YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The sister of a Youngstown murder victim held back tears Friday after a woman connected to the case pleaded guilty to brand new charges.
After a day-and-a-half of negotiations, Katrina Layton was back in court, making a new deal with prosecutors.
“She’s prepared to proceed with knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waiving her right to present to a grand jury,” said her lawyer, Atty. Lynn Maro.
Layton, one of four suspects in the death and dismemberment of Shannon Graves in 2017, pleaded guilty to four counts of tampering with evidence, three counts of obstructing and one count of abuse of a corpse.
Although she made an agreement with local prosecutors a year after the crime, on Friday, Judge Anthony Donofrio vacated — or threw out — that first deal.
Law enforcement took Layton into custody earlier this week after a judge ruled Layton had repeatedly violated terms of her release by talking with co-defendant and boyfriend Arturo Novoa, who’s already serving a life sentence for the crimes.
Layton had previously pleaded guilty to abuse of a corpse and obstruction, and murder charges against her were dismissed in exchange for her cooperation with investigators.
A special prosecutor with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office claimed Layton lied to authorities, however, leading to her arrest earlier this week.
In his ruling last Friday, the judge said prosecutors can argue to have Layton’s original deal thrown out so they can reindict her for the murder.
“The state will recommend a prison sentence of no more than 20 years and the defense will seek a prison sentence of 10 years,” said Atty. Dan Kasaris, special prosecutor.
Then as DePaul’s eye filled with tears, Layton answered her new charges.
“Just getting to a point where I feel the release come and it’s hard to hold back. Yeah, it’s very emotional,” DePaul said.
She had championed her sister’s cause ever since Graves disappeared three years ago. DePaul publicly criticized county prosecutors for their handling of the case and Layton’s original plea.
Now DePaul admits she came to realize she wouldn’t get everything she wanted.
“We had to be very careful and I didn’t want to ruin a chance of her actually going to prison,” she said.
With Friday’s plea, DePaul said she’s a step closer to seeing justice for Shannon.
“A little less heaviness on my shoulders, maybe, but closure’s going to take a long time if that ever comes.”
Layton will be sentenced later this month. For now, she’ll stay in jail without bond.