Jan McKinley Williams Jr.

PRINCETON — A Mercer County resident pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree murder stemming from the October 2018 shooting death of a Princeton man.

Jan McKinley Williams Jr., 25, was scheduled for a plea hearing before Circuit Court Judge Derek Swope. Williams was facing a first-degree murder charge in the Oct. 28, 2018 death of 29-year-old Jason Varney, who was shot twice outside a Kee Street home in Princeton. He was later pronounced dead at Princeton Community Hospital.

After being reminded of his right to a jury trial, Williams pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, which carries a possible penalty of 10 to 40 years in prison, according to records at the Mercer County Circuit Clerk’s Office.

Swope did not immediately accept the plea, and ordered a presentencing investigation before determining on Aug. 6 whether the court would accept it. Members of Varney’s family, who attended the plea hearing Tuesday, had objected to the plea agreement.

Williams is being held at the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver.

The case started approximately 3:25 p.m. on Oct. 28, 2018 when Mercer County 911 received a call about a person who was shot at Kee Street near the intersection with Wickham Avenue. Princeton Police Department Detective Lt. Eric Pugh testified during a November 2018 preliminary hearing that Williams was later detained near South Wickham Street by Lt. J.D. Halsey. Williams was found about a quarter of a mile from the scene after a witness, who was the victim’s girlfriend, described the shooter.

The witness called Williams by the nickname “Sosa,” which was a name police found tattooed on his arm. Pugh testified during the preliminary hearing that the victim, Varney, had two counterfeit $100 bills in his possession and Williams had one; all three had the same serial numbers and what appeared to be “small but distinct” Chinese writing on their backs.

Pugh also testified that police found the victim’s cellphone, and that it contained “mostly drug-related” messages between him and Williams. The messages found on Williams’s cellphone corresponded with those on Varney’s phone. Based on the messages, Williams had been “shorted” on a previous drug deal. Pugh stated he did not know how long any argument between the two men went back. A witness said that Varney became “outraged, nervous” when Williams approached his car, and that Varney was “afraid of him.”

Williams was indicted in June 2016 on a charge of accessory after the fact related to the January 2016 shooting death of a Bluefield man outside the Quality Inn off Route 460 in Bluefield.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com