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Erica Lynn ORTA

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: August 31, 2004
Date of arrest: September 8, 2004
Date of birth: December 17, 1959
Victim profile: Diane Acton, 48 (her mother)
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Defiance, Defiance County, Ohio, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to 15 years to life in prison on March 31, 2005. Sentenced to 10 years more on September 1, 2005
 
 
 
 
 

Court of Appeals
Third Appellate District
Defiance County

 
State of Ohio v. Erica L. Orta
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sentence increases for woman who killed mom

ToledoBlade.com

September 2, 2005

DEFIANCE - Erica Lynn Orta, who pleaded guilty in the spring to strangling her mother, stealing her jewelry, and stuffing her corpse into the trunk of her car, yesterday had 10 years added to a 15-years-to-life sentence she previously received.

Orta was sentenced in Defiance County Common Pleas Court to 10 years after pleading guilty to aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence.

The sentence of seven years for aggravated robbery and three years for tampering with evidence followed Defiance County Prosecutor Jeffrey Strausbaugh's recommendation and takes Orta's earlier sentence of 15 years to life for murder to 25 years to life.

Judge Joseph Schmenk could have added up to 15 years to her sentence yesterday and fined her up to $30,000 for the two crimes. She was not fined; her only income is $17 a month that she is paid to serve lunch in the cafeteria of the state's prison for women in Marysville, Ohio, where she has been held since April.

Orta, who is married and the mother of three children, declined to make a statement in court, but told The Blade afterward that she will file an appeal.

In the spring she pleaded guilty to murdering her mother, Diane Acton in her Defiance home on Aug. 31. Ms. Acton, a widow, was found dead Sept. 4 in the trunk of her car in an impound lot in Lima, Ohio. Orta had changed her plea several times and tried unsuccessfully to change it back to not guilty again minutes before she was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison in the spring.

The charges to which she pleaded guilty yesterday were resurrected after she let a plea bargain fall apart when she refused to testify against her co-defendant, Joseph Williams, as she had promised.

The state needed her testimony to prosecute Williams and, when she refused, prosecutors said they were forced to drop their charges against him.

Prosecutor Strausbaugh called yesterday's sentence handed down to Orta appropriate.

"She was the primary offender in this circumstance anyway," he said.

Orta has said she and Williams, a 43-year-old felon she thought of as her boyfriend, went to her mother's home intending to steal her jewelry. But once there, rage overtook Orta, who has a long criminal record.

She choked her 48-year-old mother in the kitchen of Ms. Acton's Defiance home, dragged her outside, bound her with duct tape, and put her in the trunk of her car with help from Williams, according to an arrest warrant. She then drove her mother's car to Lima, and abandoned it there - with her mother's body still in the trunk.

 
 

Defiance woman gets 15 to life for killing mom

By Jane Schmucker - ToledoBlade.com

April 1, 2005

DEFIANCE - Minutes before she was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for murdering her mother, Erica Lynn Orta asked - against the advice of her attorneys - to change her plea back to not guilty.

"They don't want to defend me," Orta, a 25-year-old, married mother of three children who has a long criminal record, said after the hearing where her plea change request was denied. "They just want me to take a plea bargain."

Orta let a plea bargain deal she made fall apart when she refused earlier this month to testify against her co-defendant, Joseph Williams, as she had promised. The state needed her testimony to prosecute Williams and, when she refused, prosecutors said they were forced to drop their charges against him.

Orta said she did not testify against Williams because she wanted to change her own plea back to not guilty and had been told that testifying against him could hurt her defense.

In exchange for her testimony and a guilty plea to murder, the plea bargain would have dropped five other charges against Orta: aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence, grand theft of a motor vehicle, and theft.

Now she faces those five charges again. Yesterday at her sentencing in Defiance County Common Pleas Court, Prosecutor Jeffrey Strausbaugh asked the court to schedule a trial for Orta on them.

Even though Orta could spend the rest of her life in prison on the murder sentence, Mr. Strausbaugh said a guilty verdict on the remaining charges should delay her parole eligibility.

"This was just an absolutely brutal and senseless killing," he said.

While he talked, Orta shook her head.

Orta's cousin, Lisa Bishop, asked the court to remember the suffering of Orta's mother, Diane Acton, who prosecutors say was choked to death by Orta, who was on a mission to steal her jewelry.

After choking her 48-year-old mother in the kitchen of Mrs. Acton's Defiance home, Orta dragged her mother outside, bound her with duct tape, and put her in the trunk of her car with help from Williams, according to an arrest warrant. Orta drove her mother's car to Lima, and abandoned it there - with her mother's body still in the trunk.

"I can't even begin to imagine the horror she went through," Ms. Bishop said in a tearful statement. "Erica, because of you I had to bury my aunt and my friend."

Judge Joseph Schmenk read from a list of Orta's previous convictions, starting with an extensive juvenile record including felonious assault and drug paraphernalia, before going on to disorderly conduct, theft, obstruction of justice, and drug possession charges blotting her adult record.

"The sentence required by law is certainly appropriate," he told Orta.

The law, he said, gave him little choice. The prison sentence of 15 years to life is mandatory and Judge Schmenk said he saw no point in fining Orta because she is indigent.

Orta and her husband, Dan, vowed after the hearing to appeal Judge Schmenk's decisions.

"I'm not guilty of everything they charged me with," Orta said, adding that she was "not quite sure" if she was guilty of any of the charges.

Judge Schmenk did not include in Orta's public file the most recent letter she wrote to him asking to change her plea back to not guilty. She has changed her mind several times on her plea.

In a November letter asking to change her plea back to not guilty, she wrote to Judge Schmenk:

"As you know I recently pleaded guilty to murder. At the time, I was confused and truly overwhelmed with everything going on. Now that I have had time to comprehend my situation, I realize my counsel failed to try and present the court with a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, based on a very good argument that the killing occurred during the heat of passion."

Orta said after the hearing her mother had thrown her out of the house when she was 13 after fights that Orta blamed on her mother's problems with alcohol.

Judge Schmenk yesterday appointed a fourth attorney to represent Orta in the remaining charges against her. She fired her first attorney and disregarded the advice of the next two attorneys, who were appointed to serve together.

Orta and her husband, who this month was released from prison where he had been held for domestic violence against her, said it is hard to find able court-appointed attorneys.

Their children, a 3-year-old boy and 1-year-old girl, are in foster care. An 8-year-old son Erica bore from another relationship is in the care of his father.

Dan Orta said he is living in Defiance; his wife remained last night in the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio.

 
 

'Rage took over,' killer says of mother's death

By Jane Schmucker - ToledoBlade.com

November 6, 2004

Erica Lynn Orta, who pleaded guilty to murdering her mother, was a 24-year-old mother of three, homeless, addicted, and married to a man imprisoned on domestic violence charges.

When she and Joseph Williams, a 43-year-old felon she thought of as her boyfriend, went to her mother's home in Defiance in late August, their plan was to steal her jewelry, Defiance County Prosecutor Jeffrey Strausbaugh said.

"They were prepared to confront her mother," he said.

But in what the prosecutor said are Orta's words, "rage took over."

Diane Acton, a 48-year-old widow, was strangled. Days later, on Sept. 4, her body was found in the trunk of her car at an impound lot in Lima, Ohio. An autopsy showed she died of asphyxiation.

Some of Mrs. Acton's jewelry has been recovered from her daughter, other pieces have not, said Mr. Strausbaugh, who estimated the total value at several thousand dollars.

Orta pleaded guilty this week in Defiance County Common Pleas Court to one count of murder. She also faces other charges.

Williams, whose charges include complicity in the commission of aggravated murder, complicity in the commission of murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, and conspiracy to commit murder, is to go to trial Nov. 30. His trial, originally scheduled for Monday, was delayed at his attorneys' request.

Orta's sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 6. She and Williams are being held in the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio, Stryker.

Both have been in trouble with the law before.

Williams served two stints in Ohio prisons. He was held for 12 years - from 1987 to 1999 - for aggravated robbery, and 11 months - from 2000 to 2001 - for possession of drugs.

Orta has a juvenile record. Her husband, Daniel Orta, has been in the Allen Correctional Institution for just over a year. His sentence for two counts of domestic violence calls for another 10 months.

When they married in 2001, he was 42 - twice her age - and had two teenagers from a previous marriage, according to their marriage license filed in Defiance County Probate Court. It lists his occupation as a laborer and hers as a homemaker.

Orta is the father of two of Ms. Orta's children; they are in foster care, her court-appointed attorney Stephen Archer said. Proceedings are under way to take her third child away from her permanently.

Orta "basically moved from crack house to crack house," her attorney said. Williams, whom she considered her boyfriend, has a different description for their relationship: "sex and drugs," Mr. Archer said.

A court-appointed attorney for Williams did not return calls from The Blade yesterday.

There were years of problems between Orta and her mother.

"This is not an Ozzie and Harriet family," Mr. Archer said. "There's a lot of irregular things in the whole family history."

Yet Orta is "surprisingly articulate," her attorney said. "She has genuine remorse for what happened," Mr. Archer said. "I don't think she wished it to happen."

 
 

Lima woman admits murdering her mother

Printtest.Libercus.net

November 3, 2004

DEFIANCE - A Lima, Ohio, woman pleaded guilty yesterday in Defiance County Common Pleas Court to the August murder of her mother.

Erica Lynn Orta, 24, strangled her mother, Diane Acton, 48, of Defiance, according to Defiance County Prosecutor Jeffrey Strausbaugh.

Ms. Acton, a widow, was found dead Sept. 4 in the trunk of her car in an impound lot in Lima. Autopsy results showed she died of asphyxiation. The death is believed to have occurred Aug. 31 in Ms. Acton's home, authorities said.

Ms. Orta's co-defendant, Joseph Williams, 43, of Lima, is to stand trail Monday for his alleged involvement in the case. Among the most serious charges he faces are complicity in the commission of aggravated murder, complicity in the commission of murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, and conspiracy to commit murder.

 
 

Woman charged in mother's strangulation death

Wkyc.com

September 11, 2004

The body of 48-year-old Diane Acton of Defiance was found September fifth in the truck of her car. Police arrested Erica Orta of Lima late Thursday. Also arrested was 42-year-old Joseph Williams of Lima. He was charged with tampering with evidence. Police say the crime occurred at Actonís home in Defiance. They have not said what the motive for the killing was. Orta has been arrested three times in Allen County since March and has several convictions for misdemeanor drug charges. Williams has a lengthy record, including four stints in prison for robbery crimes and drug possession.

 
 


Erica Lynn Orta

 

Erica Lynn Orta

 

 

 
 
 
 
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