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Murder trial set for class president

CARTHAGE, Mo. -- The senior class president of Carl Junction High School, charged with the suspected cult slaying of a classmate who was beaten to death, will go on trial in March.

James Hardy, an honor student, pleaded innocent Wednesday during his arraignment in Jasper County Circuit Court to a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Steven Newberry, 19, of rural Joplin.

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A March 21 trial date was set.

A hearing for pretrial motions was scheduled for Feb. 8, a court clerk said.

Hardy, Ronald Clements and Theron Roland, all 17, are charged in the Dec. 9 slaying of Newberry.

Newberry received 40 to 50 blows to the head, and several baseball bats were found near an abandoned well where his body was discovered, authorities said.

The body had been weighted with a rock before being thrown into the well, where the carcasses of several squirrels and a cat also were found, officers said.

Though investigators have been reluctant to discuss the case, officials earlier speculated Newberry was killed in some type of cult worship.

All four youths were seniors at Carl Junction High School.

Clements entered an innocent plea during his arraignment in Jasper County Circuit Court Tuesday. A pretrial motions hearing was set for Jan. 26.

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Roland was held without bond at Nevada State Hospital, where he was undergoing a mental examination. He has pleaded innocent by reason of mental disease or defect.

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