Cellmate Killer Takes Plea Deal in Marshall County


MOUNDSVILLE — The man accused of murdering his cellmate at the Northern Regional Jail and Correctional Facility pleaded not guilty to a lesser charge Monday afternoon after attributing his actions to his mental illness.

Jonathan Jordan, 33, originally from Columbus, was already looking to spend the next 60 years in prison after being convicted of three counts of arson in 2011 in Fayette County. In 2016, Jordan was said to have killed his cellmate, David Simpkins, convicted in 2015 of sexual assault, by strangling him.

Jordan reached a plea agreement with the state before Judge Jeff Cramer. He entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental illness to a lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter, which added another 15 years in a mental health facility tacked on to the end of his sentence. Jordan was medically evaluated by Charleston doctor Timothy Saar as part of his court proceedings.

His attorneys, Brett Ferro and Marty Sheehan, said Jordan suffers from commanding hallucinations, which inhibit his ability to act rationally.

“It’s a sad situation,” Sheehan said. “Jonathan hears voices. He’s been hearing voices for a long time in his life, and that’s why the doctors have said he lacks criminal responsibility. He knows right from wrong, but the voices tell him to do stuff, and he does it. We don’t see this very often. These are bizarre.”

“They’re called command hallucinations — the hallucinations command them,” Ferro said. “He was given the 20-year sentence (for arson) consecutively. … The state considered him, considered the victim and the state’s goals were modest. They just wanted extra assurance that society would be protected from him.”

This is the second not guilty plea by mental illness in Marshall County in recent memory. Prosecutor Rhonda Wade said another man, several years ago, pleaded such to an arson charge. He had since been rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. A similar case occurred several years ago in Raleigh County, Ferro said. Such pleas are uncommon.

Wade said she had spoken with Simpkins’ mother, who was agreeable to the terms of the plea agreement.

“I’m very happy,” said Wade. “I think this was good for both sides. I spoke to the victim’s mom, and she was very happy with the outcome. … We’ve just put a little extra security on top of it. Someone like him probably shouldn’t be out in society.”

Wade pointed out that commitment to a mental hospital was as rigorous as prison, and he would not be “free,” if he makes it that long.

“We get reports annually, and if they ever do get something less secure — if they go out to the community or something like that — we get notified.”

Jordan will be up for evaluation for parole in 2025, although Ferro said that this conviction may hurt his chances.

“He understood that he probably couldn’t function outside the facility, and we probably couldn’t get the Fayette County convictions thrown out,” Ferro said.

“As his lawyers, we’re working for the conditions of his long-term confinement,” Sheehan said. “We explained, what happened today was winning, from his perspective. That’s the best we could possibly do.”