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Three plead guilty in jailhouse assault death

Becky Campbell • Nov 18, 2019 at 10:00 PM

Three of the six men charged in a December jailhouse beating death — including the man authorities say delivered the fatal blow — pleaded guilty Monday in a Washington County courtroom to charges related to the incident.

The six were charged in an alleged conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in the death of Joseph Lockner, 29, 109 Sheri St., Gray. He was found unresponsive Dec. 17 on the bathroom floor of a minimum security cell block by a detention officer after the officer heard a commotion in the bathroom area.

Lockner was transported to Johnson City Medical Center and was on life support when he died Dec. 20.

Officials said they originally thought Lockner’s collapse was due to a medical issue, but soon came to believe he’d been attacked. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation assisted Washington County with the investigation and obtained presentments against the six men.

The men charged were:

• John Z. Woodard, 23, charged with reckless homicide, aggravated assault resulting in death and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in death. He pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and was sentenced to six years in prison. Woodard was the one who actually struck Lockner in the back of the head, according to Assistant District Attorney General Justin Irick.

• Jonathan R. Pearson, 38, was charged with aggravated assault resulting in death and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in death. He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault resulting in death and was sentenced to six years in prison with a 30% release eligibility date. The second charge was dismissed.

• Steve Necessary, 43, was charged with conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in death, and he pleaded to that charge Monday. Necessary was sentenced to serve eight years in prison with a 35% release eligibility date. He entered guilty pleas to other unrelated charges as well.

In a previous hearing, Glendon R. Wilkerson, 40, pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact to aggravated assault resulting in death because he initially would not cooperate with investigators about what he heard and saw. He was not involved in the deadly assault.

Two other men still face charges in the case.

Wesley E. Clouse, 23, was charged with aggravated assault resulting in death and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in death, and Cody J. Albu, 23, was charged with aggravated assault resulting in death and conspiracy to commit aggravated assault resulting in death.

Their cases were reset to Dec. 16.

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