Audrain County man pleads guilty to murdering drifter

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 | 6:10 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA – A 20-year-old Audrain County man pleaded guilty in Boone County Circuit Court on Tuesday to kidnapping and murdering a drifter.

Chad Michael Harvey pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree murder, kidnapping and abandonment of a corpse in the December 2009 death of James William Boyd McNeely. Harvey faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Prosecutors have also charged Harvey's father, Chester Clay Harvey Jr.; his mother, Angela; and two younger siblings with kidnapping and murder. They say the Harveys held McNeely for two days against his will in their Laddonia home before suffocating him with a plastic bag and strangling him with wire.

Shortly before his death, McNeely had told his uncle about his plan to sell drugs with Chester and Chad Harvey, according to a previous Associated Press report.

On Tuesday, Chad Harvey pleaded guilty to three of four charges, with the murder charge downgraded from first- to second-degree as part of the plea bargain. He has yet to enter a plea on a fourth charge of armed criminal action.

"I'm glad we were able to find a measure of closure for McNeely's family," Audrain County Prosecuting Attorney Jacob Shellabarger said.

Hearings for Chester and Angela Harvey will take place at the Boone County Courthouse on Friday.

Chad Harvey's sentencing will take place at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 20 in the Boone County Circuit Court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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