CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS) — A Kanawha County judge handed down the maximum sentence possible under a plea agreement in what was initially a first-degree murder case.
Clarence Haley Jr., 25, previously pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for the shooting death of Ronell Huff, 43, of Charleston.
In Aug. 2020, police said Haley got into an argument with Huff inside a home on Seventh Avenue and Haley pulled out a gun and shot Huff in the chest.
Haley ran from the scene and was not taken into custody for six months. Judge Tera Salango noted during the virtual sentencing hearing on Wednesday that when Haley was finally apprehended, he was found with a gun and drugs. “I’m left with the fact that you took another man’s life and after that you were on the run for six months,” Salango said before sentencing Haley to 15 years in prison.
Haley’s attorney, Robby Long, asked the court for a more lenient sentence of five years, pointing out that Haley had grown up “in challenging circumstances.” “He chose to take responsibility for his involvement in this case,” Long said. “For that, I think the court should give him some consideration.”
Haley addressed the court briefly and said he was sorry. “I never did this out of malice or however they painted a picture of me. It wasn’t like that,” he said.
Deanna McKinney, a Charleston councilwoman and West Side community advocate who lost her 19-year-old son to gun violence in 2014, testified for Haley. She said he was a “good kid” but had not got the proper guidance or had access to resources to keep him out of trouble. She said Haley’s own father was taken due to gun violence.
“I’m trying my best to build resources and do things in the community, to where children like him, or when he comes home, he can be an asset to the community, which I know he can be. I’m just asking for leniency,” McKinney said. “He does not deserve the maximum and I know he is going to be successful because I will be more involved in his life.”
Huff’s father, Ronnell Huff, and sister, Yolanda Huff, also addressed the court.
“He’s talking about a plea bargain I would like to be able to plea bargain my mind that I have to go through everyday,” the victim’s father testified.
“I’m just asking for justice. All of this calling about making excuses, where they grew up, if he were that concerned, he should have listened.,” Huff said. “It’s a hard thing to lose your only son. I make no excuses for him or his life. I’m just speaking from my heart.”
The victim’s sister said she felt differently than her father, especially when it comes to forgiveness. She said she was trying not to look at the camera because it was hard for her to see Haley. “I have hatred in my heart for this person.”
Yolanda Huff also read letters from Huff’s two twin boys, who are now 10-years-old. One wrote, “Dear Judge, this has been a hard year. I miss my daddy. I hope he gets punished for what he did and I hope you have a blessed day, Judge.”
The other asked for the judge to put Haley in jail. “He really hurt me when my dad died and I feel like he should get a long time for that,” the boy said in his letter.