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UPDATE: Mingo County Woman Sentenced in Slaying of Drug Informant

By: WSAZ News Staff, The Associated Press Email
By: WSAZ News Staff, The Associated Press Email

UPDATE 7/27/10 @ 4:20 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A Mingo County woman has been sentenced for her role in the slaying of a drug informant.

Valerie Friend was sentenced to 35 years in prison. She pleaded guilty last year to federal charges stemming from the 2005 shooting and beating death of 33-year-old Carla Collins.

Friend then testified against drug dealer George Lecco before his April conviction as the murder's mastermind.



UPDATE 7/27/10 @ 12:20 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A Mingo County woman is hoping to avoid a life sentence for her role in a drug informant's murder.

Valerie Friend pleaded guilty last year to federal charges stemming from the 2005 shooting and beating death of 33-year-old Carla Collins.

Friend then testified against drug dealer George Lecco before his April conviction as the murder's mastermind.

Friend now wants a federal judge to consider these factors at her Tuesday sentencing.

Her lawyer is arguing for a lesser punishment than Lecco. He faces a life term after his jury did not recommend the death penalty.

Friend believes she also deserves a lesser sentence than the 30 years handed accomplice Patricia Burton last week. Burton has given conflicting statements about her role in the murder.



UPDATE: 7/23/10 @ 9:50 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A Mingo County woman will spend 30 years in a federal prison for her role in the slaying of a federal drug informant.

Patricia Burton was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Charleston.

The 41-year-old North Matewan resident had pleaded guilty in 2005 to helping co-defendant Valerie Friend lure 33-year-old Carla Collins to an abandoned mobile home where Collins was beaten and shot to death.

Friend pleaded guilty last October to a cocaine conspiracy charge and to witness retaliation by killing.

Another co-defendant, George "Porgy" Lecco, was convicted in May on three murder-related counts and other charges.

Prosecutors said Lecco ordered Collins' death to protect a drug operation.



UPDATE: 5/3/10 @ 5 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- George "Porgie" Lecco has been sentenced to life in prison. A jury found him guilty last week in the death of Carla Collins, a federal drug informant in 2005.

On April 27, 2010, the jury found Lecco guilty of all 12 counts of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to distribute cocaine; four counts of distribution of cocaine; use of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking; two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm; murder with a firearm during and in relation to his cocaine conspiracy; witness tampering by killing; witness retaliation by killing; and conspiracy to destroy and conceal evidence.

United States Attorney Charles T. Miller said in a news release, “Today, justice has been served. The actions of this defendant have had a devastating impact on the family of the victim and upon our community. The message is clear -- those who would commit murder to protect their drug business have no place in our community.”



UPDATE: 4/30/10 @ 8:30 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The jury that convicted a West Virginia man of ordering a drug informant's murder must now decide whether to recommend the federal death penalty.

The U.S. District Court jurors are slated to hear closing arguments Friday in the sentencing phase of the retrial for George Lecco.

The 60-year-old Mingo County man was found guilty this week on charges he arranged the slaying of 33-year-old Carla Collins.

The jury found Lecco wanted Collins dead because she knew he had resumed selling cocaine after earlier agreeing to cooperate with police. His defense challenged that motive, alleging he was framed.

Lecco had been convicted in the case after a 2007 trial, but a juror's misconduct voided those verdicts. That jury had recommended death for Lecco.



UPDATE: 4/28/10 @ 12:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Prosecutors rested their case in the sentencing phase of the trial against George Lecco.

Lecco could face the death penalty after he was convicted Tuesday of ordering a drug informant's death.

The state rested its case before noon Wednesday.

A federal jury in Charleston convicted the 60-year-old of all 13 counts Tuesday after deliberating for nine hours over two days. Three charges carry the federal death penalty.

The Mingo County man cooperated with authorities after he was caught selling cocaine out of his pizza parlor. He enlisted Carla Collins to become an informant as well.

Prosecutors said Lecco turned on Collins after he resumed dealing drugs. She was shot and beaten to death in a vacant mobile home in April 2005.

A court spokesperson tells WSAZ.com the defense is expected to call at least seven witnesses to the stand during the sentencing phase of the trial.

Closing arguments are expected to take place on Friday.

The same jury will deliberate and decide if Lecco should receive the death penalty.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the very latest information.



UPDATE 4/23/10 @ 9 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- It's now up to a federal jury to decide whether a West Virginia man ordered a drug informant's murder.

In a case that could lead to a death sentence, the U.S. District Court jury deliberated for about an hour Friday over the 12 charges against George Lecco. Jurors then recessed for the weekend.

Lecco had been caught selling cocaine out of his Mingo County pizza parlor. He agreed to cooperate, and enlisted Carla Collins to become an informant as well.

But prosecutors allege Lecco turned on Collins after he resumed dealing drugs. She was shot and beaten to death in a vacant mobile home in April 2005.

Lecco's defense argues he had no reason to want Collins dead. His lawyers say the two women who have admitted to the killing did it on their own.



UPDATE 4/23/10
MINGO COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Closing arguments are underway in the second murder trial against George Lecco.

That's according to a spokesperson at the U.S. Attorney's Office.

In 2007, Lecco was convicted of murdering Carla Collins in 2005 in Mingo County. Collins was a drug informant providing federal agents with information regarding a cocaine ring that Lecco was involved in.

But in 2009 a judge ruled that misconduct by a juror during the trial meant the convictions had to be overturned.

If convicted again, Lecco could face the death penalty. Friend pleaded guilty to murder in 2009, and was sentenced to life in prison.



UPDATE
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A West Virginia man could face the federal death penalty after being convicted of ordering a drug informant's murder.

A federal jury in Charleston convicted 60-year-old George Lecco of all 13 counts Tuesday after deliberating for nine hours over two days. Three charges carry the federal death penalty.

Lecco dropped his head and shook it when he heard the verdict on the first death penalty count.

The Mingo County man cooperated with authorities after he was caught selling cocaine out of his pizza parlor. He enlisted Carla Collins to become an informant as well.

Prosecutors said Lecco turned on Collins after he resumed dealing drugs. She was shot and beaten to death in a vacant mobile home in April 2005.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Lecco on Wednesday in Charleston.



UPDATE: 4/22/10 @ 8.10 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Federal prosecutors have finished presenting their case alleging a Mingo County man ordered the 2005 murder of a drug informant.

But the U.S. District Court jury may not hear from the only witness who alleges direct knowledge that George Lecco arranged the slaying of Carla Collins.

Prosecutors did not call Patricia Burton to the stand. Burton has admitted she helped kill the 33-year-old Collins. She also alleges Lecco wanted Collins dead to protect his drug dealing.

Lecco's defense instead presented other witnesses Thursday as they argue he had no reason to have Collins killed. His lawyers expect to wrap up their case Friday without Burton.

Lecco faces a dozen felony charges in the case. Three are punishable by the federal death penalty.



UPDATE 4/21/10
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A woman who admitted to murdering a federal drug informant took the stand Wednesday to testify against the man who allegedly planned the crime.

Valerie Friend testified for nearly two hours against George Lecco. Friend told the court she was heavily addicted to cocaine when the murder of Carla Collins happened in 2005.

She relied on Patricia Burton who she says was in a relationship with Lecco to supply her with the drugs.

Friend says Burton told her Lecco would pay $25,000 to have Collins killed because he was thought she was talking to law enforcement officials.

This is the second murder trial for Lecco. He was convicted in 2007, but it was overturned because of juror misconduct.

Lecco faces the death penalty if convicted.



UPDATE 4/19/10
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A new jury is ready to hear evidence from federal prosecutors who allege a Mingo County man ordered the 2005 murder of a drug informant.

George Lecco could face the death penalty if convicted of the most serious charges in the 12-count indictment that stems from the killing of Carla Collins.

With opening statements expected Monday, prosecutors allege Lecco was protecting a cocaine ring he ran out of a pizza shop.

But the defense argues the 60-year-old had no reason to want Collins dead.

Lecco and co-defendant Valerie Friend were found guilty after a 2007 trial. A jurist's misconduct prompted a judge to throw out those verdicts and order a retrial.

Friend later pleaded guilty to a role in Collins' slaying. She is expected to testify against Lecco.



UPDATE 4/5/10
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Jury selection is expected to get underway this week in the case of an accused drug dealer charged with ordering the murder of an informant.

George "Porgy" Lecco faces charges in the 2005 death of Carla Collins in Mingo County.

Lecco and another woman, Valerie Friend, were convicted of Collin's murder in 2007, but misconduct by a juror caused a judge to overturn the convictions.

Investigators say Collins was a drug informant providing federal agents with information regarding a cocaine ring involving Lecco.

Lecco and Friend were indicted a second time by a federal grand jury in June 2009. Just months later, Friend pleaded to drug conspiracy and witness retaliation charges.

Friend told the judge in October 2009 she pulled the trigger because the thought was Collins was a federal drug informant who was leaking info to the feds about Lecco and his cocaine ring.

Friend won't be sentenced until after Lecco's trial.

Jury selection is expected to get underway this week in Lecco's trial. It could take the court up to two weeks to find a jury. Then, the trial will get underway.

The death penalty is still an option in the case.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the very latest information.



UPDATE 3/24/10
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A Mingo County man who faces federal murder charges that could carry the death penalty is asking to allow his former lawyer and two federal prosecutors on the witness stand.

The judge in the case is allowing the testimony sought by George Lecco.

Lecco is trying to challenge the motive that prosecutors say he had when he ordered the murder of Carla Collins in 2005.

Prosecutors believe Lecco suspected Collins had told police that he was selling cocaine out of his pizza shop.

Lecco faces a retrial in April in federal court. Lecco and another woman, Valerie Friend, were convicted of Collin's murder in 2007, but misconduct by a juror meant the convictions had to be overturned.



UPDATE 10/19/09
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A federal judge is keeping the death penalty in the case of an alleged West Virginia drug dealer accused of having an informant murdered.

U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. has also refused to move the as-yet-unscheduled retrial of defendant George Lecco out of southern West Virginia.

Lecco is accused of ordering the 2005 slaying of 33-year-old Carla Collins to protect his Mingo County cocaine ring.

Co-defendant Valerie Friend pleaded guilty earlier this month to drug conspiracy and witness retaliation charges. She says Lecco targeted Collins because she was helping investigators.

The two had been found guilty in 2007. Those convictions were wiped out because of a juror's dishonesty during jury selection.



UPDATE 10/1/09
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The woman accused of killing a federal drug informant has pleaded guilty to distributing cocaine and admitted to killing Carla Collins.

Valerie Friend was convicted of killing Collins in Mingo County back in 2005, but a judge threw the case out because of a problem with a juror.

At the time of the first conviction, the jury recommended the death penalty. Friend was re-indicted by a federal grand jury and expected to go on trial next month.

Thursday, she also admitted to killing Collins. As a part of her plea agreement, she'll serve life in prison and pay a more than $1 million fine.

George Lecco is also charged in Collins' murder. His trial is still expected to start next month.

Collins was a drug informant providing federal agents with information regarding a cocaine ring involving lecco.



UPDATE 9/29/09
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The woman accused of killing a federal drug informant from Mingo County is expected to plead guilty later this week.

According to court records, Valerie Friend is set to plead guilty on October 1 at 10:30 a.m. in a federal courtroom in Charleston.

Friend was convicted once of killing Carla Collins back in 2005, but a judge threw the case out because a juror didn't give important information during the selection process. At the time of the first conviction, the jury recommended the death penalty.

Friend was later re-indicted by a federal grand jury and was expected to go on trial next month.

George Lecco is also charged in Collins' murder. His trial is expected to start next month.

Collins was a drug informant providing federal agents with information regarding a cocaine ring involving Lecco.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the very latest information.



UPDATE 9/6/09
MINGO COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Two Mingo County residents facing the death penalty in the case of a murdered federal informant will be
tried separately.

U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver Jr. granted motions by
George Lecco and Valerie Friend to be tried separately. Lawyers for
the two indicated in filings that Lecco and Friend plan to
implicate each other in the 2005 murder of Carla Collins.

Friend's trial is set to begin Oct. 27. A date for Lecco's trial
has not been set.

The two were convicted in 2007 for murdering Collins to protect
their cocaine ring. Copenhaver recently ordered a new trial because
of a juror's misconduct.

West Virginia abolished capital punishment for state crimes. It
remains an option in federal cases.



UPDATE 6/03/09
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Federal prosecutors have obtained updated charges against two West Virginia residents in a case that involves the death penalty.

A U.S. District Court grand jury re-indicted George Lecco and Valerie Suzette Friend on charges stemming from the 2005 murder of a drug informant.

Filed Wednesday, the new set of charges differ slightly from the previous one. But its most serious counts continue to carry the death penalty.

Prosecutors say Lecco had Friend kill Carla Collins to protect their Mingo County cocaine ring.

The two were convicted in 2007 of all charges in the earlier indictment. A judge recently ordered a new trial because of a juror's misconduct.

West Virginia abolished capital punishment for state crimes. It remains an option in federal cases.



UPDATE 5/28/09
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A new trial date has been set for two people who previously were sentenced to death in a federal murder case.

Valerie Friend and George "Porgy" Lecco were convicted in 2007 in the murder of Carla Collins. Last month a judge overturned the case because a juror didn't answer questions honestly during jury selection.

The new trial for Friend & Lecco is set for October 27th, 2009. The pair is accused of killing Collins because they believed she was a federal drug informant.

Collins' body was found in a wooded area in Mingo County in 2005, about a month after she disappeared.



UPDATE 5/5/09
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- George Lecco's wife called WSAZ to say "she and his mother are very happy with the judges decision."

Jean Lecco said she didn't care to comment any further.



UPDATE 5/7/09
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Jury-related misconduct has prompted a new trial for two West Virginia residents who had faced the federal death penalty.

George Lecco and Valerie Friend were found guilty two years ago on federal charges related to the murder of a drug informant. The jury recommended the death penalty.

A federal judge now says a juror failed to disclose that he had been under investigation for child pornography.

U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. ruled Monday that because federal officials were also behind that probe, the man's impartiality is in doubt.

West Virginia has no death penalty for state crimes, but it remains an option in federal cases. Though the jury recommended death, sentencing in the case has been on hold.



UPDATE 2/4/08
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- We should find out later this year if two people convicted of murdering a drug informant will get a new trial.

George Porgy Lecco and Valerie Friend were back in federal court Monday. They're convicted of murdering drug informant Carla Collins from Mingo County.

Since the conviction, they're attorneys have filed a motion for a new trial because a juror lied on a questionnaire prior to the trial. The judge said Monday he's considering the motion, but won't make a decision until later this year.

The jury recommended Lecco and Friend be sentenced to death. The judge also postponed the sentencing until after the U.S. Supreme Court addresses a case involving lethal injection.



UPDATE 1/19/08
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Two Mingo County residents facing the death penalty won't be sentenced until the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether lethal injection is constitutional.

Fifty-eight-year-old George Lecco and 45-year-old Valerie Friend were convicted in May on 13 federal charges stemming from the 2005 death of Carla Collins. Jurors recommended capital punishment for the pair.

Prosecutors say Lecco ordered Friend to kill Collins to protect his cocaine ring.The 33-year-old Collins had been helping a federal drug task force.

U.S. District Court Judge John Copenhaver this week delayed sentencing until the U.S. Supreme Court rules in a case challenging the kind of lethal injection used in more than 30 states with a death penalty.

West Virginia has no death penalty for state crimes, but it remains an option in federal cases.

Federal prosecutors want Lecco's and Friend's sentences to be carried out at a federal prison in Terra Haute, Indiana, where lethal injection is used for executions.



UPDATE 12/19/07
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- George "Porgy" Lecco and Valerie Friend could be getting a new trial, after being found guilty of murdering Carla Collins.

William Griffith, a juror for the trial, testified Monday in federal court he lied about his criminal background and an FBI investigation against him.

Griffith was suppose to reveal that information when he was chosen to be on the Lecco-Friend jury.

He was part of the jury that recommended Lecco and Friend be sentenced to death.

The judge is considering a new trial; for the pair.

The judge also ordered federal prosecutors to provide him with Griffith's FBI file.



UPDATE 11/27/07
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Two people facing the death penalty will have to wait to learn their fate.

George "Porgy" Lecco and Valerie Friend were convicted earlier this year of killing drug informant Carla Collins.

Their sentencing is set for Wednesday, but Prosecutors asked the judge to postpone it until they determine where the two will serve time.

The judge granted the delay, but both sides will be in court Wednesday to argue the decision.



UPDATE 10/9/07
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Two people who could face the death penalty will have to wait to learn their fate.

George "Porgy" Lecco and Valerie Friend were convicted of killing a drug informant named Carla Collins.

A sentencing hearing set for Tuesday was delayed because the two got new attorneys. Investigators say Lecco ordered the murder to protect the cocaine ring he ran out of a pizza shop in Mingo County.

Friend carried out the murder in exchange for cocaine. Lecco and Friend will now be sentenced next month.



UPDATE 5/29/07
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A federal jury has returned the death penalty for two Mingo County residents who were convicted of murdering a drug informant.

Jurors received the case last week, but took a break over the Memorial Day holiday.

They returned to the federal courthouse in Charleston today and issued their verdicts against George Lecco and Valerie Friend shortly after noon.

Prosecutors allege Friend shot and beat 33-year-old Carla Collins to death on orders from Lecco.

Lecco was accused of targeting the single mother to protect a cocaine ring he ran out of a drive-thru pizza parlor.

The two will be sentenced August 23rd in Charleston.

West Virginia abolished capital punishment for state crimes in 1965, but it remains an option in federal cases.

The last West Virginia death sentence was carried out in 1959, when 43-year-old Elmer Bruner was electrocuted for beating a Huntington contractor's wife to death.

Stay with WSAZ.com for more information.



UPDATE 5/28/07
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Sometime this week, a federal jury could deliver the first death sentence in West Virginia in more than 40 years.

The jurors in Charleston must choose between death and life in
prison without parole for George Lecco and Valerie Friend. The pair
were convicted earlier this month in the murder of a government
drug informant.

But whatever the verdict, the case is not expected to affect the
debate over the absence of capital punishment for state crimes in
West Virginia.

Experts say that federal prosecutors have secured the death
penalty in five other states that have abolished it on the state
level. Those cases have not prompted those states to restore
capital punishment.

But the Legislature's leading advocate for reviving the death
penalty in West Virginia hopes for a different result.

Delegate John Overington is a Berkeley County Republican who
says the Lecco-Friend case seems heinous enough to increase
interest in bringing back the death penalty for state crimes.



UPDATE 5/25/07
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Two Mingo County residents will have to wait until after the holiday weekend to learn their punishment for the murder of a drug informant.

George Lecco and Valerie Friend face either the death penalty or life in prison for no parole for the April 2005 killing of Carla Collins.

A federal jury in Charleston has been deliberating over their punishment since Wednesday. After recessing today, jurors are scheduled to return to the courthouse Tuesday morning.

The jury earlier found Lecco and Friend guilty on all charges against them in the case.

Prosecutors allege Friend shot and beat the 33-year-old Collins to death on orders from Lecco. Prosecutors say Lecco targeted the single mother to protect a cocaine ring he ran out of a drive-thru pizza parlor.



UPDATE 5/12/07
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A federal jury today convicted two Mingo County residents on all charges linking them to a drug informant's 2005 murder.

The U-S District Court jury in Charleston must now decide whether to level the death penalty against George "Porgy" Lecco and Valerie Suzette Friend.

Two of the charges against each stemmed from the April 2005 killing of Carla Collins.

Carla Collins' family is finally feeling some relief. A federal jury in Charleston Friday afternoon convicted George "Porgy" Lecco and Valerie Friend of plotting and carrying out Collins' murder: taking a life to protect an extensive Mingo County drug ring.

The jury found that the 33-year-old Mingo County resident was shot and beaten to death by Friend on orders from Lecco to protect a cocaine ring he ran out of a Red Jacket drive-thru pizza parlor.

Judge John Copenhaver Junior asked the jury of eight women and four men to return Tuesday to begin the case's penalty phase.

Although West Virginia abolished capital punishment for state crimes in 1965, it remains an option in federal cases. Three such cases have been pursued in West Virginia in the past decade. Each was resolved without a death sentence.

Besides an additional drug conspiracy count against each, Lecco was also found guilty on ten drug-selling and weapons-related charges.

"She'll never leave my heart. Her spirit will live on in my heart. I see her in her children, so that's something."

That's all Tina Collins has left of her daughter. Carla Collins was just 33 years old when she went missing in April of 2005. Two long months later, her body was found buried in a shallow grave.

The trail leading to just who put her there took many turns: numerous people were arrested, and several pleaded guilty. In the end, just two suspects were left to stand trial: George "Porgy" Lecco and Valerie Friend.

Lecco was the manager of the Pizza Plus in Red Jacket, where Carla and people she thought were her friends used to hang out, a place where cocaine was served up as much as pepperoni. A federal jury agreed that when Lecco learned Carla Collins had been talking to the feds, he ordered her murder to protect that drug operation, and that Valerie Friend carried out the killing.

Tina Collins says this was a day of reckoning for Carla, a day of justice. She's thankful for people who worked to bring justice.

"It can't bring her back but it can certainly have justice and we have that now."

Tina and Alvin Collins have one more legal step to get through: the penalty phase where the jury will decide whether Lecco and Friend should be put to death.



UPDATE 5/10/07
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The jury is scheduled to start deliberating the case involving two people charged with murdering a Mingo County drug informant.

George "Porgy" Lecco of Red Jacket and Valerie Friend of North Matewan are charge with killing Carla Collins.

Federal prosecutors believe Lecco ordered Collins', death because she was acting as an informant.

They say Friend helped carry out the murder at an abandoned Mingo County trailer in 2005.

Both are charged with killing someone assisting the federal government in an investigation and committing a murder during the federal investigation.

Both could face the death penalty if convicted.



UPDATE 5/1/07
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A jury in federal court is now hearing evidence to decide if two murder suspects from Mingo County should get the death penalty.

Porgy Lecco and Valerie Friend are accused in the April 2005 shooting death of Carla Collins.

Prosecutors say Lecco was a drug kingpin in Mingo County and ordered Friend to kill Collins because Collins was a federal drug informant.

The defense says Lecco and Friend were not involved with the actual murder, but that Lecco did participate in a coverup of the crime.

The trial is expected to continue all this week in federal court in Charleston.



UPDATE 4/16/07
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Jury selection is underway in the federal death penalty trial of Mingo County residents George Lecco and Valerie Friend.

Prosecutors say Lecco ordered the murder of 33-year-old Carla Collins in April 2005, believing she was a government informant.

He was correct. About a month before her murder, Collins signed up as a federal drug task force cooperating individual.

She had provided information about Lecco, who was later accused of selling cocaine, marijuana and pills out of his Red
Jacket pizza parlor, within two weeks of her death.

Prosecutors say Friend, a 44-year-old North Matewan resident, helped carry out Lecco's order.

Collins was shot and beaten to death in an abandoned mobile home.

Her body was found buried nearby two months later.

A third suspect pleaded guilty to the murder conspiracy and has agreed to testify in the case.

Two of the 13 counts against Friend and the 57-year-old Lecco carry the death penalty.

The trial is being held in Charleston.



UPDATE 8/17/06
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Additional charges have been filed against two alleged members of a Mingo County drug ring who are facing a death penalty trial in the murder of an informant.

The 13-count federal indictment against 55-year-old George "Porgy" Lecco and 43-year-old Valerie Suzette Friend replaces an eight-count indictment filed last year.

The new charges include several firearms allegations.

Federal prosecutors also revised several drug conspiracy charges.

The pair also are charged with murder with a firearm during and in relation to cocaine conspiracy, killing a person for aiding a federal investigation and conspiracy to destroy and conceal evidence.

The charges stem from the April 2005 death of federal drug informant Carla Collins.

Prosecutors say Collins was killed in a plot to protect a cocaine ring run out of a Red Jacket pizza parlor.

37-year-old Patricia Burton pleaded guilty in December to aiding in Collins' death in a deal that spared her the death penalty.

Three other people have also pleaded guilty to roles in the drug conspiracy, while Burton's husband and another man admitted they hid or destroyed evidence.



ORIGINAL STORY 5/15/06
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Two people accused of murdering Carla Collins now face the death penalty.

On Monday, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales authorized capital punishment for George "Porgy" Lecco and Valerie Friend. Prosecutors say Lecco wanted Collins killed because she was a drug informant for the government. Friend is accused of actually pulling the trigger. This is a federal case because the two are accused of drug conspiracy and obstruction of justice that led to murder.

A third suspect, Patricia Burton, could have faced the death penalty but she pleaded guilty and has agreed to help prosecutors in their case against Lecco and Friend.


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