LIMA — Ross McWay no longer was smiling as he pleaded not guilty Wednesday to aggravated murder, a charge that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.
McWay, 37, also is charged with a repeat violent offender specification for his 2002 conviction of voluntary manslaughter for killing a man. That specification carries an additional 10 years in prison.
He was being held in the Putnam County jail for an undisclosed reason in lieu of $2.5 million bail. Judge Jeffrey Reed appointed an attorney to represent McWay after he told the judge he didn’t have the money to hire an attorney.
Reed scheduled a pretrial for Feb. 21.
McWay was released from jail two days before the slaying of Wendy Jeffers on Jan. 15, the crime for which he was charged. He was released after his acquittal on rape charges. During his rape trial, especially after his acquittal, McWay sat in court frequently smiling, particularly when he looked back at his family. He spent most of the hearing Wednesday with a serious look on his face, often looking down at the table in front of him.
Jeffers’ body was found inside her home at 1112 N. Main St. McWay told a police detective he grabbed Jeffers by the throat and strangled her. When he discovered she still was breathing he held her head under water.
The 39-year-old Jeffers told co-workers in the days preceding her death she was concerned about McWay, who was her ex-boyfriend. She said he was upset that she did not want to get back together with him. Co-workers called the Police Department when she didn’t show for work. An officer found her dead in her home.
McWay served 13 years in prison for killing Jimmy Bunley in 2001. He and another man shot at the car Bunley was driving, causing him to crash. McWay and the other man then ran up to the car and shot Bunley six times. Bunley died from his injuries.
The rape charges were in connection with an incident that took place March 23 involving a woman McWay met at a bar. The woman bought drugs off McWay but when she didn’t have money to pay for drugs a second time, she agreed to have sex with McWay but wanted to stop in the middle of it.
The woman asked for a ride home and McWay agreed. Later that night, McWay kept pursuing the woman for sex as payment. The woman said she refused and accused McWay of raping her.
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.