BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — A Beckley, West Virginia man pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the August 2021 slaying of 29-year-old Tonya Adkins of Beckley.
Ronald J. McClung, 41, entered the plea before Raleigh County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Dimlich on Tuesday, February 7, 2023. He now faces 15 years to life in prison when Dimlich hands down a sentence on May 9, 2023.
Adkins’ family reported her missing to Beckley Police Department on August 18, 2021, reportedly telling police they had last seen her on August 15, 2021.
Her family made pleas on social media for information on her whereabouts. McClung had shared at least one of the posts, his personal Facebook page showed.
Police recovered Adkins’ body from a wooded area near New River Drive in Beckley on September 8, 2023, and Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department officers also entered the investigation, due to jurisdiction.
According to police, witnesses came forward and reported McClung had confessed to killing Adkins, and he was arrested.
Police said Adkins visited McClung’s apartment in mid-August. The two argued, and McClung reportedly struck her in the head with a baseball bat. Police said he sexually assaulted her as she was dying and then left her in a creek bed along New River Drive. She died of injuries sustained in the attack, according to police.
DNA evidence also connects him to Adkins’ sexual assault and murder, according to police.
Judge Dimlich denied McClung’s request for bond in October 2021.
McClung withdrew from a previous plea deal last month, and his trial was set for March 28, 2023, prior to his February 7 plea.
Although he has no prior record of a violent crime, Parsons said the state will object to any request McClung and his attorney, public defender Stacey Fragile, may make at the sentencing hearing.
Essentially, Parsons said, McClung will have the same sentencing guidelines as he would have faced if a jury had found him guilty of Adkins’ murder.
“Sometimes, a person commits an act so violent, and so depraved on one occasion, it not only takes the life of someone, but it ruins that person’s life, as well, and that’s what you have, in this situation,” Parsons said, following the plea hearing.
Adkins’ family and friends crowded the courtroom, some of them wearing T-shirts which showed support for Adkins.
“They’ve met with us and provided us information whenever we’ve needed it, and it’s so appreciated, to have a family and friends that support what we’re doing in memory and trying to get justice for Tonya,” said Parsons.