'He was the dope boy, so that was the easiest way to get it'

Cary Ashby • Oct 4, 2013 at 12:33 AM

The half-sister of an aggravated burglary defendant testified Wednesday the man threw an airsoft pistol wrapped in a sock out of the window of the vehicle she was driving from the crime scene.

"They took me down a back road. They had me slow down to throw the gun out of the window," said the defendant's half-sister, Treva M. Campbell, of Norwalk.

"It was Jeremy. ... All Jeremy said was, 'I have to throw this out,'" she said from the stand.

Norwalk resident Jeremy M. Sax, 34, is charged with robbery, aggravated burglary and tampering with evidence in connection with a March 1 home invasion in Fitchville Township. The male victim previously dated Sax's now ex-girlfriend -- Brittany N. Fernekees, 23, of New London. Charges against Fernekees later were dismissed. (NOTE: To read the story about that aspect of this case, click HERE.)

Campbell, in late April, pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence. As part of a plea deal, the state dismissed one count of burglary. She will be sentenced next Wednesday.

"The state has not given me a deal to be here," she said from the witness stand. "I was never offered a deal. ... I was charged with tampering with evidence because it (the gun) was in my vehicle."

Campbell was convicted of driving Sax and her boyfriend, former Norwalk resident Larry Thornsberry, to the victim's home, where Thornsberry said he grabbed the man from behind in a choke-hold and Sax repeatedly hit him.

"He (Sax) pummels him with his fists and the metal part of the gun," Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said in his opening statement. "It was quite a melee -- a mess there."

Leffler and Sax's attorney said a 15-year-old boy who lived at the home had been upstairs when the defendants entered the house, but he only came down the steps once he heard the altercation — apparently to come to the victim's rescue. Thornsberry said Sax pointed the airsoft pistol at the boy, which frightened him away.

The homeowner, who wasn't there at the time, testified she had told Sax and Fernekees that they weren't allowed to be in her home because she didn't want heroin being used there. All the defendants are heroin addicts, she said.

"I've never met Mr. Sax as far as I know," the homeowner and victim's relative said.

Thornsberry, 36, now of Sandusky, will be sentenced Oct. 30 for one count each of burglary and attempted tampering with evidence. Thornsberry, the father of two of Campbell's children, also took the stand Wednesday in Sax's trial and said he met and befriended the defendant in jail about 2005.

Huron County Sheriff's Sgt. Chuck Summers, who interviewed Sax, said the defendant claimed he used his forearm to injure the victim's head, but he didn't mention the gun at first. Summers said Sax admitted to hitting the victim during the altercation.

"He claimed he got a broken nose in the fight," the deputy said.

Sax, when interviewed by deputies, reported being in "mutual combat" with the victim.

Thornsberry testified that some time after the home invasion, Sax told him to "bust me as hard as you can in the face" to make it look like he was injured in a fight. Sax's friend also said the defendant ended up with a broken nose.

"He asked me to punch him," Thornsberry said. "I know he was bleeding. I believe it was a broken nose."

Multiple deputies said Fernekees owed the victim $40 and the victim had her laptop computer as collateral. Leffler called the crime an attempt by Sax, "a consumer of drugs," to get money for drugs "from someone he knew had drugs." Thornsberry said there had been some talk before March 1 about confronting the victim, but he denied that he and Sax planned the home invasion.

Thornsberry testified it took more "force" than expected to get the drugs and money from the victim, which forced him to hold the man from behind while Sax assaulted him.

"I ended up getting him in a choke hold. He ended up getting hit by Mr. Sax," Thornsberry said. "He was the dope boy, so that was the easiest way to get it."

The victim went to Fisher-Titus Medical Center to have staples put in his head. Leffler told the jury the man "may be in hiding" and it may not be possible to get him to court during Sax's trial.

Sax's defense attorney, Sarah Nation, told the jury there's an allegation about the theft of $400, but the money wasn't recovered. She said the victim, a convicted thief and drug dealer, didn't call 9-1-1 about being attacked because "he didn't want police in his home." A Fisher-Titus employee notified deputies about treating the victim's injuries.

As Campbell drove Sax and Thornsberry away from the crime scene, she said she asked them about what happened inside the home. She testified she waited in the truck with the windows up while the pair and Fernekees went inside, but she couldn't hear anybody fighting.

"They just told me they'd be right back," Campbell said. "When they got back, they were in a hurry. I thought they were in a hurry to get to Norwalk because Rite Aid was about to close."

Campbell said her half-brother and boyfriend didn't talk about the assault as she drove away from the scene. However, she and Thornsberry testified they saw Sax throw the gun out of the passenger window.

"Jeremy just threw it over Larry's head. I was sitting beside Larry," Campbell said.

On March 8, a sheriff's office search team found the airsoft pistol in a shallow creek under a Jennings Road bridge adjacent to the Fitchville Conservation Club. Deputies credit Campbell with telling them where her half-brother ditched the gun from her vehicle. Authorities used sand bags and a sump pump to dry up the creek and locate the gun, which was wrapped in a sock.

"We didn't stop the vehicle. It was thrown out over my head," said Thornsberry, who was in the passenger seat.

Thornsberry, who attempted to help deputies find the BB-like gun, said he and Sax removed the orange or red tip from the gun to make it look like a real firearm.

Detective Sgt. Josh Querin credited Thornsberry with being the first suspect to mention the use of the gun.

"We didn't learn it was discarded until March 6," Querin said.

The detective interviewed Sax on March 4 before his bond hearing.

"He made admissions to going into the house. He made admissions to cutting up (the victim's) head ... (and) said he and should be charged with aggravated assault," Querin said.

Sax's trial continues Thursday.

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