WEIRTON - Police believe Leslie Arnold Jr. choked a woman to death inside a Weirton apartment, stuffed her body in a closet and left her there for about two weeks before officers found her Saturday night.
Authorities made the grisly discovery at Overbrook Towers on Cove Road while investigating a report that Arnold allegedly robbed another woman at gunpoint in a store parking lot. The alleged murder victim, identified as Tonia Garan, had been reported missing on Dec. 3, court documents state.
A Monday autopsy in Charleston revealed two of Garan's neck bones were snapped in half. Arnold reportedly told police Garan had asked him to choke her while engaging in sexual intercourse, and after things went too far he hid her body because he feared returning to prison.
The 47-year-old Weirton resident faces charges of first-degree murder, armed robbery and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He is lodged at the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville on a $100,000 cash-only bond.
On Saturday evening, according to court documents, Weirton Police responded to a report of an armed robbery outside the Gabriel Brothers store on Three Springs Drive. The alleged robbery victim, who apparently was not harmed, told officers she was walking across the parking lot 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.
Arnold allegedly pointed a small handgun into the woman's stomach and said, "Now turn around and walk, or I will shoot you." The woman told police he then drove away in her vehicle, at which time she ran back into the store and asked an employee to call for help.
At 9:30 p.m., officers located the vehicle a short distance away in front of Dollar Tree in the K-Mart Plaza and found a loaded gun in the trunk, which Arnold reportedly admitted to putting there before leaving the vehicle.
While checking the area, police interviewed a Dollar Tree employee who said Arnold, who is her ex-boyfriend, had approached her about an hour earlier as she was leaving at the end of her shift and asked for a ride to Kroger on Main Street. The report does not state whether she gave Arnold a ride or he found other means of leaving the area.
After receiving information that Arnold lived at the Overbrook Towers apartment complex on Cove Road, and that he also was wanted for armed robbery in Pennsylvania, officers went there to search for him. They learned from a building employee that the apartment was rented to Garan, who had been reported missing Dec. 3.
Her body was found wrapped inside multiple layers of garbage bags, the report states.
Arnold was arrested Sunday without incident at a downtown Steubenville residence. During a subsequent interview at the Jefferson County jail, he reportedly told Weirton Police Capt. Rick Stead that Garan died Nov. 23 or 24.
The complaint states Arnold slept in bed with Garan's body until morning, when he purchased garbage bags and packing tape, wrapped the body with them and hid it in the closet.
Arnold "thought about calling the police but had just got done serving four years in prison and didn't want to go back," the criminal complaint states. The document further states Arnold has several felony convictions on his record, but specifies only a January 2011 conviction for burglary in Pennsylvania.
Arnold was transported back to West Virginia after waiving extradition Monday morning in Steubenville Municipal Court. Arnold's case has been assigned to Magistrate Michael Powell.
A medical examiner ruled Garan's death a homicide, leading authorities to file the murder charge Tuesday.
Weirton Police could not be reached for additional comment Tuesday.