West’s arraignment.

Judge Stephanie Rhoades oversaw the proceedings. West’s bail had already been set at $1 million in cash, with the condition of a third party custodian, and that amount remained unchanged. West is being represented by Anchorage attorney Rex Butler, and attorney George Dozier stood in for Butler during the proceedings.

According to charging documents, West allegedly drove the Jeep Cherokee involved in the incident. West later told investigators that she had agreed to drive Burney and Townsend to the Mountain View neighborhood that night. Townsend wanted to go to Hargrove’s residence because he was seeking revenge for an incident that occurred a few weeks prior, West said, but she wasn’t sure what it was. That alleged incident was a fight between Hargrove and Townsend, regarding a mutual girlfriend, in which Hargrove told investigators he “had the upper hand.”

West told investigators she knew Townsend had a gun with him. She said that she didn’t think Townsend or Burney were going to shoot anybody, but that they might start a fight or use the firearm to scare the men staying at the residence. She said that she drove Townsend and Burney to the area near the victim’s residence, the two men got out of the car, and she waited about 10 minutes before they returned and told her to drive.

The vehicle was later pulled over and impounded when police discovered a black semi-automatic pistol under the front driver’s seat of the vehicle.

After the arraignment the victim’s grandmother, Dana Sweatt, spoke on behalf of the family. Sweatt said that the family had never met West, and that the woman was likely impressionable, given her young age and the way Townsend and Burney lived their lives. “I saw remorse in her eyes,” Sweatt said. Still, Sweatt believes West is culpable for her alleged actions, and should have “the same penalty as everyone else.”

“We forgive all three of them,” Sweatt continued. “You still have responsibility, accountability for what you do.” Sweatt said the family continues to “do our best to maintain minute by minute, day by day.”