Court accepts Zell’s plea in murder case
Tensions were thick in the courtroom on Monday afternoon as final sentencing was announced for James T. Zell of Berkeley Springs in the strangling murder of his pregnant girlfriend last year.
Sentencing by Circuit Judge Andrew Frye came as no surprise since it was part of a plea bargain discussed at a previous hearing.
Zell, 24, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the murder of girlfriend Kelly Butler, 20 years for the murder of her unborn child, and one-to-five years for concealing Butler’s body at his isolated cabin in Hampshire County. He could be eligible for parole in about 21 years.
James Butler, the brother of the victim, said he was appalled that Zell could be walking around free after serving the time when his sister will never get the chance.
Carol Butler said her daughter was a beautiful, compassionate woman. She said her whole life changed last December when she got a call about her daughter’s murder.
Zell’s mother relayed the message that she was sorry for her son’s actions and thought she had raised a better son than that.