Gregory Orona Jr., the man charged with murdering his wife, Cassie Sanders-Orona, the day after his 35th birthday party, changed his story about the shooting numerous times when questioned by police officers and a detective.
Each time, he gave a “totally different story,” Middletown Detective Kristi Hughes testified Tuesday afternoon during Orona’s preliminary hearing in Middletown Municipal Court.
She said Orona told officers that he heard what he thought was an intruder outside their Wilbraham Road residence, and he also told officers that the 20-gauge shotgun accidentally went off.
Hughes said Orona’s stories and the crime scene evidence were not consistent.
After hearing the testimony, Judge Mark Wall bound the case to the Butler County Grand Jury and kept Orona’s bond at $500,000. He faces 18 years to life in prison if convicted. He remained in Middletown City Jail, according to court records.
Through her investigation on Dec. 17, Hughes said she was told by friends of the couple that Orona was “a ticking bomb” because of his domestic violence history. She said Sanders-Orona, 42, endured five years of domestic abuse and told her husband she planned to leave him the day she was shot.
Since late May, Middletown police have responded to the address in the 2900 block of Wilbraham Road about a dozen times, according to police records reviewed by the Journal-News. Several times, police were called to break up altercations between Orona and his wife and his father Gregory Orona Sr., according to police reports.
Orona’s attorney, Morgan Kohler, questioned Hughes about any physical evidence of an abusive relationship. Hughes said she didn’t see any bruising or defense wounds on Sanders-Orona.
Orona’s parents refused to comment after the hearing.
Several of Sanders-Orona’s relatives and friends wore #JusticeforCassie T-shirts to the hearing, then quickly left for her visitation service. A benefit was held Friday night that raised $5,500, enough to cover her funeral expenses, her aunt said before the hearing.
Hughes testified that when she arrived at the residence at 9:15 a.m. Dec. 17, there were six people there, including Orona’s father, Gregory Orona Sr., and Sanders-Orona’s 17-year-old daughter. She said Sanders-Orona was lying in the living room and she had been shot in the chest, near her right arm pit.
She said it appeared Sanders-Orona was shot in bed, then carried into the living room. She said it appeared Orona and his wife were the only two in the bedroom at the time of the shooting.