Ohio jury convicts man in burned woman's slaying

AP News
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Posted: Oct 17, 2013 4:17 PM
Ohio jury convicts man in burned woman's slaying

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A jury on Thursday convicted a man of aggravated murder, kidnapping and aggravated arson in the death of a woman found wailing with severe burns on an eastern Ohio road.

The jurors in Zanesville who convicted 34-year-old LaFonse Dixon will consider his sentence next week, said Muskingum County Prosecutor Mike Haddox. Haddox declined to comment further.

LaFonse, of Canton, could face the death penalty.

Two women pleaded guilty in the case to avoid the death penalty and testified against Dixon. They said the trio took Celeste Fronsman, of Canton, to the rural county, where she was set on fire and abandoned in August 2012. A driver found the 29-year-old woman on the road, bleeding and with a strap around her neck. She died two days later.

Multiple messages seeking comment were left Thursday for Dixon's attorney.

Prosecutors said the attack was retaliation stemming from the belief that Fronsman tipped police to a drug stash house.

Defense attorneys had argued that Dixon wasn't involved and that the women who testified, Katrina Culberson and Monica Washington, were liars trying to save themselves.

Mark Bretz, the driver who found Fronsman, also took the stand to recount the shocking scene.

"She just throws herself on my truck, screaming, 'Help me, help me! They're trying to kill me!'" Bretz said. He said at one point he asked who hurt her, and she named "Fonse" and Culberson.

Dixon's defense team questioned why Bretz wrote down Culberson's name for investigators but not Dixon's. Bretz said he thought one name would be enough of a lead for investigators.

A defense attorney also asked how well Bretz was able to understand Fronsman, whom he described as being "totally petrified," moaning in pain and having trouble breathing. Bretz acknowledged he had trouble clearly understanding some of what Fronsman told him.

A female medic said that Fronsman was unable to tell EMTs her own name and that Culberson's name was the only one she heard Fronsman say.