Michael Lee Maloney Convicted in Oil Attack on Jayla Witt
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Michael Lee Maloney

An Ohio man has been convicted and sentenced for seriously injuring his cousin and her infant son by dumping scalding hot vegetable oil on them.

Michael Maloney, 42, was convicted of burglary and felonious assault for attacking and badly burning Jayla Witt, 20, and her one-year-old son, Tobias, in December 2021.

According to prosecutors, on the morning of Dec. 21, Maloney purchased a 48-ounce can of vegetable oil at a Kroger supermarket, went up the steps at Witt’s home, and threw the oil at her and Tobias as they slept.

Witt sustained burns on 15 percent of her body, including as her head, face, and torso, prosecutors said. Tobias sustained burns on 7 percent of his body. (Previous reporting had his age as 18 months during the incident, but recent reporting has it as 17 months). Mother and son are reportedly still recovering from what happened.

There was reportedly evidence Maloney had previously been asked to leave the residence.

“Jayla gave him a place to stay for a couple of nights because she’s got a soft heart like that,” Jayla’s father James Witt said at the time, according to area Fox affiliate WXIX. “When she asked him to leave, I’m sure that’s what made him mad, and that’s the reason he’s done this because she threw him out.”

Maloney fled to Kentucky, where investigators caught him, authorities said. His defense argued that the burning was an accident: he was actually making Witt breakfast, went upstairs, and only threw the oil when she startled him. Defense lawyer Ched Peck asserted Maloney had no motive for assault and had called Witt his “niece.” Moreover, he did not hide his face from surveillance cameras, including at the Kroger.

But authorities said Maloney gave shifting stories about what happened that morning, including denying being there, or admitting to being there but claiming to hear Witt arguing with another person who ran from the home.

At trial, Witt testified that she felt like she was on fire, according to local news station WKRC. She remained unconscious at the hospital for almost 40 days after the attack, she said.

Maloney was sentenced Friday to a total of 37 years in prison: 27 for the burglary and assault, and an additional 10 years because he was classified as a repeat violent offender, according to The Journal-News.

Judge Greg Stephens called Maloney an animal, according to WKRC reporter Jenna Cisneros.

Maloney had pleaded guilty in 2000 to beating a man to death with a baseball bat, and served 10 years behind bars for voluntary manslaughter.

[Booking photo via Butler County Jail]

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