McDowell Man's Murder Conviction Vacated


A McDowell County man is free after spending more than 14 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.


42-year-old Charles Jason Lively was released from prison following a hearing Wednesday in Mercer County. Lively’s 2006 first-degree murder conviction for the death of 70-year-old Ebb Keister “Doc” Whitley of Iaeger, was vacated.


Whitley, a doctor in Iaeger, former president of the McDowell County Commission and past member of the state House of Delegates, died from smoke inhalation and burns in March 2005 in a house fire.


Lively was later found guilty of setting that fire.


Attorneys with the West Virginia Innocence Project got involved in Lively’s case in 2017 after years of advocacy from Lively and his family.


Two investigators with the West Virginia Fire Marshal’s Office testified during Lively’s trial that two fires had been set in Whitley’s home.


New analysis since the conviction of Lively, who said he was in Wyoming County at the time of the fire, showed a different cause. An electrical fire.


Lively had been serving his sentence at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex in Fayette County.