Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Rock toss puts teen through ordeal

By Sharon Turco
The Cincinnati Enquirer

His face is scarred. His memory is spotty. His doctor won't let him drive. But 17-year-old Chuck Hoffman said his suffering was eased a bit Monday when a Hamilton County judge found a Colerain Township man guilty of throwing a rock at a van Hoffman was driving last fall and causing his grave injuries.

Common Pleas Judge Ann Marie Tracey found Mark Holtman, 20, guilty of two charges of felonious assault.

Hoffman, a Northwest High School junior, was driving the family van to a hardware store Oct. 29 on Springdale Road when Holtman hurled a large piece of concrete onto the road from a nearby creek bed. It smashed through the windshield and struck Hoffman in the head, knocking him unconscious.

His younger siblings managed to gain control of the Econoline van until they could crash it into a vacant building to stop it. They were not injured.

"Basically he caused all my problems," Hoffman said, ticking his ailments off on his fingers.

He suffered traumatic brain injury and spent 17 days in intensive care, followed by three weeks at the Drake Center. He's through with physical therapy, but continues with speech therapy to help him think faster and regain his memory.

"He was very independent, now he has to rely on somebody else for almost everything," said his father, Charles Hoffman.

As Holtman sat at his attorney's side, the judge retraced his steps prior to the accident, citing testimony given throughout the hearing.

Holtman, the judge said, knew his actions could harm somebody. He had been hanging out at home with a friend when he suggested randomly throwing concrete, Tracey said. He changed into black clothes, then the two drove to a wooded area near the road.

At one point Tracey said Holtman's friend tried to stop him, saying somebody could get hurt. The friend left when Holtman refused to stop.

As his friend was leaving, "he heard a loud boom or bang," the judge said. "Mr. Holtman came running out in a frenzy, yelling that they needed to get out."

The duo fled, seeing Hoffman's van veer out of control on the road. "Mr. Holtman commented that he hoped nobody had been hurt," Tracey said.

Yet they didn't stop.

Holtman admitted to throwing the concrete on the road.

Ramona Hoffman, Chuck's mother, spoke briefly after Holtman was found guilty.

"In addition to incarceration he needs help so he doesn't do this to another family," she said.

Upon her verdict, Tracey revoked Holtman's $100,000 bond and remanded him to jail. He'll be sentenced next month.

E-mail sturco@enquirer.com

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