Weirton man pleads to lesser charge in death

WEIRTON – A man accused of killing a Weirton woman in December pleaded guilty to lesser charges during an appearance in Hancock County Circuit Court Monday, and will spend at least the next 20 years in prison.

According to reports, Leslie Craig Arnold Jr., also of Weirton, pleaded guilty Monday to voluntary manslaughter in connection with the death of 51-year-old Tonia Garan. Arnold also has pleaded guilty to robbery charges in connection with an unrelated incident around the same time. Reports indicate he was sentenced to life in prison with mercy, and will be eligible for parole after serving 20 years.

Upon his arrest in December, Arnold had been charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He was indicted during the January term of the Hancock County grand jury.

Police found Garan’s body Dec. 7, wrapped in garbage bags in a closet in an apartment at Overbrook Towers while investigating Arnold for an armed robbery incident in the parking lot of a local store. Garan had been reported missing Dec. 3, according to reports from the time.

The state medical examiner’s office said two of Garan’s neck bones were snapped. Upon his arrest in Steubenville Dec. 8, Arnold reportedly told police Garan had died either Nov. 23 or 24 as a result of a choking incident.

The investigation began Dec. 7 after Weirton police responded to a report of an armed robbery outside the Gabriel Brothers store in Three Springs Drive. The victim told police she was walking to her car when a man with a mustache, dressed in all black, approached her and demanded she hand over her purse and car keys. The man, later identified as Arnold, reportedly pointed a small handgun into the woman’s stomach and threatened her before leaving in her vehicle.

The vehicle was located in the Kmart Plaza later that evening with a loaded gun in the trunk. Subsequent interviews with people in the area would lead to a search at Overbrook Towers where he was reported to be living. The apartment in question was rented to Garan, reports indicate.