LEWISBURG (WVDN) – A Charmco man charged with first degree murder indictment entered a voluntary manslaughter plea in the Greenbrier County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Mar. 30.
Jonathan Cole McClung, 49, was indicted in June 2021 for the murder of James Alvis III.
According to the criminal complaint, on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, McClung of Charmco, along with a minor, drove to the Dollar General located on Nicholas Street in Rupert. The two were attempting to locate Gail McClung, Jonathan McClung’s wife. The initial criminal complaint explains that, once at the store, McClung allegedly observed Gail McClung speaking with Alvis in the parking lot. McClung and the minor then allegedly attacked Alvis, continuing to beat him as he fell to the ground. The complaint states that McClung and the minor were eventually pulled away from Alvis by several witnesses to the attack. Alvis was transported by ambulance to the Greenbrier Valley Medical Center where he was pronounced dead shortly after 8 p.m.
Both Jonathan McClung and the minor allegedly advised officers that they had been attempting to locate Gail McClung.
The Mar. 30 deal allows McClung to avoid the first degree murder indictment and allows him to plead to voluntary manslaughter. The deal also comes with a definite minimum sentence of three years and a maximum sentence of 15 years.
McClung initially did not want to admit intent, a key component of the law that distinguishes between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. However, McClung agreed to enter the plea for a specific reason.
“Because of my son, so he won’t get a felony. I kind of got him into it, and that’s why I’m doing it,” said McClung. McClung’s son is the minor who was involved in the attack, and will be identified as JGM in this article because he was a minor when the crime was committed.
McClung’s defense attorney, James R. Milam II, told the court on Wednesday that McClung “has articulated to me that he wants to protect his son as much as possible, and I do believe he is making the intelligent choice to enter this plea for those reasons. He understands we could possibly prevail at trial. … It is a reasonable decision, and I would say that it’s probably the most unselfish I’ve ever seen anybody make in a case like this.”
Assistant Prosecutor Ryan Blake also offered an update on the JGM case, after Richardson asked if it could be “whether improper pressure has been brought on Mr. McClung in this case by overly aggressive pursuit of charges against his son.”
“The state believes that the jury could hold them equally responsible with respect to the death of James Alvis,” explained Blake. “The matter between the state and [JGM] has been initiated through the filing of a misdemeanor information against [JGM], charging him with a misdemeanor offense of involuntary manslaughter arising out of the same transactions and events that are currently before the court with respect to [the older McClung]. There has been an agreement that has been reached. I don’t know if it’s been presented to the court.”
After McClung entered the plea, Blake explained that one Nob 7, 2020, in Rupert, “Jonathan Cole McClung, along with his son [JGM] did engage in a physical altercation with one James Alvis. As a result of that altercation, [they] did slay, kill, and murder James Alvis. We would expect this evidence to be shown principally through the investigation by Trooper First Class Ben Borsman of the West Virginia State Police, as well as eyewitness testimony from individuals who provided statements to law enforcement.
“[One witness]] described approximately 20 to 25 punches thrown and the son repeatedly saying ‘hit, hit, hit,’” Blake continued. “There was also a statement by [two more witnesses] who were interviewed together, and stated that Mr. McClung and his son drove straight into the parking lot, exited the vehicle, and immediately started attacking Mr. Alvis. Both of the males involved in this conflict were screaming, and I quote, ‘kill that m—f—’ over and over before and as they were beating Mr. Alvis. … [A third witness] further stated that Mr. Alvis was observed backing away and that John McClung continue to beat him more than once, and that Mr. Alvis fell to the ground and his head on the side of the vehicle as he fell.”
Blake also offered the potential notice uncovered by the investigation.
“Mr. McClung believed that his wife was in an amorous relationship with Mr. Alvis, and the presentation of anger and animus as it related toward that issue was certainly one that would be presented before jury, as it relates to the deliberation on the issue of intent,” Blake said.
The result of the incident is the death of James Alvis, he said.
“In that report, [the physician] explained multiple external and internal traumatic blunt force injuries that he observed to change to James Alvis,” Blake said. “In the head area, he noted several contusions on the brain and excessive fluid on that brain. On the back of Mr. Alvis, there is a small abrasion on the right lateral flank. On the extremities, there is noted to be a contusion on the right arm, right foot, left leg, abrasions on the right finger, right leg, left thigh, right knee, and left hip. [There are] rib fractures on the right side of the body that [the mortician] believes might have been caused by resuscitation efforts. [Because of] the hemorrhaging and the extensive brain bleeding that resulted [the mortician thought that] James Alvis III died of multiple blunt force injuries sustained during a physical altercation with others, and indicated that the manner of death was homicide.”
Richardson also noted the plea agreement hinges on how JGM’s misdemeanor criminal case proceeds.
“The agreement actually includes a provision that says that if you plead guilty in this proceeding, and then this court does not accept your son’s guilty plea and the case against him, you could then withdraw your guilty plea,” said Richardson.
Richardson accepted the plea, setting a date of May 13 for sentencing in the case.