Trial this month for man accused of abuse of corpse

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A Texarkana, Ark., man accused of burying a friend’s body beneath an outdoor shed is scheduled for jury selection later this month.

Chad Jernigan, 42, was arrested just over a year after Richard York, 45, was reported missing by his family. Jernigan allegedly told police that he had last seen York July 4, 2017, after the two had an argument and he dropped him off on Summerhill Road in Texarkana, Texas.

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.

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“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.”

Abuse of a corpse is a Class C felony punishable by three to ten years in prison. A fine up to $10,000 may be imposed as well.

Jernigan is currently being held in the Miller County jail. Jury selection in the case is set for Feb. 25 before Miller County Circuit Judge Brent Haltom. Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Potter Barrett is presenting the case for the state and Jernigan is represented by an Arkansas public defender.

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