SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. — A Nicholas County man who killed two adults and two children and then dumped their bodies near his Leivasy home last year will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
Nicholas County Prosecuting Attorney P.K. Milam said James Roy Belknap, 27, abruptly plead guilty to four counts of first degree murder on Wednesday night.
Belknap gunned down Steven Leroy Hendrix, his girlfriend, Amber Martin, and Hendrix’s two kids, Dakota, age six, and Kaylee, age four.
Their bodies, which had been stripped, were found in May 2012 after they were reported missing.
Milam says Belknap originally confessed to the crimes but then recanted and tried to blame someone else.
“We were able to show that there wasn’t anyone else involved,” he said. “But all along, he wouldn’t admit, after the first statement, to killing these two children particularly.”
That changed Wednesday night following a pretrial hearing ahead of Belknap’s trial which was scheduled to begin on August 13.
Milam said Belknap volunteered to plead guilty to the murders if separate accessory charges were dropped against his then-girlfriend and another man. They were charged with transporting Belknap following the crimes.
“That’s the only plea that we would accept on this, was something that would guarantee that this man will never be back on the streets again,” said Milam.
State Police have said they think Hendrix went to Belknap’s Leivasy home to collect a drug debt.
On Thursday afternoon, Milam and an investigator were scheduled to sit down to question Belknap about what happened leading up to the murders during a debriefing that was a condition of his plea.
Belknap also reportedly wants to plead guilty to the 2005 murder of Richard Parnell.
Belknap’s father, Kenneth, is serving a life sentence for killing Parnell and burning his body for shorting he and his son on cocaine. James Belknap had originally been charged with a role in that crime.
That plea request is something investigators will be reviewing.
For now, Milam said they will move forward with the case for the 2012 murders. He talked with the family members of those victims on Wednesday night. “They’re just ecstatic that we don’t have to go through a long, drawn out trial and that this guy is never going to see the light of day again.”
Belknap will be sentenced on August 28. At that point, a judge will decide whether mercy will be granted. Milam said he thinks mercy is unlikely which means Belknap would spend the rest of his life in prison.
“If I was a betting man, there’s no way he’s getting mercy on any of these,” he said. “He’s looking at four life sentences.”
Milam was a guest on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”