Jonathan McClard speaks about the Jackson shooting that sent him to prison

Friday, December 28, 2007
Jonathan McClard is now an inmate at Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green, Mo., after being sentenced to 30 years for shooting Jeremy Voshage in July. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

BOWLING GREEN, Mo. -- When sheriff's officers escorted Jonathan McClard from a Mississippi County courtroom Nov. 13, the 16-year-old's head was closely shaven and the orange Department of Corrections jumpsuit hung on his gaunt frame.

A month and a half later, as he sat handcuffed in an interview room at Northeast Correctional Center, McClard's blond curls have grown back, he's gained 10 pounds and now sports a tear-shaped tattoo under his right eye, in honor, he said, of the unborn child his ex-girlfriend lost.

Another noticeable change is the trace of remorse the teenager shows for the crime that landed him a 30-year prison sentence, the shooting of Jeremy Voshage, 17.

Voshage spent month after month in physical therapy, and several confined to a wheelchair. McClard said he had heard Voshage's injuries were healing well and that he was "extremely happy about it."

When a surveillance camera captured McClard calmly drinking a soda after shooting Voshage three times and leaving him badly injured on the blacktop at Shawnee Square Car Wash in Jackson on July 10, McClard said he figured there was no point in lying to police when they arrived.

He confessed to the crime then and there.

On Oct. 9, McClard pleaded guilty to first-degree assault. He received the maximum sentence from Circuit Judge David A. Dolan at the November hearing.

McClard's attorney, Patrick McMenamin, had requested a dual jurisdiction sentence that would have put McClard under the care of the Division of Youth Services until his 17th birthday Jan. 1, at which point he'd be re-evaluated. Dolan ruled against it.

Destination 'about the worst there is'

Dolan's decision sent McClard to Northeast, classified as a high medium-security facility, where he will be housed in a separate area until New Year's Day, when he turns 17. Then he will be transported to the Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston, Mo., where he will live among the general prison population.

He's nervous about the Charleston prison, he said.

"It's a C5 level, which is about the worst there is," he said, using to the Department of Corrections term for maximum security.

Aside from spending 10 days in "the hole," or solitary confinement, for a disagreement with a corrections officer, McClard described his incarceration up to this point as relatively boring.

He took his high school equivalency test a few weeks ago and feels fairly confident he passed.

Now, he's spending the time doing what high school graduates do: applying for colleges. Several colleges will send classes to the Missouri state prisons, allowing him to work toward earning a degree in psychology.

"I've always liked the study of the mind," he said.

McClard said he knew the dual jurisdiction sentence would have been too light, considering his actions, but he thought the maximum penalty was too severe. He plans on filing an appeal to try to reduce the sentence to 20 years, he said.

Because McClard pleaded guilty to the charge in exchange for the removal of a charge of armed criminal action, he has zero chance of winning an appeal, said Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle.

Since his incarceration, McClard has been studying up on the law. He now regrets pleading guilty.

"I think I could have gotten it dropped to second degree because it was a crime of passion," he said.

From the beginning of their investigation, Jackson police officers labeled the shooting a "love-triangle dispute."

McClard met his ex-girlfriend at a bowling alley in Jackson, and the two began dating soon after, embarking on a stormy relationship that lasted nearly a year before succumbing to jealousy, he said.

When they broke up, McClard cited trust issues as the reason.

"She actually wanted to get back together, but I got mad that she kissed Jeremy, and I started dating someone else," he said.

Karen Oberman, Voshage's mother, said at the sentencing it was then that McClard began threatening her son, about four or five weeks before the shooting.

The girlfriend heard McClard threaten to kill Voshage, Oberman said, and two weeks before the shooting, McClard attacked Voshage with a group of friends, leaving bloody scratches and bruises on his throat.

McClard described the fight as one-on-one and said there had been other people there, including the girl they fought over, but he and Voshage were the only ones who threw any punches.

Tracy McClard told the court her son said he had been dealing with repeated phone calls from Voshage's girlfriend, who said she was pregnant and that Voshage was forcing her to use cocaine.

"I was completely out of my head," McClard said of his state of mind at the time he shot Voshage.

He began popping pills containing the cold medication dextromethorphan and took some marijuana before retrieving his father's .22-caliber rifle, placing it in a guitar case. He called Voshage, asking him to meet at the car wash.

"He came down, and I shot him. I wasn't aiming, I wasn't thinking," McClard said of his actions.

The first shot hit Voshage in the spine. McClard loaded the gun twice more, firing into his rival's groin and again into his ankle.

When Voshage asked "why," McClard said he replied, "I love that girl."

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

Jonathan McClard, 16, wore restraints during an interview Wednesday at the Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green, Mo. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

335-6611, extension 245

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