Attorney: Attempted murder trial could last 8 days

Three suspected accomplices in crowbar-related attack will have separate trials.
Cary Ashby
Sep 27, 2013

It's official: The three suspected accomplices in a crowbar-related attack have separate trial dates.

One of their defense attorneys said Tuesday two of the co-defendants will take the stand.

Defendant Tyler G. Smith, 19, of Bellevue, hung his head before his pre-trial hearing started Tuesday in Huron County Common Pleas Court. Smith and his father's eyes were red after they separately spoke to defense attorney Tom Nicholson behind closed doors.

Smith is charged with one count each of attempted murder, conspiracy and tampering with evidence plus two charges of felonious assault. He remains in the Huron County Jail, unable to post a $500,000 bond. Smith goes to trial Oct. 8; attorneys expect the proceedings to last at least four days.

"I think it might be eight days; we can hope for four," Nicholson told Judge Jim Conway.

Nicholson confirmed he and his client had turned down a plea offer from Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler, who said he wanted Smith to plead guilty to attempted murder.

"I will talk to the victim and his mother. I will get back to Mr. Nicholson about that by the end of the week," Leffler said.

One of Smith's co-defendants, Brianna M. Boonie, 19, of 154 Hamilton St., Apt. 212, Bellevue, has a new trial date of Dec. 10. The original date conflicted with defense attorney John Allton's schedule.

Boonie is charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder or murder and obstructing justice. She posted a $75,000 bond May 23 -- about four days after her arrest in court when she attended a hearing for one of her suspected accomplices.

Her boyfriend, Bellevue resident Connor C.D. Holbrook, 19, of 840 Kilbourne St., is out of jail, having posted 10 percent of a $100,000 bond.

Holbrook faces one count each of conspiracy, attempted murder and obstructing justice plus two charges of felonious assault. His trial date is Dec. 19 with a final pre-trial hearing seven days before that. Defense attorney Ed Rhode is representing Holbrook.

The previous plan was to have Smith and Holbrook tried together Oct. 8.

Nicholson, who represents Smith, equated the separate trials as a red herring for the state. The defense attorney also said Tuesday he knows Smith and Holbrook will testify, but he considers the different trials a "procedural ploy to separate the main witnesses" -- and not something to the bring about the "means of justice."

"The fairest treatment for the individuals is to try them separately," the judge said in response.

The trio of suspected accomplices are charged in connection with the April 21 crowbar-related attack of 19-year-old Dayton-area resident Austin D. Thornton.

The victim first went to Willard Mercy Hospital, where doctors gave him an "80-percent chance ... of dying," authorities said.

Thornton then was transported to the neuro-intensive care unit of Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, where he was in critical condition for a period of time. He later was released from a Dayton rehabilitation facility.

The suspects reportedly left the Peru Township crime scene and went southbound in a Ford Ranger. The pickup truck is being held as evidence at the Huron County Sheriff's Office.

Boonie "was present at the time of the beating" and reportedly had contact with the crowbar as it was being discarded out of a window of the truck, authorities said. Detective Bill Duncan, in a warrant, has alleged Smith reportedly admitted to throwing the crowbar "out of the window of his vehicle following the assault."

About two hours later, the trio of suspects were arrested at Boonie's apartment in Bellevue.

Smith's attorney, Nicholson, earlier called the circumstances a "mistake" and a "crime of passion." Nicholson said Tuesday the case deals with "profound issues" such as a attempted murder and called the situation a "major Peyton Place," referring to the name of a late 1950s prime-time soap opera.

Smith's parents, who were in court Tuesday, declined to comment.