Windham Township man arrested, charged in nephew's shooting death

By Dave O'Brien | staff writer Published:

A Windham Township man is being held in the Portage County jail without bond, charged in the murder of his nephew who was found dead in the house they shared on South Chapel Street on Christmas day.

Joseph E. Thornton, 48, of 9889 S. Chapel St., is charged with murder, an unclassified felony, according to Portage County Sheriff David Doak. He will be arraigned today in Portage County Municipal Court in Ravenna.

Doak said emergency dispatchers received a call at 10:50 p.m. Wednesday from a relative of Jason R. Canan, 39, who lived with his uncle at 9889 S. Chapel St. in the P M Estates Mobile Home Park on the north side of S.R. 82, halfway between Garrettsville and Windham.

The relative reported being told that Canan may have been shot inside the residence, Doak said. Sheriff's deputies, accompanied by Garrettsville police officers, responded to the residence and found Canan's body inside. He had been shot and killed, Doak said.

Investigation led deputies to question Thornton in his nephew's murder, and he was officially charged with murder Thursday morning, Doak said. The investigation is continuing, with assistance from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification, he said.

Doak would not release any additional information regarding the murder weapon or a motive in the alleged murder. Additional charges are possible as the investigation continues and once the case is presented to a Portage County grand jury.

Thornton has only one prior arrest in Portage County, according to court records. He was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence by Ravenna police in 1996. The disposition of that case could not be determined in online court records.

The last reported murder in Portage County took place on Nov. 22, 2012, when Blake A. Wolfe, 37, was found dead inside his residence on West Center Street in Windham. His estranged wife, Traci Y. Wolfe of Paris, and Thomas W. Walters, of Shalersville, were arrested and charged with murder for beating him to death. Both pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and other felony charges earlier this year and were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1128 or

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  • blakesmom - My apologies for the errors regarding date and the location, they have been corrected in the online version of the story. I was directed to include the information in the story, especially because the last recorded murder in Portage County was also in the Windham area and also occurred on a holiday. In fact, three of the last four homicides in Portage County occurred in Windham, a fact that my editor in chief felt important to note for our readers.

    If you have any additional concerns, please don't hesitate to call me at 330-298-1128 or editor in chief Roger DiPaolo, at 330-298-2023.

    Dave O'Brien

  • first of all get your facts straight was Nov 22 and he lived on West Center St. but did you really have to put in all these details??? This town still feels the pain and we did not need to see this in the paper!! Blake was a awesome person and the Sherriffs dept and the Portage County Prosecutor did a fine job of taking the bad people off the street forever!! Please don't write about this again Thanks!!

  • My prayers go out to the families, friends, and especially the¬†children affected by this tradgedy.

  • mothermayi - Mr. Wolfe's death was the last recorded murder in Portage County. It also took place on a holiday, and also in the Windham area. As murders are rare in Portage County, we typically remind our readers of the last murder to take place when another one happens. If you have any more questions or concerns, don't hesitate to call me at 330-298-1128, email me at, or email our editor-in-chief, Roger DiPaolo, at or call him at 330-541-8400, extension 4164.

    Dave O'Brien

  • Was it really necessary to bring up Blake's death?¬†