POINT PLEASANT — One of the three men accused in the 2011 murder of René Gonzalez was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Friday morning.
Chad W. McCallister, 31, Apple Grove, appeared before Judge David W. Nibert who handed down the sentence for the felony offense of voluntary manslaughter. McCallister was originally charged with first degree murder but entered into a plea agreement where he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge. Also contained in the plea agreement was a mandatory jail sentence of 10 years.
Before Judge Nibert ruled on the sentencing, he entered into the record a letter from Andrea Gonzalez, sister of the deceased. Andrea was not in the courtroom to read the letter, though Judge Nibert said in it she took issue with the terms of the plea agreement, requesting McCallister be sentenced to the maximum of 15 years in jail, not the mandatory 10 contained in the plea agreement.
Prior to Judge Nibert’s ruling, Jeff Woods, attorney for McCallister, asked Judge Nibert to consider a sentence which included home confinement. Woods said since McCallister’s incarceration 542 days prior, he’d lost his only brother in an occupational hazard incident and McCallister’s mother was in failing health. Woods said the health of McCallister’s father was also “fair at best.” Given these circumstances, Woods said McCallister’s assistance at home was greatly needed.
Woods also presented the court with letters from neighbors who would be near McCallister, all of which said they felt he posed no threat to them, and they had no issue with him being confined in their community. Woods also reminded this was McCallister’s first felony and given the time he has already served, he could be eligible for parole in 18 months.
After Woods spoke, McCallister expressed regret and remorse to the court with his family sitting behind him in support. After admitting to some “scuffles” with Gonzalez prior to the murder, McCallister seemed to indicate the end result of Gonzalez’s death was not what he wanted.
Last year, Matthew C. Woods, 25, Gallipolis Ferry, testified at his own plea hearing that McCallister had called him to ask that he give a “buddy” a ride. The “buddy” was later identified by Woods as Steven L. Adkins, Jr. 26, Apple Grove, the man law enforcement believes actually shot Gonzalez. Woods said he went to McCallistser’s home on Millstone Road where the three men entered into a plan to “rob and maybe assault” Gonzalez — during this questioning, Woods never used the word “murder.” However, when questioned further, then Prosecuting Attorney Damon Morgan asked if all three men knew of the possibilities of robbing or causing harm to Gonzalez, which Woods confirmed.
Judge Nibert approved McCallister’s plea agreement, calling it “fair”, and at that point imposed the 10-year prison sentence. However, he denied the request for home confinement. Judge Nibert said he realized there were mitigating circumstances involving McCallister’s family, including the death of his brother and his ill mother, but a man lost his life. For this reason, the judge said he couldn’t approve the alternative sentencing of home confinement.
Representing the state at Friday’s sentencing was Morgan, who was appointed as a special prosecutor for this case given that his term in office ran out on Dec. 31, just prior to the McCallister sentencing.
Woods pleaded guilty to second degree murder last year and was sentenced to a definite term of 10 years with the department of corrections by Judge Nibert. Adkins is set to go to trial in March for his alleged role in the Gonzalez murder.