A 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier has been arrested and charged with murder in a 2019 Killeen homicide case, officials said.
Spc. Cory Grafton, a soldier with the 1st Cavalry Division, was arrested Tuesday in connection with the death of Chelsea L. Cheatham on June 3, 2019. She had been found unconscious and not breathing at the Killeen Days Inn, 1602 E. Central Texas Expressway.
“Through the investigation, Detectives with the Homicide Unit received information from a witness that 20-year-old Cory Grafton was at the scene at the time Chelsea Cheatham was murdered,” Killeen Police Department said in a news release on Wednesday. “With the assistance from the Texas Rangers, DNA from the scene was submitted and the results confirmed that Grafton matched the DNA” located at the crime scene.
On June 3, 2019, Killeen Police Department officers were dispatched to the Days Inn in response to a call of an unconscious person who was not breathing, according to a criminal complaint affidavit. The person was identified as Cheatham, and with the help of a friend of Cheatham officers were able to put together a description of a person seen walking towards the room Cheatham was found in.
When they found Cheatham, 32, in the hotel, police officers started to perform life saving measures until paramedics arrived, according to KPD. Cheatham was pronounced deceased at 11:35 p.m. June 3, 2019, by Justice of the Peace Daryl Peters. He ordered an autopsy to be performed at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas.
At the time of the incident it was unknown if her death was by natural causes and an investigation was initiated. KPD detectives later received the results of the autopsy and it was determined the manner of death was ruled a homicide.
On Sept. 2 of this year, the Texas Rangers informed KPD about the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Program and the possibility of utilizing advanced DNA testing to help solve this case, according to a release from the Texas Department of Public Safety, which includes the Texas Rangers.
A search of the room at the Days Inn resulted in the discovery of several cellphones, and phone messages retrieved led to the discovery of a phone number which belonged to Grafton. When asked, Grafton admitted there were conversations between Cheatham’s phone and a phone number or device he had previously owned, though he initially denied recalling the conversation, according to the affidavit.
“Investigators interviewed Grafton about Cheatham’s death and collected a sample of his DNA. One of Grafton’s co-workers provided a statement to police that Grafton confessed to him about killing Cheatham,” according to the DPS release. “Investigators expedited the DNA test on Grafton’s sample,” and the test results came back about two months later.
According to the affidavit, Grafton had spoken to his sergeant and denied being involved in Cheatham’s death on Oct. 20. On either the next day or the following, he was admitted to the hospital after an apparent overdose of over-the counter pain medication and alcohol. Later, his sergeant provided a recorded and written statement in which Grafton admitted to Cheatham’s death.
Specifically, the affidavit states that Grafton told his sergeant “he was hanging out with her and that she said some stupid s*** to him and that he said some stupid s*** back to her and that at that point in time, his hands were around her throat.”
Grafton’s bond is set at $1 million.
The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Program grant through the Bureau of Justice Assistance provides funds to grantees to investigate and prosecute violent sexual assaults and homicides with a sexual assault nexus, according to DPS.