Audrain County man sentenced in Ohio drifter's death

Monday, December 20, 2010 | 9:23 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — One of five members of a Missouri family charged in the death of an Ohio drifter whose frozen corpse was found in a refrigerated trailer was sentenced Monday to life in prison.

Chad Michael Harvey, 20, tearfully apologized to relatives of James William Boyd McNeely, 20, before a judge imposed the maximum sentences in Boone County Circuit Court.

McNeely's body was discovered Dec. 22, 2009, in the refrigerated compartment of a tractor-trailer owned by Harvey's father, C.J. Harvey. He, along with Chad Harvey's stepmother and two younger brothers, were also charged with murdering McNeely, who authorities said was killed in the basement of the Harvey home in Laddonia, about 50 miles northeast of Columbia.

The murder cases are still pending against the other family members, and three men identified as friends of C.J. Harvey are charged with kidnapping.

Chad Harvey originally was charged with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty in October to second-degree murder, for which he received a life sentence. Circuit Judge Kevin Crane also sentenced him to 15 years for kidnapping and four years for abandonment of a corpse.

A copy of a plea agreement obtained in October by The Associated Press showed that Chad Harvey agreed to cooperate with authorities and testify as needed. His case was handled in Boone County on a change of venue.

C.J. Harvey, a trucker, has said in a series of phone interviews with The Associated Press earlier this year that he picked up McNeely while driving a route. He said he became embroiled in a drug scheme with him because his family had fallen on hard times while caring for a child who required daily dialysis.

Eventually, he took McNeely to his home in Laddonia, a town of about 600 people near Mexico, Mo. Harvey said McNeely and his son, Chad, became fast friends.

But 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 said that he was in Waco, Texas, at the time of the alleged attack on his family, and that he called friends and asked them to take McNeely out of his home while he rushed there.

In the AP interviews, C.J. Harvey refused to discuss the killing. But investigators say he and Chad Harvey brought McNeely back to the Harveys' home 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.

KXEO-AM reported that McNeely's wife, Caitlyn Detamore, and her mother, Wendy Detamore, were in the Boone County courtroom Monday. The women took the stand to testify that McNeely's 3-year-old son would grow up not knowing his father because Chad Harvey had taken his life.

Caitlyn Detamore said afterward that she was satisfied with the sentence for Chad Harvey.

Audrain County prosecutor declined to comment on the sentence, citing the seven cases that remain before him in the killing.

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