- Lauren Pack Staff Writer
A Middletown man has admitted guilt in the shooting death of his wife just before Christmas and the day after his birthday.
Gregory Orona Jr., 35, of Wilbraham Road, pleaded guilty Monday morning in Butler County Common Please Court to involuntary manslaughter with a gun specification. The plea came a day before his trial was scheduled to begin in Judge Michael Oster’s Court room.
Orona was originally charged with murder for the death of Cassie Sanders-Orona, 42, at their home on Dec. 17. He faces a prison sentence of three to 11 years with an additional three years for the gun specification.
During the short plea hearing, Butler County Assistant Prosecutor Brad Burress said some members of Sander-Orona’s family were not “on board” with the involuntary manslaughter plea. The front row was filled with family and friends - some wearing “justice for Cassie” shirts.
Three Middletown police detectives also attended. Burress indicated that after talk with detectives about the facts of the case and the evidence, they were in agreement with the plea.
Orona has been in jail since December in lieu of a $500,000 bond. His sentencing was set for Aug. 1.
Family members said Sanders-Orona, 42, was abused by Orona. From late May of 2016 until the shooting, Middletown police responded to the address in the 2900 block of Wilbraham Road about a dozen times. Several times, police were called to break up altercations between the couple, according to Middletown police reports.
During a preliminary hearing in December, police testified that Orona told officers that he heard what he thought was an intruder outside their Wilbraham Road residence and that his 20-gauge shotgun accidentally went off.
Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser declined comment until after Orona’s sentencing. Defense attorneys indicated they would speak at the sentencing hearing.
Kimby Royalty, who said she was Cassie’s life-long friend, expressed dissatisfaction with the plea.
“The plea was not necessary,” Royalty said. “The evidence would had supported murder.”
Royalty said Orona had a history of violence against her friend.
When asked why Sanders-Orona stayed with her husband, Royalty said, “He told her he would kill her if she left.”