A Missouri truck driver charged with his wife and three of his sons in the killing of an Ohio drifter was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Chester "C.J." Harvey said he was "totally responsible" for killing 20-year-old James William Boyd McNeely during the hearing in Boone County Circuit Court, where the case was heard on a change of venue. Harvey pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, armed criminal action, kidnapping and abandonment of a corpse.
Audrain County prosecutor Jacob Shellabarger said there wasn't a plea agreement. Harvey's attorney, Justin Carver, didn't immediately return a phone call or email message seeking comment.
McNeely's frozen corpse was found in December 2009 in the refrigerated compartment of Chester Harvey's parked tractor trailer east of Vandalia. C.J. Harvey's oldest son, Chad Harvey, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, kidnapping and abandonment of a corpse. His wife and two younger sons, who were 14 and 16, have been charged with murder. Three other men have been charged as accomplices in McNeely's kidnapping.
C.J. Harvey said in a series of phone interviews with The Associated Press that he picked up McNeely while driving, and the two became embroiled in a drug scheme because Harvey's family had fallen on hard times while caring for a child who required daily dialysis.
Harvey claimed he had a falling out with McNeely after McNeely became violent with Harvey's wife and three of his sons _ a 7-year-old and the two teens charged in the killing. Harvey offered no specifics, and McNeely's family has said McNeely wouldn't hurt anybody.
Harvey refused to discuss the killing in the AP interviews, 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 has said in an earlier interview with the AP. "It's really terrible."
Associated Press writer Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.