Sheriff: Man admits he killed wife, dumped body

December 5, 2008

VERSAILLES — The Morgan County man charged with murdering his wife who had been missing since 2003 admitted that he pushed her off a 10-foot-high deck and then dumped her body on an island, Sheriff James Petty said Friday.

Michael Shane Yarnell, 39, was charged with second-degree murder, two counts of voluntary manslaughter and one of involuntary manslaughter in the death of his wife, Michelle “Angie” Yarnell. Her mother, Marianne Asher-Chapman, reported her missing days after she disappeared in 2003.

The Sheriff’s Department informed Angie Yarnell’s mother about the charges Thursday night, Petty said.

“Certainly her mom will have some closure, and we will also,” Petty said. “It’s a sad ending; however, now we can have closure on the whole situation.”

Asher-Chapman said she did not know how to react to the confirmation of her daughter’s death and the homicide charges filed against Michael Yarnell.

“I don’t know yet,” she told The Democrat. “I’m just kind of numb.”

Asher-Chapman remained vigilant for five years after her daughter disappeared. She and another woman started the Web site, to help others in similar situations. Angie Yarnell was 28 when she disappeared.

Michael Yarnell told officers Thursday morning that his wife died after the two argued, and he pushed her off the deck of their Ivy Bend home, Petty said. She died when she fell from the 10-foot-high deck.

Yarnell said he took the body by boat to an uninhabited island off the Osage River near Ivy Bend, where he left her remains. Petty said Yarnell led investigators to the island about 4 miles from the Yarnells’ former home.

Investigators continued Friday to search for Angie Yarnell’s remains, which apparently were not buried.

“It has been five years, so we’re just looking for any remains,” Petty said.

Morgan County Prosecutor Marvin Opie said the four charges Yarnell faces are for the benefit of the jury. He said Yarnell would be convicted of one, if any, but the extra charges would allow the jury to find him guilty on a lesser charge if the case lacks sufficient evidence to convict him on the murder charge.

If convicted of murder, Yarnell could face life in prison.

Michael Yarnell had disappeared in 2005. Asher-Chapman filed the missing persons report on him as his mother-in-law, and that helped police track him down in Mississippi.

He also faces forgery and tampering with evidence charges, which were filed in November, after Asher-Chapman told officers she received a post card that her daughter was alleged to have sent to on Nov. 7, 2003. The post card purportedly was written by the missing woman and was mailed from Harrison, Ark.

Michael Yarnell told police he sent Asher-Chapman the post card, Petty said.

In the past few weeks, additional interviews led to a search warrant for the home of Michael Yarnell’s former stepfather. Investigators discovered personal items belonging to Angie Yarnell, which they believed she would have taken with her had she fled, as the post card indicated.

With these items, it became clear to investigators that Michael Yarnell’s story “didn’t match up,” Petty said. When Michael Yarnell was confronted with this new evidence, he confessed to killing his wife, the sheriff said.