Opening statements expected Tuesday in Houston County strangulation slaying

bpurser@macon.comJuly 15, 2013 

PERRY -- Opening statements from attorneys are expected Tuesday in the Houston County trial of two men accused of strangling a Centerville man to death and dumping his body in a river.

A jury was seated late Monday afternoon in Superior Court.

Matthew Jacob Pike, 28, and William Allen Slaton, 30, are on trial on charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, kidnapping with bodily injury, and tampering with evidence in the slaying of 25-year-old Justin Klaffka.

Klaffka’s body was found April 15, 2012, snagged on a branch in water near a popular fishing hole at the Knowles Landing boat ramp off Ga. 96 in south Houston County.

Slaton and Pike also are charged in connection with a related home invasion April 8 in Warner Robins.

Daniel Lee Slaton, 36, was charged with the same crimes, but he struck a deal with the prosecution for a 30-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to a lesser offense of aggravated battery and other charges.

The prosecution contends that Pike and William Slaton thought Klaffka had ratted them out about the home invasion, that the men argued at Daniel Lee Slaton’s Dixie Trail home on April 10 and that his brother and Pike badly beat Klaffka.

Klaffka was then taken to the river, where he was strangled and his body dumped. Daniel Slaton drove his brother, Pike and Klaffka to the river, according to prosecutors.

Russell Walker, a court-appointed attorney representing William Slaton, and Jeff Grube, the court-appointed attorney representing Pike, declined comment after jury selection.

A previous review of the court record, however, indicated a possible defense: that Klaffka may have died at the hands of a drug dealer or his thugs because he owed money.

The trial before Judge Katherine K. Lumsden may run until Friday.

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