By Jeff Lehr
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Ronald G. Inman pleaded guilty Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter in the beating death two years ago of 43-year-old Travis Weaver, of Carthage.
The 32-year-old Webb City man’s decision to accept a plea offer came shortly before jury selection was to begin for his trial in Jasper County Circuit Court in Joplin on a charge of second-degree murder.
Voluntary manslaughter is a Class B felony offense carrying a punishment range of five to 15 years. Since Inman was being prosecuted as a prior and persistent offender, however, he remains subject to the penalty range for Class A felonies, such as second-degree murder, which carry 10 to 30 years, or up to life, in prison.
The inducement for Inman in the deal is that he will not have to serve a minimum of 85 percent of his sentence as he would have with a second-degree murder conviction. Circuit Judge David Dally deferred action on the plea bargain until the defendant’s sentencing hearing Sept. 23.
Weaver died of blunt-force trauma to his head suffered during a dispute with Inman on Sept. 1, 2011, outside a residence at 5146 E. 20th St., east of Joplin.
Inman told a Jasper County sheriff’s detective after the slaying that Weaver had been pressuring him to get him some methamphetamine, which he did not wish to do. When Weaver hit Inman’s girlfriend, the couple decided to leave the house, and he took their bags outside, Inman told the detective. On the way out, Inman picked up a piece of wood and placed it with their bags behind some bushes, according to his own account to the investigator.
The detective testified at a preliminary hearing in 2011 that Inman acknowledged that he hit Weaver twice in the head with the piece of wood after the victim came out on the porch of the residence.
Inman claimed that he hit Weaver in self-defense as Weaver arose from a chair on the porch and came at him with a knife. But no knife was found at the scene, and blood evidence suggested that Weaver never made it out of the chair before being struck, the detective testified.
The medical examiner who performed the autopsy reportedly believed that Weaver suffered more than two blows to his face and head. The weapon involved was described by the detective as similar to a table leg.
The defendant and his girlfriend left the address after the beating. Inman turned himself in the next morning.
RONALD INMAN has felony convictions for possession of a controlled substance in 2000 in McDonald County and in 2010 in Jasper County.