Myrtle Beach area man receives 30-year prison term in beating death, arson

A Myrtle Beach area man out of jail for less than a week before murdering a 65-year-old man pleaded guilty Monday to a bevy of charges that resulted in a 30-year prison sentence.

Michael Clayton Gensel, 30, of Myrtle Beach, pleaded guilty to murder, first-degree burglary and second-degree arson according to court records. Circuit Court Judge Larry Hyman sentenced Gensel to 30 years on the murder and burglary charges and 25 years on the arson charge. The sentences will run concurrently.

The charges stemmed from June 2, 2011, when authorities found the body of 65-year-old Gene “Claudy” Strickland inside his burning single-wide mobile home at 800 Burcale Road.

An autopsy showed that Strickland died from blunt force trauma before the fire, according to authorities. Police also said Strickland was robbed before he was killed and the house set on fire.

Gensel lived in the same neighborhood as Strickland, and was seen arguing with a family member about a cellphone while fire officials extinguished the blaze. He was arrested in the same neighborhood along with two other men, who are both facing charges in Strickland’s death.

Charges are pending against Christopher Thomas Cervoni, 30, who is charged with murder, first-degree burglary, strong-armed robbery and second-degree arson; and Michael Keith Cervoni, 39, who is charged with accessory after the fact to murder.

Gensel had been released from jail on $45,000 bail less than a week before Strickland’s death. He was arrested in April 2011 on charges he robbed and assaulted another man in the trailer park, police said. Those charges are pending.

In that case, Gensel and another man are charged in the assault of a 20-year-old man in the trailer park, police said. Gensel and another man were charged after several items, including a laptop computer, cellphone, shoes and clothing, were reported stolen, according to an incident report.

According to S.C. Law Enforcement Division records, Gensel has faced several weapons and drug-related charges since 2005, including a 2008 felony drug possession charge for which he was convicted and sentenced to 341 days in jail.

The other two men charged in Strickland’s death do not have criminal records, according to SLED reports.