Killer enters 'no contest' plea in 2018 'Red Barn' homicide in Oneida Township

Sadlak will face minimum of 20 years when sentenced next month


WEDNESDAY, Feb. 15 — Joseph Sadlak, who admitted to killing Clinton "Billy" Decker in a brutal 2018 murder in Oneida Township has accepted a plea bargain with prosecutors to serve a minimum of 20 years.

He faced life in prison if convicted of open homicide.

Eaton County Circuit Judge Judge Janice Cunningham accepted a "no contest" plea from Sadlak to one count of second-degree murder. She found no evidence the killing was pre-meditated.

Decker was the subject of a City Pulse cover story last year that reported on five years of police reports before the murder. The reports revealed a history of calls to Decker’s converted barn home for drug overdoses, sexual assault, felonious assault, breaking and entering and welfare checks. Interviews with nearby residents, as well as two of the young men who spent time in Decker’s home, also tell the story of the horrors that allegedly occurred behind the red barn’s doors. 

Despite the lengthy criminal activity, law enforcement did very little to address the situation. Decker had been convicted in Ingham County Courts for drugging teens and taking nude photos of them. 

Decker was killed in his home, a former barn turned into a house at 1640 Grand Ledge Hwy. Sadlak was found wandering in the street covered in blood. He told deputies that he had killed his friend. Decker's body had sustained multiple stab wounds as well as blunt force trauma.

Sadlak will face sentencing at 11 a.m. March 29  If Cunningham fails to abide by the deal, Sadlak can withdraw his plea.

A "no contest" plea  is treated as a guilty verdict for sentencing.  By agreeing to plead no contest, Sadlak protects himself from potential civil liability in the killing. 

The move came after Sadlak  spent years bouncing between the Eaton County Jail and the state forensic facility to be treated for mental health problems. He was twice deemed ineligible to assist in his own defense. He was moved to the facility in October last year after refusing to take medications and lapsing into a near catatonic state while in the Eaton County Jail. 

Deputies noted in reports that when they reached Decker’s bloody body, rigor mortis had already set in, pegging his death within six hours before officers had entered the home.  Police reports said that Sadlak had told authorities that Decker had given him the security code to the house.

An autopsy performed by Dr. Patrick Hansma at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing found the cause of Decker’s death a “homicide” by “multiple blunt and sharp force injuries.” 

Decker had been stabbed 31 times and hit with a blunt object  at least 20 times. His penis had been sliced lengthwise along the top about an inch and a half from his pubic region toward the tip. The autopsy report also revealed 13 stab wounds to Decker’s head, including one through his right eyelid and into his eye, and another that penetrated his nasal cavity and bone. 

Four stab wounds were discovered on his neck, including one that sliced through his right carotid artery and penetrated his jugular vein. Two wounds penetrated a lung and his heart. 

Most of the blunt force trauma was on his head, and he had one defensive wound on his wrist, though it was not identified as such in the autopsy report. 

According to the autopsy report, Decker’s arms also showed evidence of recent and long-term needle use and “acute methamphetamine intoxication.” Specific toxicology reports were redacted in the documents. The autopsy reports also noted that his teeth were in particularly “poor repair” — a possible indication of methamphetamine use.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that can be snorted, smoked, taken in pill form or injected. It causes the user a euphoric experience that can last as long as 12 hours. The drug also causes users to crave sugary substances and ignore basic hygiene like dental care. 

Meth has long been a national crisis among communities of men who have sex with men, said David Fawcett, a psychiatrist who has been treating men who use meth for three decades. He’s written a book about the crisis, “Lust, Men, and Meth: A Gay Man’s Guide to Sex and Recovery.”

When the hearing was complete, Sadlak turned to family members in the audience and told them he loved them. 


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