WARREN - A 48-year-old Howland man was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for beating his sister and slitting both sides of her throat in the home they shared on Howland Springs Road.
Bradley Milligan will be eligible for parole after 20 years.
According to his attorney, David Rouzzo, Milligan took the plea offer, admitting to the charge of aggravated murder, to avoid a traumatic trial his family would have to observe.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Christopher Bobby
Bradley Milligan, left, appears with his attorney David Rouzzo, right, as Veronica Baragona, center right, daughter of murder victim Laura Michael, and neighbors Michael, third from right, and Dreama Lamantia, right, look on in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court on Thursday.
Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Ronald Rice said Milligan could have also faced life in prison without parole or parole eligibility after 30 or 25 years if convicted by a jury.
In an initial search of the home on Dec. 18, Howland police found the bludgeoned body of Laura Michael, 51, in a light-colored blanket in Milligan's basement bedroom, which was locked. Police also found a utility knife in his right rear pocket and considerable evidence, including blood on his work boots.
In January, Rice unsealed an affidavit used by Howland police to gain a warrant to search the home at 8762 Howland Springs and to get a DNA sample from Milligan after he was arrested. The affidavit points out that the woman's daughter, Katina Baragona, was at the house when police arrived and noticed her mother's purse and cigarettes were still at the house and didn't match details of the story that Milligan had given police.
Milligan said nothing before Rice handed down the sentence.
''I still love you, Uncle Brad,'' said Veronica Baragona, another of Michael's daughters. ''I wish he would have apologized, but he has problems. There were so many signs before this happened.''
Milligan had a history of abusing his sister and was convicted of domestic violence in 2012 after Michael told police he had assaulted and threatened to kill her. Police and relatives said he had lived with his sister "off and on" for the past two years.
''I wish I would have heard her scream. I could have called someone,'' said good friend and neighbor Dreama Lamantia. ''No one trusted him because of the alcohol.''
Lamantia and Baragona both delivered impact statements in court and both explained afterward that Michael always forgave her brother and continued to take him in despite the problems that seemed to be brought on by his drinking.
''She (Michael) always opened that door for you. She would have died for you. I hope you don't ever got out (of prison),'' Lamantia told Milligan in her impact statement.
Assistant county prosecutor Michael Burnett dismissed an additional charge of aggravated robbery against Milligan, who stole his sister's car after the murder.
Officers said they immediately became suspicious of the story that Bradley Milligan was telling them.
Milligan told them he had left the home three days earlier and only arrived back there moments before the police did. He said his sister also left the home about the same time, and he wasn't sure where she was.
But police had witnesses that had seen Milligan driving Michael's car around town, and she never allowed him to use the car.