Graham grad, beaten with crowbar, is strong, dad says

“We just assumed he wrecked his car. That’s what we were thinking. We had no idea,” Kevin Thornton recalled Monday in an interview with News Center 7’s Yuna Lee.

He and Angie had no idea their son, 19-year-old Austin Thornton, lay in a bed at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center very near death after he had been attacked with a crowbar.

Two men have been arrested in the incident that police said occurred in Willard, Ohio, where Austin was visiting friends.

Austin’s injuries, which included blunt trauma to his torso, were so bad that doctors had to remove parts of his skull, which was damaged in the attack.

“It was kind of in pieces,” the father said in one of the first public interviews any member of the family has given about Austin. “Hopefully within 14 or 21 days, we can go and put it back together.”

While the recovery for the 2012 Graham High School grad will be long, there is optimism going forward.

Kevin has returned to his job in Piqua and will travel to Toledo every Wednesday and stay each weekend, while Angie will remain at their son’s bedside.

“We hold his hand, and we lean over and makes sure he sees us, because if you say, ‘Austin,’ he will look. So everything is working… he’s a strong kid, so its working out,” Kevin Thornton said.

Austin’s youth, a recent support vigil held at his alma mater in St. Paris, Champaign County, as well as the prayers and good wishes that have flooded his Facebook page seemingly have all yielded positive results, his parents said.

“I think he’s got the doctors rethinking everything,” Kevin Thornton said. “Because of his progression and healing and the milestones that are being established now with the brain surgeon and everything, his progress is really advanced.”

Also advancing is the criminal case that has arisen out of the assault. A Huron County sheriff’s detective sergeant told the Norwalk Reflector the sheriff’s office hopes to wrap up the investigation soon.

Tyler G. Smith, 19, has been charged with attempted murder. The Norwalk Reflector reported late last week that he told Huron County sheriff’s detectives the assault “was precipitated by text, phone and electronic messages that were exchanged between himself and others,” according to a search warrant.

Kevin Thornton believes the incident could have involved a former girlfriend. That possible connection has not been discussed publicly by sheriff’s detectives.

The detective sergeant, Josh Querin, said one of the last things remaining in the investigation is obtaining feedback from various social media sites for “pretty much everyone involved.” The information is related to search warrants in the case.

“We hope to have it wrapped up by next week,” Querin said.

Smith, of Bellevue, is accused of hitting Austin in the head with a crowbar.

“Tyler Smith … made admissions that he disposed of a crowbar that was used in the assault, out of the window of his vehicle following the assault,” Detective Bill Duncan wrote in the warrant affidavit.

The accused accomplice, Connor C.D. Holbrook, also 19 and of Bellevue, is charged with second-degree felonious assault.

The two were arrested at a Bellevue apartment about two hours after the incident. According to the warrant, Smith and Holbrook were leaving the crime scene in Peru Twp. in a Ford Ranger pick-up truck. Both remain in the Huron County Jail, Smith on $500,000 bond and Holbrook on a $100,000 bond.

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