Mo. teen pleads guilty in drifter’s death

MEXICO, Mo. (AP) — A 16-year-old eastern Missouri boy pleaded guilty Tuesday to helping his truck-driver father and three other family members kill an Ohio drifter.

Jordan Harvey was just 14 years old in December 2009 when 20-year-old James William Boyd McNeely was killed in the Harvey family’s home in Laddonia, a town of about 600 people northwest of St. Louis. McNeely’s frozen corpse was found days later in the refrigerated compartment of Harvey’s father’s parked tractor-trailer east of Vandalia.

The teen’s father, Chester “C.J.” Harvey, has 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.

Because he was in Waco, Texas, at the time, Chester Harvey called friends and asked them to remove McNeely from his home while he rushed there.

The probable cause statement said Jordan Harvey admitted he stood guard over McNeely before the killing and helped hold McNeely down while his father suffocated him. Jordan Harvey pleaded guilty to an adult charge of second-degree murder in Audrain County Circuit Court.

His attorney, George Anthony Batek, said the teen was forced to participate in the slaying but duress isn’t an excuse for the crime of murder in Missouri.

“You tell me how you defend that,” he complained. “This kid is a great kid I’ve got on my hands. Now, he’s condemned to carrying a murder charge the rest of his life.”

However, Batek said Jordan Harvey’s plea deal called for him to be sentenced as a juvenile even though he pleaded guilty to an adult charge. The juvenile sentence means he could be released at the age of 18 or 21.

C.J. Harvey pleaded guilty Monday and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty to first-degree murder, armed criminal action, kidnapping and abandonment of a corpse.

His oldest son, Chad Harvey, who was 19 at the time of the killing, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, kidnapping and abandonment of a corpse. C.J. Harvey’s wife, Angela, and a third son, who was 16 at the time, also have been charged with murder. Three other men have been charged as accomplices in McNeely’s kidnapping.

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Associated Press reporter Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.

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