PERRY -- One of three men originally charged in the killing of a Centerville man whose body was dumped in a river has pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for his testimony, according to prosecutors and court records.
Daniel Lee Slaton, 36, was sentenced March 22 to 30 years without the possibility of parole for aggravated battery, kidnapping and tampering with evidence in connection with the 2012 beating and strangulation of 25-year-old Justin Arthur Klaffka, court records show.
The other charges of malice murder, felony murder and aggravated assault were dismissed, while the charge of kidnapping with bodily injury was reduced to the lesser charge of kidnapping, court records show.
Houston County Assistant District Attorney Greg Winters said a condition of the plea agreement was Slatons testimony at trial against his brother, William Allen Slaton, 30, and Matthew Jacob Pike, 28. That trial is scheduled for April 15.
Investigators say Klaffka got into an argument April 10, 2012, with the Slaton brothers and Pike at a Dixie Trail home about whether Klaffka had ratted them out for an armed robbery two days earlier.
Klaffkas body was discovered in the Ocmulgee River several days later by people swimming near a popular fishing hole at the Knowles Landing boat ramp off Ga. 96.
William Allen Slaton and Pike were indicted on charges of malice murder, felony murder, kidnapping with bodily injury, aggravated assault and tampering with evidence. The indictment alleges the men choked Klaffka to death, removed blood from the crime scene at 119 Dixie Trail, and took off and burned Klaffkas clothing before dumping his body in the river.
Pike and William Allen Slaton are accused of the actual beating of Klaffka, and Daniel Lee Slatons participation in the crime was driving the Chevrolet S-10 Blazer, District Attorney George Hartwig previously said.
The plea agreement also included the disposition of charges against Daniel Lee Slaton in the April 8, 2012, robbery in which the brothers allegedly believed Klaffka had ratted them out.
Slaton pleaded guilty to armed robbery, aggravated assault and burglary in the robbery in the 400 block of Pleasant Hill Road in which a PlayStation and Xbox were reported stolen. The other charges against him were dismissed.
The combined effective sentence for Slaton in both cases was 60 years with 30 to serve in prison and 30 to serve on probation upon release from prison, Winters said. Superior Court Judge Katherine K. Lumsden handed down the sentence.
Winters, who is prosecuting William Allen Slaton and Pike, said he could not comment outside of whats in the public record with the trial pending. William Allen Slaton and Pike have pleaded not guilty to all charges in connection with the slaying and earlier armed robbery.
David Daniell, a Warner Robins attorney who represented Daniel Lee Slaton, could not be reached for comment. Also not reached for comment were Jeff Grube, a Warner Robins attorney representing Pike, and Russell Walker, a Perry attorney representing William Allen Slaton.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.