BUCKHANNON — One of two men who allegedly kidnapped another man earlier this year has accepted a plea agreement to go to the Anthony Center for Youthful Male Offenders.
Eighteen-year-old Kody Linger pled guilty through an information on April 5, 2017 to one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and one count of unlawful assault.
He had previously been arrested for grand larceny, kidnapping and battery and could have faced life in prison for the kidnapping charge.
Linger entered a plea agreement in which he agreed to cooperate against his co-defendant, Bernie Jasper Cook, 28, of French Creek.
In March, Cook and Linger allegedly beat Eric Fultz in the head and face, duct-taped his mouth and hands and forced him into the trunk of his own vehicle, according to a previous article. The pair then drove from River Road to Brushy Fork Mart. Fultz was able to cut himself free and then pulled the trunk release when the vehicle stopped.
Fultz ran inside the Brushy Fork Mart, where the store clerk called 911. Cook allegedly tried to force him back into the vehicle but ultimately left with Linger before law enforcement arrived.
Cook continues to be held without bond in Tygart Valley Regional Jail.
Godwin said he expects Cook’s case to be presented to the Upshur County Grand Jury but did not say if it would be the one convening Monday. The grand jury also meets in September and January of each year.
Godwin said the victim may not be able to testify and Linger’s testimony against Cook was needed should the case go to trial.
Steve Nanners, representing Linger, noted his client’s drug issue and his work towards getting a GED. He noted that Linger had cooperated with authorities since his arrest.
Judge Kurt Hall noted the seriousness of the offense but agreed that Cook was likely more culpable in the case.
“Frankly, this is probably one of the most serious [offenses] I have ever seen,” he said. “I think the crime merits penitentiary.”
The judge noted references that Linger was allegedly on heroin and meth at the time of the crime.
“That is not any kind of defense,” Hall said. “In fact, that makes it even worse.”
Hall said he would go along with the recommendation of the attorneys so that Linger can testify against Cook.
With that, the judge sentenced Linger to the Anthony Center for Youthful Male Offenders provided he cooperates with the state’s case.
“I’m not at all happy but I recognize this is a help to Mr. Godwin,” Hall said.
If Linger completes the program successfully, he can be placed on probation when he comes back for sentencing. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Linger could be sentenced to two to 10 years in prison.
The judge also said he was surprised that Linger made no comments when given the opportunity earlier in the hearing.
“I would have at least expected to have some kind of remorse or indication that you are sorry,” he said.
The judge ordered Linger to write a letter to the court.