VAN BUREN -- The uncle of a Crawford County jail inmate who died in October of a reported drug overdose pleaded guilty Wednesday in county Circuit Court to criminal charges stemming from his nephew's death.
David Alverson Sr., 51, of Fort Smith pleaded guilty at a hearing Wednesday to one felony count each of manslaughter, possession of methamphetamine and being a habitual offender, according to court records.
Alverson was sentenced to 15 years in prison for each of the first two charges, which will run concurrently. The manslaughter charge also netted him 15 additional years that were suspended. Alverson will receive credit for time he served in jail that started Oct. 14.
Alverson was charged with manslaughter and being a habitual offender in connection with the death of Jacob Allen Jones, 26, of Van Buren on Dec. 13.
Alverson pleaded not guilty to the charge Dec. 14, court records show. Prosecutor Kevin Holmes added two more felony charges against Alverson on March 14 -- introduction of a controlled substance into the body of another person (schedule I-III) and possession of less than two grams of a schedule I/II controlled substance.
Alverson's jury trial was originally scheduled for July 25 before being postponed to Friday, according to court records.
A probable cause affidavit says Van Buren police arrested Alverson and Jones for "warrants and other charges" Oct. 14.
Edwin Bishop, the law enforcement officer who wrote the affidavit, was called to the county jail Oct. 15 after Jones was found unresponsive in the facility. Jones was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
Bishop reported video footage of Alverson's and Jones' arrest showed Alverson at the time was concealing a small box on his person. The box was opened up, and Alverson tried to dispose of its contents by swallowing them.
"During the video footage, you can hear [Alverson] state that it is 'two 8-balls,' [he] then struggles to swallow them and gives [Jones] one of them to dispose of, [Jones] then swallows the contents on video, and they are then transported to the detention center," Bishop wrote.
Alverson said during an interview he gave Jones empty baggies to swallow, according to Bishop.
However, in a recorded setting Alverson reportedly told someone who Bishop identified as David Alverson Jr. he had the contents in his mouth while in the back of the police car with Jones. Alverson Sr. said he couldn't chew up the contents due to not having back teeth and said he "felt the rock" when he bit down on the baggies.
Bishop noted this indicated the baggies weren't empty.
"David did not inform law enforcement that Jacob had swallowed anything prior to Jacob being found unconscious or after until it was discovered by video footage through investigation," Bishop wrote.
Bishop wrote the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory in Little Rock did an autopsy on Jones' body. The state medical examiner reported a partially open baggie was found in Jones' body with stomach fluid inside. The examiner provided overdose as a preliminary cause of death, with the contents of the baggie testing positive for methamphetamine.
Jimmy Damante, who was Crawford County sheriff when Jones died, released some preliminary facts concerning his department's investigation into Jones' death via the Sheriff's Office Facebook page Oct. 19, along with vehicle video footage from the Van Buren Police Department. Damante attributed the incident to a drug overdose and identified Alverson Sr. as Jones' uncle.
Jones' estate filed a federal lawsuit against Crawford County and several employees at the jail in connection with Jones' death in U.S. District Court on Thursday.