By Wendy Holdren
A Fairdale man accused of fatally shooting a 66-year-old man entered a Kennedy plea to voluntary manslaughter in Raleigh County Circuit Court Wednesday before Judge John A. Hutchison.
Charles William Young, 41, was taken into custody in September 2012 after police spent months investigating the death of Frank Acord, also of Fairdale.
Acord’s body was found with multiple gunshot wounds near an abandoned coal mine on March 3, 2012. Police reported they immediately developed a suspect, but had to collect evidence to make an arrest.
Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Kristen Keller reviewed the evidence the state would present if the case went to trial.
She said the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department initially responded to a check welfare call for Acord’s disappearance on Feb. 9 or 10, 2012. His sister, with whom he spoke every day, had not heard from him.
Keller said a child found his body at a mine site March 3 with three gunshot wounds to the head and one to his arm. Acord also had “above therapeutic levels of oxycodone” in his system.
She noted that Acord had been abusing and selling prescription medication and had been drinking excessively.
Young and Acord were said to be “best friends.” The two had traveled to Florida together and Acord had even hired Young for construction services at his residence.
Young initially told police the last day he saw Acord was Feb. 8, but police discovered video footage at Rick’s Supermarket that showed the two together on Feb. 9, the last day Acord was seen alive.
When Acord’s body was found, he was wearing the same clothes that he was seen wearing in the video.
Police also discovered bullet holes in an old vehicle on Young’s property; the bullets matched those found with Acord’s body.
Young has maintained that he is innocent all throughout the criminal proceedings, but both Keller and Young’s attorney, John Mize, believe the risks are significant if Young would proceed to trial.
Keller said a jury may find Young guilty of first degree murder, a charge that carries a potential life sentence. On the other hand, because the state has no idea what actually happened at the scene, the jury could find Young not guilty.
She also said by making this plea agreement, the family would be given some finality to this case, even though Acord’s “dark side” had been exposed.
Mize agreed that entering a Kennedy plea was in Young’s best interest. By entering this plea, he admits no guilt, but believes he will fare better with a sentence decided by the judge instead of one decided by a jury.
Mize said if they went to trial, it would place an “almost impossible burden on the defendant.”
Young now faces three to 15 years in prison. Sentencing has been set for Sept. 27 at 9 a.m.
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