Suspect faces new charges
- Published: April 21, 2021
New charges have been filed against the former classmate and friend accused of murder in the 2019 stabbing death of Leonid “Lonya” Clark. But the additional charges, which involve possible child pornography, appear to be separate from the homicide case.
Zyrian Atha-Arnett, who turned 28 on Friday, has been held awaiting trial in the Greene County Jail in Xenia since his arrest on murder charges in November 2019, when bond was set at $700,000 and then raised to $900,000 at his arraignment.
The homicide victim, a 2011 Yellow Springs High School graduate and well-known figure in town, was last reportedly seen Jan. 13, 2019. Searches led nowhere until mushroom hunters found human remains three months later, on April 12, snagged along the Little Miami River in Glen Helen Nature Preserve. The county coroner identified the remains as Clark’s and determined that his death was caused by stabbing blows carried out by another person.
Atha-Arnett, a resident of Enon for several years before his arrest, became a person of interest during the ensuing murder investigation, conducted by the Greene County Sheriff’s Department and the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, or BCI. A computer was among items confiscated during a September 2019 search of Atha-Arnett’s apartment by BCI and the Clark County Sheriff’s Department; and information obtained through a series of warrants related to Atha-Arnett’s online searches and cellphone data was among the evidence taken to the grand jury and cited in the murder indictment against him.
His electronic devices may be the source of the new charges against him as well.
In an indictment approved by the grand jury on Wednesday, April 7, and filed with the clerk of courts on Friday, April 9, his birthday, Atha-Arnett is charged with 25 counts of “pandering obscenity involving a minor or impaired person,” a fourth-degree felony. He received the charges on Tuesday, April 13, at the jail, Greene County Prosecutor David Hayes reported to the News immediately after the indictment had been served.
Hayes declined to give further information.
A single fourth-degree felony in Ohio typically involves a sentence of six to 18 months, a fine of up to $5,000 or both, according to the Ohio Supreme Court.
The seven-page indictment, a copy of which was received by the News upon request from the Clerk of Courts office, lists all 25 counts, each repeating the same language and accusing Atha-Arnett of understanding the “character of the material or performance involved” in obscene content he allegedly “did buy, procure, possess, or control … that has a minor or impaired person as one of its participants.”
The date of each alleged offense is listed as “on or about September 20, 2019,” the same day as the search of the Enon apartment Atha-Arnett shared with his father, former local resident Stacy Arnett.
Lonya Clark’s father, Eric Clark, said Tuesday that he and his wife, Jackie, had been told by the sheriff’s office that Atha-Arnett could be facing charges tied to his computer and unrelated to their son. But the elder Clark wasn’t aware of the nature of the new investigation.
In the case of Lonya Clark’s death, Atha-Arnett has been charged with two counts of murder and one count of felonious assault. He pleaded not guilty to all charges at his arraignment Nov. 21, 2019. A sentence of 15 years to life is attached to each of the two murder counts, while sentencing on the assault charge, a second-degree felony, is unspecified. The prosecutor’s office is not pursuing the death penalty.
Attorney Jon Paul Rion, who lives in Miami Township and is based in Dayton, has been representing Atha-Arnett against the murder and assault charges. A call to Rion’s office Tuesday afternoon was not returned before press time. An assistant said Rion was in court. It is not known whether Rion will serve as counsel on the new charges.
Dates for the murder trial have been set and delayed five times since Atha-Arnett’s arraignment, according to court records. No date is currently listed on the court’s docket. Eric Clark said the prosecutor’s office has indicated to his family that the trial could take place in late summer.
Reasons for the delay include various motions by the defense and the effects of the pandemic on the court’s schedule. Clark said his family does not mind the wait.
“He’s in jail,” Clark said of the accused. “As long as we know where he is, we’re good with that.”
Clark said he hopes once the cases against Atha-Arnett do go to trial, the two will be kept separate and any sentencing will be consecutive rather than concurrent.
“I worry about him getting out in 15 years and holding a grudge against us,” Clark said.