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Published: Tuesday, 3/15/2005

Charges dropped for suspect in slaying

Orta Orta

DEFIANCE - After being jailed for more than five months in connection with a Defiance grandmother's murder, Joseph Williams walked out of Defiance County Common Pleas Court a free man yesterday.

Instead of holding a jury trial as scheduled, Judge Joseph Schmenk dismissed indictments for complicity in the commission of aggravated murder, complicity in the commission of murder, and other charges against Williams.

The state's case against Williams hinged on testimony from his co-defendant, Erica Lynn Orta, and she refused to testify, breaking a plea bargain she had made when she pleaded guilty to murdering her mother, county prosecutor Jeffrey Strausbaugh said.

"We had no way of getting a conviction without her testimony," Mr. Strausbaugh said.

Williams Williams

Orta, 25, who awaits sentencing March 31, has said Williams helped her put her mother's body in the trunk of a car belonging to her mother, Diane Acton. But that was all the prosecution had on Williams, who has served time in Ohio prisons for aggravated robbery and possession of drugs "That's why it was necessary for us to dismiss," Mr. Strausbaugh said. "We had no other evidence other than the co-defendant's testimony."

Judge Schmenk said it was the first time he could recall in about 15 years on the bench that such serious charges were dismissed for that reason.

Williams, 43, of Lima has been held in the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio on $1 million bond since Oct. 5 in the murder of Mrs. Acton. She was killed Aug. 31.

"What I'm going to do is first give my thanks to the Lord, and take me a nice hot bath, and have dinner with my wife and kids," Williams said as he left the courtroom.

Because Mr. Strausbaugh asked to dismiss the indictments before a jury had been seated, he could file similar charges against Williams later. He said he would if more evidence is obtained. If the case had been dismissed after a jury was seated, Mr. Strausbaugh could not charge Williams again.

Mr. Strausbaugh had planned to show a jury Williams and Orta had driven together from Lima to Orta's mother's home at 1038 Karnes Ave., Defiance, on Aug. 31 to steal Mrs. Acton's money and jewelry and kill her.

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