Middletown woman found in barrel: Why the suspect is now charged with her murder

A Middletown man is now accused of killing a woman he allegedly mutilated and hid in a metal drum.

William Slaton, 35, 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 initially charged with gross abuse of a corpse, failure to report a crime or death and tampering with evidence.

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On Wednesday, a Butler County grand jury indicted Slaton for murder, felonious assault, four counts of tampering with evidence, involuntary manslaughter, three counts of gross abuse of a corpse and assault.

Slaton is housed in the Butler County Jail in lieu of $210,000 bond that was set in lower court on the original charges. He is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said a charge of murder comes when it is determined a victim is dead as a result of felonious assault by the suspect. Involuntary manslaughter could be considered at trial, if permitted by the judge, as a lesser included offense.

“However history tell us there are occasions when judges take issue with the lesser included offense and then it becomes an all-or-nothing result,” Gmoser said. “In this case I decided it was best to present it to the grand jury for all the possibilities that would be available. I am not a risk-taker. It gives a jury options.

The Butler County Coroner’s Office had not released Cornett’s manner and cause of death as of Wednesday. The condition of the body likely made forensic testing difficult.

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Gmoser said he does not need that coroner’s ruling to move forward with the case.

“There is also other evidence that can be available that is outside the realm of the coroner and that you may assume was presented to a grand jury,” Gmoser said.

"I can string evidence together to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to how she died or I wouldn’t be taking a case to a jury. Obviously cutting fingers off, surgically removing tattoos, stuffing somebody in a barrel, throwing it over the fence when police arrive at the door and other statements to police all can yield circumstantial and direct evidence beyond what a coroner may say.”

Middletown police were called to Slaton’s home on June 30 to investigate a tip about a dead woman in a barrel on the property. When police knocked on the door and told Slaton about the complaint, he refused to let officers inside. He went back into the house, ran out of the back and dumped the barrel over a fence into a neighbor’s yard, Middletown police Maj. Scott Reeve said.

When officers opened the barrel, they found a nude woman’s body.

During an interview with detectives, Slaton admitted to being in the house with the victim and said that after using drugs, he woke up and found her hanging in the basement, according to Middletown Municipal Court documents. He told police he used a knife to cut off her fingers and tattoos

In 2011, Slaton was also convicted in Butler County Common Pleas Court of of illegal use of a minor in nudity oriented material or performance and four counts of pandering sexually oriented matter involving a minor. He served seven year in prison for those charges.

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