Crowbar assault co-defendant Connor C.D. Holbrook said he was "extremely hesitant" to drive his best friend to Peru Township to confront his ex-girlfriend.
The 20-year-old suspect said he thought attempted murderer Tyler Smith was going to the Peru Township home so he could "dissolve his relationship with her." Holbrook testified Monday that was the best way to resolve their ongoing drama and even reportedly told Smith if he didn't calm down, he would drive back to Bellevue.
Holbrook, 20, of 840 Kilbourne St., Bellevue, is charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit attempted murder, attempted murder and obstructing justice plus two charges of felonious assault. Smith, 19, of 223 Hamilton St., Bellevue, was sentenced in mid-November to nine years in prison for smashing 19-year-old Austin D. Thornton's skull with a crowbar. The assault occurred at about 12:30 a.m. April 21 in the driveway of the rural Willard home where Smith's ex-girlfriend was living.
Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler, in his closing argument Monday, said this incident wasn't an act of self-defense, but an "unprovoked attack."
Holbrook's defense attorney, Ed Rhode, showed Holbrook the crowbar believed to be the weapon and asked his client if it looked like what was in Smith's hand.
"No, not even close," Holbrook said.
Holbrook said he only saw the victim fall to the ground and "didn't know if he was knocked down or knocked out." However, in a written statement to authorities, Holbrook said he saw Smith hit the victim "with a long metal object."
"He (Holbrook) thinks he's being extremely clever by bobbing and weaving," said Leffler, who told jurors that Holbrook also wants them to believe he didn't see the crowbar inside the cramped cab of the truck.
"It didn't happen that way. ... He's just fudging his story as he goes on and on," Leffler added.
"I was manipulated by my best friend to some extent," said Holbrook, who repeatedly said things got out of hand when Smith confronted Thornton, Smith's ex-girlfriend and her friend.
Holbrook, who was driving Smith's truck, said he "fled the scene" because things happened he didn't expect. He also testified he didn't expect Smith to fight Thornton because he'd seen Smith run away from other fights.
Leffler said Holbrook driving his two accomplices away from the scene "implies you know what's going on."
"There's evil intent going on here in spades," the prosecutor said. "You're assisting (Smith) by driving him over there."
When Holbrook was asked if he saw Smith holding the crowbar in the truck, Holbrook said multiple times he didn't see anything in his friend's hand while they and Holbrook's girlfriend were on the way to the crime scene.
"He (Smith) didn't have it when we got there. He obviously had it when he left because he threw it out the window," Holbrook said.
Holbrook's girlfriend, Brianna M. Boonie, 19, of 154 Hamilton St., Apt. 212, Bellevue, faces a Dec. 10 trial on one count each of conspiracy to commit aggravated murder or murder and obstructing justice. She posted a $75,0000 bond May 23.
Attorneys and witnesses have said a vulgar "Twitter war" between Boonie and Smith's ex-girlfriend led to the attempted murder and Smith threatened to make the victim swallow his own teeth. The ex-girlfriend, rural Willard resident Alexis Bodkin, was a friend of the victim's from middle school and became reacquainted with Thornton 10 to 15 days before the assault via Twitter. She also was pregnant at the time with Smith's child; the on-again, off-again couple broke up in December.
The night of the assault, Bodkin said she got an unexpected phone call from Holbrook. She testified Holbrook reportedly threatened to slap her in her mouth -- and even though she doesn't know the defendant, she knew his voice wasn't Smith's or Thornton's.
Rhode, in his closing argument, said his client didn't show very good judgment in getting involved in the ongoing "mama drama" between Smith and his ex-girlfriend. The attorney also said hopefully Holbrook has learned some lessons, such as staying out of other people's business. Rhode said the assault was an "argument over a girl that took a bad turn" and while Holbrook wasn't in the right state of mind or at the right place at the right time, he didn't see any evidence "of any plans to take Austin's life."
Doctors initially gave the victim an 80 percent chance of dying. Thornton, who had two brain surgeries, eventually was released from the Dayton Rehabilitation Center.
Jurors are deliberating today. The trial started Nov. 19 with a full day of jury selection followed by four days of testimony.