Judge enters not guilty plea for man accused of killing a mom in hotel room

Suspect's family: Mental illness a factor
Judge enters not guilty plea for man accused of killing a mom in hotel room
Posted at 10:51 AM, Dec 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-03 10:52:11-05

FLORENCE, Ky. — A Boone County judge entered a not guilty plea on behalf of a Burlington man accused of killing a mother of three.

Jesse James, 32, was in court Monday without an attorney. He is charged with murder and tampering with physical evidence in the death of Arizona mother Amanda Webster. Florence police found her body inside a hotel room Saturday night.

James repeatedly said, "not guilty," as a judge read charges aloud in court.

Police say James confessed to killing Webster in a room he rented at the Home 2 Suites, an extended stay hotel on Woodspoint Drive. James was taken into custody after employees at the Raves Cinema called police and said he was there acting strangely.

James was arrested after giving officers a fake name and fake identification, according to the police report. It was during an interview with detectives that James admitted to killing Webster.

Members of the suspect's family told WCPO, "this is strictly a mental health issue."

Webster was working in the Tri-State to support her three young children, her aunt told WCPO on Sunday. Webster moved to the area about three months ago.

Amanda Webster

Aurelia Webster said the two often communicated via text, but she didn’t hear from Amanda this past weekend. The family is asking why.

"Right now they don't believe it," Amanda's aunt said. "It's hard for us to actually say it's true. We're just kind of still in shock."

Mildred Scherder, the suspect's aunt, said her family offers its condolences to Webster's family.

"She's a mother, she's a daughter, she's a granddaughter. She has a brother, I think, and we're truly sorry for that family," Scherder said.

Scherder said her nephew suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. She said he was off his medication and not getting any help.

"We feel the system has totally let us down," she said.

Law enforcement officials have not corroborated the suspect's illness.

A police spokesperson said investigators could not release how Webster died because they are still in the "preliminary stages of investigation."

James is being held in the Boone County Jail. Judge Michael Collins set bond at $1 million. The county will appoint a public defender to represent James. The judge scheduled a court hearing for this Friday.

There is a GoFundMe page to raise money to fly Amanda's body back to Cameron, Arizona, and cover her funeral costs. The donations have already passed the $5,000 goal.