HOWLAND - A man police said has a history of abusing his sister is now accused of bludgeoning her to death.
Howland police on Thursday charged Bradley E. Milligan, 48, with murder in the death of Laura L. Michael, 51.
Milligan was being held at the Trumbull County Jail and is expected to be arraigned today in Warren Municipal Court.
Police arrested Milligan Wednesday night at the home he shared with Michael at 8726 Howland Springs Road S.E. after officers discovered the woman's body hidden in a corner of the basement.
At a Thursday morning news conference, Howland police Chief Paul Monroe said it appeared Michael had been severely beaten. He said it was not clear how long Michael had been dead when police found her.
"There were other wounds on the body. Until the coroner has examined the body, we really can't go into it," he said. "At this point, we believe that he probably used his hands."
Tribune Chronicle / Virginia Shank
This is the 8726 Howland Springs Road S.E. home where resident Laura L. Michael, 51, was bludgeoned to death. Her brother, Bradley E. Milligan, 48, same address, has been charged with her murder.
Monroe noted Milligan may also have used "an edged weapon" such as a knife.
Police went to the house around 4 p.m. Wednesday to check on Michael after her daughter, who lives in Columbus, contacted them and said she had not heard from her mother in the past two days. She said that was unusual because the two typically spoke every day, according to a news release issued by the police department.
Monroe said Milligan was at Michael's home when police arrived but told officers he had not seen his sister that day. Milligan, who had stayed at the house with his Michael "off and on" the past two years, allowed police to enter and check the house. Monroe said the first officers to arrive at the residence "noticed something was wrong" and pushed further with Milligan, who seemed "out of character."
Howland police detectives were called after officers found Michael's body. Monroe said township police worked into the night with Warren police detectives, who are members of the Trumbull County Homicide Squad, and investigators from the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
Monroe said police were able to arrest and hold Milligan on an outstanding warrant out of Franklin County on a domestic violence charge along with a warrant from Warren for outstanding fines and costs.
"Obvious evidence recovered at the scene of crime, circumstantial, that gave us probable cause to charge him today," Monroe said.
On Thursday, detectives were working to obtain search warrants through the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office in an effort to gather additional evidence at the scene.
Locally, Milligan was convicted of domestic violence last year. Reports state that on June 26, 2012, Michael told police he had assaulted and threatened to kill her.
In the 2012 complaint, Michael told police Milligan had asked her to buy him beer, but she decided not to. When she returned home, he became irate and threatened to stab the tires of her car with an iron garden rake, according to a Howland police report. The report states Michael fled in her vehicle.
When she returned to the home a second time, Milligan "was still irate, swearing at her and telling her she needed to abide by his rules," the report states. Michael called police when she became "tired of hours of verbal abuse" by Milligan.
The report states that Milligan then grabbed Michael's left arm, ripped the phone out of her hand and threw the phone on the kitchen floor, breaking it as he threatened to kill her.
The report states that Milligan locked himself in his bedroom downstairs and refused to let officers in the room. Michael gave police permission to enter the room by any means necessary, the report states. Police broke the door down and arrested Milligan without incident.
Monroe said Milligan was the only person at Michael's home on Wednesday when police arrived, and that so far, all evidence indicates he acted alone.
Police found Michael's vehicle in the parking lot the nearby Super Kmart after initial reports indicated it was missing. However, Monroe said investigators do not know why it was there.
"This investigation is a work in progress. As soon as we can release more information, we will," Monroe said.
Monroe said Milligan had been going back and forth between Michael's home and a residence in the Columbus area. Family members at the Howland police Station on Thursday, who asked that their names not be published at this time, said Michael had asked Milligan to leave her residence on several occasions, but always allowed him to move in again. Michael's daughter said when she last spoke to her mother a few days ago she had indicated that she was relieved because Milligan was no longer staying with her.