POINT PLEASANT — One of the men accused in the 2011 murder of René Gonzalez of Gallipolis Ferry has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
The plea came at the eleventh hour, literally an hour before opening arguments were to begin in the murder trial of Chad W. McCallister, 31, Apple Grove.
McCallister, who appeared before Judge David Nibert on Friday in Mason County Circuit Court, entered his plea which includes a mandatory jail sentence of 10 years. Nibert will review the plea agreement before sentencing at 10 a.m., Jan. 18.
Counsel for McCallister, Jeff Woods, said his client felt taking the plea agreement outweighed the risk of taking a chance on a conviction and a sentence of life in jail, without mercy.
After McCallister entered his plea, Prosecuting Attorney Damon Morgan summarized the state’s evidence, saying the state was prepared to argue the night before Gonzalez’s murder, Gonzalez and McCallister were involved in an altercation. Morgan said the state was further prepared to argue the day after this altercation, McCallister summoned the alleged shooter, Steven L. Adkins, Jr. 26, Apple Grove, and Matthew C. Woods, 25, Gallipolis Ferry, to McCallister’s home to enter into a plan to “extract justice by whooping Gonzalez” and robbing him.
Matthew C. Woods has testified after the meeting with McCallister, he drove Adkins to Gonzalez’s house, Adkins left his sight with Matthew C. Woods later hearing two gunshots. Matthew C. Woods has also testified Adkins got back in the car and indicated to him Adkins had shot Gonzalez.
Morgan said as a result of the meeting of the three men at McCallister’s home, that action instigated a plan to burglarize the residence of Gonzalez, and Gonzalez died as a result of this and his injuries. Morgan said Gonzalez was shot twice, once in the abdomen and once in the head.
When asked if his client wished to respond to the state’s summary, Attorney Jeff Woods declined but did say he and McCallister “hotly contested” at least some of the state’s argument as presented.
By pleading to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, this eliminates the malicious or deliberate element of the original first degree murder charge.
Woods pleaded guilty to second degree murder earlier this year and is to be sentenced next week in Mason County Circuit Court. Adkins goes to trial in March of next year.