Middleton gets maximum sentence for burning woman's body
JANESVILLE--Nathan C. Middleton's “abhorrent behavior” robbed a grieving family of the chance to say goodbye, Judge Richard Werner told a packed courtroom during a sentencing hearing Wednesday.
Middleton, 30, will spend the maximum time of 22.5 years in prison for hiding and burning the body of 18-year-old Aprina Paul of Fitchburg last October in his backyard, Werner ruled after describing Middleton's actions.
Middleton told authorities he contacted Paul through a Craigslist ad and drove her to his home at 12016 W. Highway 14 in the town of Porter while his fiancÚ was away.
He said he paid Paul for sex and watched her snort an unidentified drug in his living room, according to a criminal complaint.
The next morning, he found Paul had died, Middleton told investigators. Prosecutors have not been able to prove the cause of death, but District Attorney David O'Leary previously said they would file charges related to Paul's death if and when they can.
Assistant District Attorney Anne Nack said Middleton destroyed the body for selfish reasons. Without medical training, he determined Paul was dead, moved her body and, “in his own words, 'called it a day.'”
“You had a clear opportunity to do something different than what you did,” Werner said after announcing his sentence. “You had time to step back.”
Middleton told investigators he didn't know what to do with Paul's body because he was on probation.
“You contemplated what to do and then made a plan, and that plan was to protect yourself,” Werner said.
The plan showed “no concern whatsoever” for Paul or her family, Werner said.
Middleton bought kerosene, dug a pit and sent his fiancÚ to buy ingredients for s'mores. He placed Paul's body in the pit, poured kerosene over it and started a fire that left only bones, Nack said.
While the fire was raging, he took pictures on his cellphone, Nack said, a statement that drew an outburst from Paul's family and friends in the courtroom. Several left.
Paul's mother, Alice Larrue, described to the court how her life has turned upside down since her daughter was “wrongly taken.” She lost her job, had to be hospitalized and medicated to sleep and is in counseling, she said.
Paul was accepted into the nursing program at Madison College, and she had dreams of being a pediatric nurse, her mother said.
Larrue and some of the more than 60 family and friends who packed the courtroom wore black dresses and shirts with Paul's picture and the words “Justice For Our Angel.”
Werner sentenced Middleton to nine years in prison and three years of extended supervision for hiding the corpse and 13.5 years in prison with three years of extended supervision for mutilating the corpse.
Because the crimes occurred while Middleton was on probation for burglaries in 2005, he will be imprisoned until 2021 on the burglary charges, his attorney Steven Zaleski said. Wednesday's sentences will run consecutively after those sentences, Werner said, meaning he will be in prison for more than 30 years.
Middleton wore orange jail clothing and showed no reaction to the sentence.
He pleaded guilty to the charges in March. As part of a plea agreement, a charge of attempted escape was dismissed but read into the record. Middleton was accused of hatching an escape plot from his jail cell.
Middleton told the court he was sorry for what he did, and if he could go back in time and change what he did, he would.
He said he told the truth and wanted the chance to prove he is a good person. Zaleski argued Middleton had cooperated with authorities and accepted responsibility.
Werner said Middleton's statement still was about himself, not Paul and her family.
Werner echoed Nack's description of Middleton's escalating criminal behavior that included burglaries, thefts and weapons charges. Middleton has been charged with 24 crimes since he was 18 years old, the judge said. However, he said, those crimes came in only five years because Middleton spent eight years in prison.