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Convicted Missouri killer wants to withdraw plea

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 | 6:38 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — A 20-year-old eastern Missouri man who admitted to participating in the killing of an Ohio drifter wants to withdraw his guilty plea.

Chad Harvey told KMIZ in Columbia on Monday that he and other family members accused in the case had been using methamphetamine and were under the control of his father, Chester "C.J." Harvey, when 20-year-old James William Boyd McNeely was killed.

McNeely's frozen corpse was found last Dec. 22 in the refrigerated compartment of C.J. Harvey's rig, which was parked in a lot east of Vandalia.

C.J. Harvey, his wife, Angela, and two younger sons, 14 and 16 at the time, also are charged with murder. Three other men have been charged as accomplices in the kidnapping of McNeely.

Chad Harvey's public defender, Stephan Bell, didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment. Chad Harvey hasn't responded to a letter from the AP seeking comment.

Audrain County Prosecutor Jacob Shellabarger told the AP that the defense hasn't filed a motion seeking to withdraw Chad Harvey's plea, but that the state would oppose such an effort.

Under a deal with prosecutors, Chad Harvey agreed to cooperate with authorities and testify as needed in exchange for being allowed to plead guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder, as well as kidnapping and abandonment of a corpse. He originally was charged with first-degree murder.

The plea agreement shows prosecutors also agreed to dismiss a charge of armed criminal action at Chad Harvey's sentencing, which is scheduled for Dec. 20 in Boone County, where his case is being heard on a change of venue.

C.J. Harvey, a trucker whose trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 1, said in a series of phone interviews with the AP earlier this year that he picked up McNeely while driving, and that the two became embroiled in a drug scheme because his family had fallen on hard times while caring for a child who required daily dialysis. Harvey said McNeely became fast friends with Chad Harvey and the two traveled together to see McNeely's family and get seed money for the drug plot.

But C.J. Harvey said it wasn't drugs but an alleged attack on his wife and three of his sons — ages 7, 14 and 16 at the time — that led to McNeely's death. Harvey offered no specifics, and McNeely's family said McNeely wouldn't hurt anybody.

C.J. Harvey was in Waco, Texas, at the time of the alleged attack. He called friends and asked them to take McNeely out of his home while he rushed back.

In the AP interviews, Harvey refused to discuss the killing, but investigators say C.J. and Chad Harvey brought McNeely back to the Harveys' home in Laddonia, a town of about 600 people northwest of St. Louis, and restrained him on a mattress in the basement. The father and son told authorities that C.J. Harvey suffocated McNeely the next day with a trash bag while Chad Harvey and others wrapped wire around McNeely's throat, according to a probable cause statement.

Harvey has insisted his wife and juvenile sons are innocent.

"We were a great family, and we went from that to where we are now in an amazing amount of time," C.J. Harvey said in an interview with the AP on Monday. "It's really terrible."


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