CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — A case that involved a missing Charles Town man that eventually led investigators to a landfill in Greencastle Pennsylvania has ended in a conviction in a Jefferson County Circuit Court.

41-year-old Charles “CJ” Wilbert Cook, Jr., age 41, was convicted last Thursday (August 18) of felony counts including Voluntary Manslaughter, Concealment of a Deceased Human Body, and Felony Conspiracy.

Cook had been accused of killing James Michael Kerns, age 39, on May 23, 2021, at the Motel 6 located at 106 Jefferson Terrace Road in Charles Town.

Jefferson County Prosecutor Matt Harvey tells the Panhandle News Network the investigation began in June of last year when an anonymous call came in reporting ‘the smell of death’ coming out of a room at the motel.
An investigator with the West Virginia State Police, Cpl. Perry, discovered a mattress with a large brown stain that tests later indicated were human blood.

Cook and his girlfriend Amanda Frey had checked out of that room the previous day.

The investigation determined that the victim had been staying with the pair in the motel room on May 18, 2021. Cook said he had not seen Kerns alive since May 23, 2021.

Cook denied any personal knowledge of the brown stain on the mattress or the cause of the smell in the room.

But Frey eventually admitted that Kerns died in the room, saying Cook and Kerns had an argument in the early morning hours of May 23, 2021. She reported seeing Kerns in bed bleeding from his right side and Cook was panicking. She believed Cook stabbed Kerns.

Frey said she and Cook were in the room with Kerns’s body for at least five days.

Investigators say Cook then wrapped the body of James Kerns in a blanket, put the body in a trash can, hauled trash can to a dumpster at the Motel 6, and then disposed of the body in the dumpster.

Cook reportedly took James Kerns’s backpack and bag containing his belongings, which included a laptop computer, cell phone, social security card, and clothing, from the room and threw them over a fence near the Motel 6.

Law enforcement ended up searching for the body of the victim at the Mountainview Reclamation Landfill located in Greencastle, Pennsylvania from September 20 to September 24, 2021, but the body of James Kerns was not found at the landfill and has yet to be located.

Prosecutor Harvey said Jimmy’s family and friends are denied “the decency of a proper burial for a son, father, brother, and friend.”

Amanda Frey pled guilty to Accessory after the Fact to Murder and agreed to testify in the trial of Cook. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for September 12, 2022.

Sentencing for Charles Cook is scheduled for November 1, 2022. Cook faces up to 15 years in prison for Voluntary Manslaughter, not less than one year nor more than five years in prison for Concealment of a Deceased Human Body, and not less than one year nor more than five years in prison for Felony Conspiracy.

Prosecutor Harvey lauded Cpl. Timothy Perry and members of the West Virginia State Police, First Sgt. Dean Olack and members of the Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force, the FBI, and all law-enforcement officers and volunteers that helped try to find James Kerns and bring him home to his family. Mr. Harvey also thanked Waste Management and Apple Valley Waste for its cooperation and assistance in the search and the Jefferson County Commission for funding part of the operation.