Prosecutor: Missing woman dated man charged with hiding body in freezer

A witness told police the couple moved the freezer to a Campbell home -- five days later, the homeowner discovered human remains inside

Arturo Novoa and Katrina Layton
Arturo Novoa (left) and Katrina Layton (right)

CAMPBELL, Ohio (WKBN) – Police have not yet identified the woman’s body found inside a freezer in a Campbell home Saturday night but WKBN 27 First News has learned new information connecting the suspects to a missing Youngstown woman.

Arturo Novoa, 31, and Katrina Layton, 34, were arrested Sunday, facing charges of abuse of a corpse. Layton is also charged with obstruction of justice.

Youngstown City Prosecutor Dana Lantz told Magistrate Anthony Sertick on Monday that the two have been living together since the end of February.

“The apartment on Mahoning Avenue, the lease is in the name of…what we believe to be the victim, Shannon Graves,” she said.

Graves has been missing out of Youngstown since mid-February. The 28-year-old was added to the Ohio Attorney General’s Missing Persons’ website earlier this month after concerns about her well-being.

Her sister, Debbie, said Graves dated Novoa and lived with him in the apartment on Youngstown’s west side.

Debbie said Graves missed her birthday, Easter, and Father’s Day. She said it was unlike her sister to be gone for so long without contacting them.

Two weeks after Graves was last seen in February, Lantz says Layton moved in, drove Graves’ car, used her cell phone, and cared for her dog.

“Basically, assumed her life and her belongings.”

And lately, neighbors on Mahoning have noticed a lot of police activity.

“I’d wake up — 2, 3 in the morning — cops shining lights in the windows,” Terry Bucklew said.

Youngstown Police Lt. Doug Bobovnyik said the body was found in a freezer in a Devitt Avenue home in Campbell. He said Youngstown police are investigating the case because they believe “it originated in the City of Youngstown and was taken to Campbell.”

Video: Lt. Doug Bobovnik interview

Lantz said the freezer the body was found in was delivered to the couple’s E. Ravenwood home. She said they kept the padlocked freezer there for about a month, along with some furniture left behind by the old tenant.

“It was to store their food in the new house when they eventually moved in there because there’s no refrigerator or stove, so they bought a freezer.”

Authorities aren’t accusing the couple of keeping the freezer.

A witness told police Layton and Novoa moved the freezer to the Campbell home on July 24. Five days later, the homeowner called police about human remains inside.

At the time of Novoa’s arrest, he told detectives he knew nothing about a freezer. But Lantz says Novoa had the freezer’s padlock key on his key ring.

The body has been taken to the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office for forensic examination. Debbie said investigators are pulling Graves’ dental records to compare them to the body, which they’re still working to identify.

“Early this week, we’ll hopefully be able to determine the cause of death and a positive identification,” Lt. Bobovnyik said.

He said no one has been charged with murder because there is still no cause of death.

Bond for both Novoa and Layton has been set at $1 million. The next time they appear in court is for a preliminary hearing.


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