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Esmeralda murder suspect takes plea deal

A suspect in the July 2013 murder of a Silver Peak man has reportedly taken a plea deal in the case and will be sentenced on a single charge of second degree murder next month.

Jason Taaffe, 34, was originally charged with first degree murder in the death of Charles H. Kinkel III, after admitting to police in December that he had shot the man after he said he allegedly witnessed Kinkel attempting to molest a 10-year-old girl.

The charge was reduced to one count of second degree murder in exchange for the suspect’s guilty plea.

Co-defendant Coleman Ward, 42, has reportedly not accepted any kind of deal from the DA’s office at this time.

Kinkel was first reported missing on July 24, 2013 after his wife attempted to call him several times unsuccessfully to wake him up for work that morning.

When she received no answer, she called his boss at the mining company he had just started with, who said Kinkel hadn’t shown up for work that day.

The distraught wife then called police, who subsequently found Kinkel’s silver 2010 Toyota Matrix near the junction of U. S. Hwy. 95 and State Route 265 on July 25, 2013.

More than four months later, Kinkel’s body was discovered at the bottom of a well, a gunshot wound in his head on Dec. 15, 2013 by two people collecting firewood near Silver Peak.

Taaffe and Ward were arrested five days later.

According to the police report, Taaffe and Coleman conspired to “take Charles hunting” as revenge for what he’d allegedly tried to do.

“Jason said he took a pistol and 7.62 Mosin Nagant rifle with Coleman and Charles in Coleman’s pickup and went into the hills south of Silver Peak to a place he was unfamiliar with that had three old buildings and a covered well,” the police report states. “Jason told me (the investigator) that he walked around for a couple of hours with Coleman urging him to just do it until Jason shot Charlie in the head.”

Before dumping Kinkel’s body in the well, Taaffe told police he took the victim’s wallet and car keys. After returning to Silver Peak, Ward allegedly drove Kinkel’s car to Blair Junction. Taaffe followed and picked up Ward, returning to Silver Peak afterward. Taaffe, according to the arrest report, told police he threw Kinkel’s car keys and wallet into the desert near a construction yard and went home.

Police were able to recover the suspected murder weapon at Taaffe’s residence. After writing out a confession, Taaffe was placed under arrest and transferred to the Tonopah jail.

Ward, however, denied having anything to do with Kinkel’s death when interviewed by police. He told deputies that Kinkel was alive the last time he saw him.

As of Thursday afternoon, both men were still listed in custody in Esmeralda County.

Taaffe is scheduled to appear in court on July 16 for sentencing.

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