Jury chosen in corpse abuse case

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Testimony is expected to begin Tuesday morning in the trial of a Texarkana, Ark., man accused of burying a friend beneath a shed in his back yard in 2017.

Chad Allen Jernigan, 42, is charged with abuse of a corpse in the death of Richard York. York was reported missing in July 2017 and his body was discovered a year later.

A jury made up of eight women and four men was chosen Monday afternoon to decide the case at the Miller County courthouse with Circuit Judge Brent Haltom presiding. Jernigan faces three to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

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Prosecutors are also hoping the jury will be permitted to order Jernigan to pay restitution to York’s family for cremation expenses. According to a motion filed by Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Potter Barrett, the body was too badly decomposed upon its discovery in Jernigan’s back yard for a regular burial.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Jernigan voluntarily allowed police to search his home in 2017 but nothing incriminating was discovered. About a year later, Texarkana, Ark., police received information July 25, 2018, that York had died at Jernigan’s home in the 4900 block of Union Road and that Jernigan had buried him under a shed behind the residence. Detectives attempted to contact Jernigan at his home July 26 but Jernigan did not answer the door.

“With reports that Jernigan was armed, it was decided to watch the residence until we knew the location of Jernigan,” the affidavit states.

Officers watched the house until Jernigan left in his truck that night at approximately 10 p.m. After Jernigan turned onto I-49 he allegedly began driving over 100 miles per hour and swerved in and out of traffic. Jernigan was stopped in Texarkana, Ark., and arrested for reckless driving.

Jernigan allegedly told detectives that York was at his home July 4, 2017, and died “for an unknown reason” in a two story shed in the back yard.

“Jernigan said he was scared and didn’t want to call the police, so he pulled the flooring up from the shed, exposing the bare earth underneath,” the affidavit states. “Jernigan then explained that he buried York underneath the shed and poured a layer of concrete on top of him. He then replaced the flooring.”

The prosecution’s restitution motion states that York died of a methamphetamine overdose and alleges Jernigan either gave or sold York the drugs. The defense has filed a motion in response asking for proof of expenses and a separate hearing to address the issue.

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