Man pleads guilty to manslaughter, abuse of corpse in Lincoln County

Published 6:25 pm Thursday, March 28, 2019


Contributing Writer

STANFORD — A man originally charged with the murder of April Neikirk pleaded guilty in Lincoln County Circuit Court last week to a reduced charge.

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Otha Wesley, 47, pleaded guilty March 22 to one count of first-degree manslaughter for killing 46-year-old April Neikirk last year. Neikirk was first reported missing in May last year. Her body was found on Ike Singleton Road, a remote area of Lincoln County, on June 5.

Wesley was arrested June 7 and originally charged with murder (domestic violence), abuse of a corpse, tampering with physical evidence, kidnapping and being a persistent felon. Following Wesley’s arrest, two more people were arrested in connection with Neikirk’s death, including Whitney D. Soard of Ferguson and former Pulaski County Deputy Jailer Sheila Keith.

According to arrest warrants for Wesley and Soard, Wesley was seen on or around April 26 “shoving, punching, dragging and kicking (Neikirk), causing serious injury, all while the victim pleaded for her life.” Soard was allegedly at the residence when the alleged assault occurred and told Neikirk “that the assault would stop if the victim would stop talking,” according to her arrest warrant.

Kentucky State Police also allege Soard refused to contact law enforcement about the incident and made arrangements for the use of a vehicle to transport Neikirk’s body. Soard “attempted to conceal the death by disposing of her body” with Wesley, according to her arrest warrant.

Wesley was indicted on the original charges and Soard and Keith were both indicted for criminal facilitation to murder and tampering with physical evidence. Soard was also indicted for abuse of a corpse, according to the Aug. 1 indictment.

Friday last week, Wesley pleaded guilty to the amended charge, as well as one count of tampering with physical evidence and abuse of a corpse.

Following a mediation, Wesley agreed to serve 23 years for the death of Neikirk, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Neal Tucker.

“He will have to serve 85 percent (of the time),” Tucker said. “(Commonwealth’s Attorney) Eddy Montgomery and I mediated with the defense team and came to a resolution that the family was good with.”

April Neikirk’s daughter, Kaitlyn, said it’s been a long, hard road for the family.

“Nothing can bring our mom back. No amount of prison time could bring her back to us,” she said. “Although it doesn’t seem like justice in our eyes, it’s something we have to accept because it is not our decision. We know one day the people responsible for taking our mom’s life will have to stand before God and that will be the real judgement day.”

Keith agreed to cooperate with the prosecution and to testify, Tucker said.

According to court documents, Keith pleaded guilty to facilitation of murder and tampering with physical evidence and was sentenced to five years for each charge, to run concurrently for a total of five years.

The sentence will “run consecutively to the probation sentence on a separate Pulaski County indictment,” according to court documents. After serving five years, Keith will be placed on supervised probation for five years, on the condition that she doesn’t commit another offense.

Soard’s case was still pending as of Friday, according to Tucker.

Tucker said Kentucky State Police Detective Cameron Allen investigated Wesley and did “an incredible job” putting the case together and getting it ready for prosecution.