WEST POINT, Neb. -- An Oakland, Nebraska, woman has pleaded guilty to providing false information to authorities investigating the death of a man found in a burned house.
Jenna Merrill, 32, entered her plea Thursday in Cuming County District Court to one count of accessory to a felony.
Merrill entered into a plea agreement in which prosecutors said that if Merrill continues to cooperate in the case, the state would make no sentencing recommendations and would file no additional charges against her. Merrill will remain in custody prior to her sentencing, which was scheduled for Feb. 7.
She is the second person to plead guilty in connection with the March 10, 2017, death of Ernest Warnock, of rural Rosalie, Nebraska.
Becky Weitzenkamp, 43, of Oakland, was sentenced in October to 18-20 years in prison on one count of accessory to a felony. She pleaded guilty to buying a can of lighter fluid and then driving Derek Olson to Warnock's house to set it on fire.
According to court documents, Derek and Jody Olson were at Warnock's home to retrieve property belonging to Weitzenkamp, who also was present. A fight broke out, and Warnock stabbed Jody Olson in the arm before Derek Olson stabbed Warnock several times in the neck and head and hit him in the head with a ball peen hammer. An autopsy found that Warnock, 64, was dead before his home was set on fire.
Warnock's body was found inside the burned rubble the next day.
According to court documents, Merrill told a law enforcement officer that stopped a car in which she, Derek Olson, Jody Olson and Becky Weitzenkamp were riding on the night of March 10 that Jody Olson had been stabbed at a fight at the Bonanza Bar in Homer, Nebraska, and they were taking him to a Sioux City hospital.
Investigators later determined that the four had not been at the bar and that Jody Olson had been injured during the altercation with Warnock. Investigators later found clothing and a knife in a trash container near where Merrill was living with Derek Olson.
Jody Olson, 49, and his son, Derek Olson, 29, both of Oakland, each have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, accessory to a felony, use of a weapon to commit a felony and first-degree arson. Derek Olson also is charged with cruelty to an animal for the death of a dog in the fire.
Jody Olson is scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 14. Derek Olson's trial is scheduled for March 11.