Teen sorry she left crowbar victim 'helpless and almost lifeless'

Cary Ashby • Feb 10, 2014 at 12:11 AM

The 19-year-old defendant admitted she'd never met Austin Thornton before he was the victim of a brutal crowbar assault.

"I don't know anything about you, but I think about you all the time," Brianna M. Boonie said while reading an apology letter Thursday.

"From the bottom of my heart," Boonie said she was sorry for leaving Thornton "helpless and almost lifeless" on the ground at the crime scene. She also was sorry for not doing more to stop the victim's attacker, Tyler J. Smith.

"If I could take the pain and misery away, I would do so in a heartbeat," said Boonie, who now knows why people call Thornton "Austin Strong."

On Dec. 23, Boonie, of 154 S. Hamilton St., Apt. 212, Bellevue, pleaded guilty to obstructing justice. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dismissed one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder or murder.

"You cooperated with the investigation after the initial hesitation," said Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway, who added that Boonie "got caught up" in the situation.

The judge was referring to Boonie helping hide Smith in her home for a matter of hours. The crowbar assault happened about 12:30 p.m. April 21 in the driveway of a rural Willard home. Attorneys and witnesses have attributed a vulgar "Twitter war" to leading to the attempted murder.

Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said Thursday that Boonie "certainly stirred it up" and seemed to be legitimately concerned about abortion being a possibility for one of the young women involved in the case.

"She was present at the scene of the crime," Leffler said. "She legitimately felt remorse immediately after it (the assault) happened."

Boonie's boyfriend, Connor C.D. Holbrook, 20, of 840 Kilbourne St., is serving four years in prison for his role in assaulting the victim. He drove Smith and Boonie to and from the Peru Township crime scene.

In late November, a jury found Holbrook guilty of one count each of complicity to commit felonious assault, complicity to tampering with evidence and obstructing justice.

Holbrook's best friend, Smith, 20, Bellevue, is serving nine years in prison for attempted murder. He smashed Thornton's skull with the crowbar -- an assault that required two brain surgeries before he was eventually released from a Dayton rehabilitation facility. The Dayton-area victim -- a star baseball player and bowler in high school -- requires 24-hour supervision.

"He lost months of memories he might never get back," his mother, Angela, said in January when Holbrook was sentenced. "Forgiveness may come later in life. ... but not now."

Angela and Austin Thornton weren't able to attend Thursday's sentencing hearing for Boonie due to the weather.

Boonie also read an apology letter to Angela Thornton, saying she understands a mother's right to fight for her son. Boonie, who spoke quietly Thursday, said she recently wondered if she'd ever see her own child again.

"I'm sorry my poor judgment affected your son," she also said in her letter to Thornton's mother.

When the judge asked Boonie if she had anything to say beyond her two letters, Boonie added: "I truly am sorry for what happened to Austin."

Boonie's defense attorney, John Allton, said his client realizes she had poor judgment and acted foolishly. Of all the defense attorneys in the case, Allton said he thought it was "very terrible case" -- one which the state should take seriously.

"She told me she's aged 10 years in the process," Allton added.

The defense attorney agreed with Leffler's recommendation of Boonie spending four to six months in a community-based corrections facility to address "some minor drug issues." A CBCF is a form of prison which focuses on substance abuse treatment and education. Leffler said he originally had considered recommending a two-year prison term.

"I think the community-based corrections facility is a reasonable resolution," Allton said.

The court ordered Boonie to report to the Huron County Jail by 3 p.m. Thursday to be screened for acceptance into a CBCF.

While on five years of intensive probation, the defendant must pay a total of $20,252 in restitution to the victim and his mother -- the same amount of out-of-pocket medical expenses her accomplices also must help pay. Boonie is prohibited from having any association or communication with Thornton and his family.

If Boonie violates the terms of her probation, she faces three years in prison.

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