PERRY-- Daniel Lee Slaton testified Wednesday that his brother started choking 25-year-old Justin Klaffka before a mutual friend took over and finished the job at a river where they left the body.
His brother, William Allen Slaton, 30, and friend Matthew Jacob Pike, 28, are on trial in Houston County Superior Court accused of slaying Klaffka on April 10, 2012. The prosecution contends the pair believed Klaffka ratted them out about a home invasion two days earlier in Warner Robins.
But the defense says 36-year-old Daniel Slaton made up a story about his brother to save himself. He was originally charged with the killing but pleaded guilty to a lesser offense after striking a deal with prosecutors. Daniel Slaton drove the men to the armed robbery and later to the river, prosecutors say.
Handcuffed and wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, Daniel Slaton took the witness stand just a few feet away from his brother and friend.
He told jurors the April 8, 2012, home invasion of a South Pleasant Hill Road residence was Klaffkas idea. He said he drove his brother, Klaffka and Pike to the residence and waited outside. He saw another man run out of the mobile home a few minutes later.
When his brother and friends returned to the car and got inside, Pike started cussing at Klaffka and cut him in the leg because of the man who escaped during the armed robbery.
Daniel Slaton told jurors that $200 in cash, two pills of a prescription painkiller, a PlayStation, Xbox and videos were stolen. He said the men split up the $200.
Two days later, April 10, 2012, his brother and Pike became convinced Klaffka was going tell on them to one of the men robbed during the home invasion, Daniel Slaton said. His brother and Pike confronted Klaffka near dark that night as he returned to the Dixie Trail residence shared by the Slaton and Pike brothers. Klaffkas girlfriend, Amanda Mitchell, was also there.
Daniel Slaton testified his brother and Pike beat up Klaffka. Klaffka next was taken inside and put in the shower because he was bleeding so badly, then put into clean clothes and then walked to the car, Daniel Slaton testified. Mitchell was behind a shed crying, he said. He testified he first thought they were taking Klaffka home.
The men left the Dixie Trail home with Klaffka, turned on Elberta Road, then onto Ga. 247, stopped for gas, and then headed down Ga. 96 to the river, Daniel Slaton said.
At a popular fishing hole at the Knowles Landing boat ramp off Ga. 96, Pike put a knife to Klaffkas neck and walked him down to the bank of the Ocmulgee River, Daniel Slaton said, adding that he stayed in the car.
He testified that he heard words among the men. He said Klaffka was facing Pike when his brother started choking Klaffka from behind.
Pike next told William Slaton to get out of the way because he wasnt doing any good, Daniel Slaton told jurors. By then, Klaffka already had the fight out of him, he continued.
Pike choked Klaffka face to face -- first on the river bank and then into the water, Daniel Slaton testified. Klaffkas body was left in the river after his clothing was stripped off, he said.
Afterward, when his brother and Pike returned to the car, Daniel Slaton told jurors that Pike threatened him: If I say anything, hed kill me, too.
The incident had gone too far, and his brother and Pike couldnt let Klaffka go because hed tell the cops, Daniel Slaton said he was told.
The Slaton brothers and Pike returned to the Dixie Trail home and the smell of bleach. Daniel Slaton told jurors that David Pike, Matthew Pikes brother, had cleaned up the blood while they were gone. Mitchell was told that theyd dropped Klaffka off at a South Pleasant Hill Road residence. Klaffkas clothes were burned in the backyard fire pit.
During questioning by defense attorneys, however, Daniel Slaton admitted he initially lied to authorities by saying he was not involved in the killing and that his brother and Matthew Pike borrowed his car and left with Klaffka.
Other conflicts in his testimony were brought out by the defense. Daniel Slaton first said he never touched Klaffka. He said his brother and Matthew Pike took Klaffka inside the Dixie Trail residence to shower the blood off him. But then Daniel Slaton said he and his brother took Klaffka inside to the shower where Klaffka cleaned himself up.
Daniel Slaton also was asked about his brother dating his ex-girlfriend, Sherry Register, in April 2012.
Register, who identified herself as William Slatons girlfriend, testified Wednesday that she was recanting an earlier statement to a defense attorney that she picked up William Slaton about 8 p.m. April 10, 2012, and that he spent the night with her. She said she was not certain of the date she picked up William Slaton.
She also acknowledged a pending felony charge against her for allegedly bringing marijuana and nude photographs into the jail for William Slaton.
Also Wednesday, David Pike testified he told sheriffs investigators his brother and William Slaton beat up Klaffka and then sent him floating down a river. He also admitted to telling authorities that Mitchell also should have been floated down the river and that his brother and William Slaton should have chosen a location where Klaffkas body would have been eaten by an alligator.
But on questioning by defense attorneys, David Pike said he was blitzed out of his mind on beer and painkillers and did not remember what had happened or even what he had told sheriffs investigators. He said he told authorities want they wanted to hear.
He denied cleaning up Klaffkas blood with bleach.
Earlier, Judge Katherine K. Lumsden told jurors the prosecution and defense had agreed jurors should be advised that Anthony Scott, one those robbed during the home invasion, has a felony conviction for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Both the prosecution and defense rested their cases. William Slaton and Matthew Pike chose not to testify. Final arguments from attorneys are expected Thursday morning.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.