MOUNT VERNON, Mo. – A Lawrence County man accused in the death of a man whose body was found in a burn pile in rural Verona has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Matthew Abney, 39, one of two people charged in connection with the death, was set for trial next week but has changed his plea to guilty under a plea agreement with Lawrence County prosecutors.

He entered an Alford plea to second-degree murder on Tuesday (6/21/22). He has originally been charged with first-degree murder and multiple charges of assault, armed criminal action, robbery, evidence tampering, and abandonment of a corpse.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit to a crime but acknowledges that evidence is likely to result in a conviction.

He was charged with the death of 52-year-old Coy Cole, reported missing by his family in December 2019.

Lawrence County Sheriff’s deputies followed leads involving Cole’s vehicle, his cell phone, and his financial records and eventually found his body in a burn pile after deputies searched through a property in Verona.

A second defendant, Tanya Moore, 41, is charged with abandonment of a corpse and evidence tampering. She is next to appear in court on July 12.

A second man, Ray Fryling, was initially charged with Coy’s killing, but those charges were dropped.

Sheriff Brad Delay said at the time Moore and Abney were arrested that Moore admitted to helping Fryling and Abney wrap Cole’s body in a shower curtain and then burn it.