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Third member of Audrain County family sentenced in drifter's murder

Monday, September 19, 2011 | 8:17 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Angela Harvey, 36, blew a kiss goodbye to members of her family seated in the gallery as she was escorted out of a Boone County courtroom Monday to begin serving a life sentence for her part in the murder of an Ohio drifter.

Harvey's defense attorney, Ray Legg, and Audrain County Chief Prosecutor Jacob Shellabarger negotiated a plea agreement that resulted in Harvey pleading guilty to second-degree murder, instead of first-degree murder, in addition to two charges of armed criminal action and a charge of felony kidnapping.

She was sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder as well as 15 years for each of the other three charges by Boone County Circuit Judge Kevin Crane, following the recommendation of the state. The sentences are to be served consecutively. Harvey will be eligible for parole after she has served 30 years of the sentence.

When he died, James McNeely, 20, was a drifter from Ohio who was involved in a drug scheme with Angela Harvey's husband and son, Chester Harvey Jr. and Chad Harvey, respectively. Investigators think McNeely was kidnapped and killed at the Harveys' house in Laddonia after he tried to back out of a drug deal with the Harveys, according to previous Missourian reporting.

For two days, members of the Harvey family beat McNeely in their basement. McNeely was suffocated with a plastic bag by Chester Harvey while other Harvey family members strangled him with wire, according to previous Missourian reporting. McNeely's body was found in the refrigerator compartment of Chester Harvey's tractor-trailer at the end of December 2009.

McNeely met Chester Harvey in Florida while Harvey was on a run in his truck, according to previous Missourian reporting. Chester Harvey invited McNeely, who was staying on friends' couches at the time, to his home. McNeely became friends with the family and went on trucking runs with Chester and Chad Harvey to learn about truck driving.

Both Chester Harvey Jr. and Chad Harvey pleaded guilty for their roles in the murder. Chester Harvey Jr. was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder, 30 years for armed criminal action, 15 years for kidnapping and terrorizing, life for another count of kidnapping and four years for the abandonment of a corpse. Chad Harvey was sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder, 15 years for kidnapping and four years for abandonment of a corpse. 

Angela Harvey's eyes were downcast as she sat in the witness stand to enter her guilty plea, only glancing up to look at Crane when she answered his questions or toward the gallery. When her sentence was read aloud to the court, she began to cry and looked back at her family, crying in the gallery. 

No members of McNeely's family were present for the sentencing, but Shellabarger submitted the family's victim impact statements to the court. They were not read aloud.

After the sentencing, Legg said his client had expressed remorse for her role in McNeely's death.


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