ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A man was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the death of a severely burned 29-year-old woman who was found wailing along a rural eastern Ohio road.
The judge followed the recommendation of the jury in sentencing LaFonse Dixon Jr., 34, of Canton. He had been eligible for the death penalty, but the jury recommended that Dixon be spared after hearing evidence of his troubled upbringing.
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 rural Muskingum County, where she was set on fire and abandoned in August 2012. A driver found the woman on the road, bleeding and with a strap around her neck. She died two days later.
"Ms. Fronsman died a horrific death at your hands," Muskingum County Common Pleas Judge Kelly Cottrill told Dixon. "Your self-absorbed, anything-goes lifestyle led directly to her death."
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.
The driver who found Fronsman on the road testified that she was wailing in pain and her skin was falling off but she had enough strength to name at least two of her attackers.
Another judge on Monday sentenced Washington to life in prison, with a chance of parole after 25 years.
"We believe justice was served," Prosecutor Mike Haddox said after Dixon and Washington were sentenced. He said Dixon's sentence included 11 years in prison for a kidnapping charge in addition to the life term.
Prosecutors are recommending life in prison without parole for Culberson. She is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.