Apr. 30—A Middletown man accused of killing a woman and hiding her body in a barrel in Middletown pleaded guilty Friday in Butler County Common Pleas Court to causing her death and mutilating her pleaded guilty to some of the charges and was sentenced today in Butler County Common Pleas Court.
William Slaton, 36, was arrested June 30 after Middletown police discovered 21-year-old Cecily Cornett's body in a barrel at his home in the 3200 block of Yankee Road. He was charged with murder, felonious assault, four counts of tampering with evidence, involuntary manslaughter, three counts of gross abuse of a corpse and assault.
Slaton had previously pleaded no contest to all the tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse charges, which all were felonies.
On Friday, a week before his scheduled trial, Slaton withdrew the previous contest pleas and pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse. Judge Keith Spaeth sentenced Slaton to 14 years in prison — 11 for involuntary manslaughter and three for the other two charges, which were ruled allied offences by the judge.
If Slaton gets in trouble in prison, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction can add up to another 5 1/2 years to his sentence.
In statements to Middletown police detectives last summer, Slaton denied killing Cornett but offered different statements about how she died. Slaton repeatedly told detectives what he did to Cornett's body after she was dead. Slaton said he cut her fingertips off with a cigar cutter and cut her tattoos off with a razer blade, and he put them in a Tupperware bowl. When others where asleep, Slaton said he cut the top of a metal drum, carried it downstairs, put Cornett's body in it and took the barrel to an area near the shed.
Other then his plea of guilty, Slaton made no statement in court before sentencing.
Marilyn Cornett, Cecily's grandmother who adopted her, said she has to relive what Slaton did to her daughter.
"She was beautiful," Marilyn Cornett said. "For the rest of my life, I will never get over it."
Karen Stephens, Cecily's aunt, also spoke of the pain Slaton has caused the family.
"All her family loved her," Stephens said. "She was a vibrant young lady and now her life is gone."
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said a reduced plea of involuntary plea was permitted in this case because of evidence issues, including no cause of death for Cornett.
"While the state had significant evidence that William Slaton tampered with evidence by grossly abusing the corpse of Cecily Cornett following her death, in order to successfully convict Slaton of murder, the state must also prove that he caused her death by knowingly causing serious physical harm to Cecily Cornett. Unfortunately, the coroner could not determine Cecily's cause of death, but did note acute methamphetamine intoxication as a contributing cause of death," Gmoser said. "Consequently, in order find Slaton guilty of murder, the trier of fact would have to rely on testimony of witnesses who may have been reluctant or not fully truthful during the initial police investigation."
Gmoser added the plea ensures Slaton is held responsible for Cornett's death and his offensive treatment of her body.
After sentencing, David Brewer, Slaton's attorney, said his client was taking methamphetamine at the time of Cornett's death, adding, "It shows what someone is capable of doing when they are messed up on meth."