A 30-year-old Columbia man accused of using a brick-sized rock to beat a quadriplegic woman in her bed pleaded guilty yesterday to charges stemming from the attack and faces 30 years in prison.
Kevin C. Laster entered an Alford plea to a charge of attempted second-degree murder and a guilty plea to a charge of first-degree assault as court officials assembled potential jurors for trial. An Alford plea, treated as a guilty plea, is not an admission of guilt but a concession that prosecutors could prove their case.
As prosecutor Mary Murphy offered an account of the attack, which included a commotion-filled tape-recording of a 911 call made during the August 1999 assault on Dorothy Copley and her boyfriend, Copley began sobbing and quickly maneuvered her motorized wheelchair out the courtroom.
Later, she said she was happy she would not have to testify in the case. Her head is still tender, she said, but her physical scars have mostly healed.
"I'm still dealing with it, but that's my own fault. I need to get counseling," said Copley, 36.
Laster, who had filed notice that he planned to argue that he could not be held criminally responsible, said yesterday under questioning from his attorney, Rodney Warren, that he has spent time in a mental institution and suffered from depression.
The attack was the culmination of several hours of threatening phone calls and an earlier visit from Laster, who has two daughters with Copley's sister, Tina. The young girls had been staying with Copley and her nephew, Paul Jones.
During the calls and visit, Laster repeatedly demanded to see Tina Copley, according to testimony. He even took the girls and left, but by the time police had arrived at Dorothy Copley's Columbia apartment, his daughters were walking down the street with $500 they said their father gave them, Murphy said.
Laster showed up again about an hour later, smashed through a sliding-glass door and used the rock to beat Copley - who had been disabled in an accident years before - while she was in bed, Murphy said. When Copley's boyfriend, Philip Atzert, tried to intervene, Laster hit him with the rock, she said.
Laster, whose bail was revoked, is to be sentenced Jan. 5. Prosecutors are seeking a 30-year term.