Wednesday, Dec 13, 2017
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Teens plead no contest to West Toledo man's death

Officials may never know the reason why two groups of people in separate cars began fighting after they briefly stopped next to each other at a red light. 

What they do know — the fight left one West Toledo father, Thomas Lehman, dead. Roberto Almaguer and Jordan Collins — both 16 and both facing charges in connection to his death — walked into the Lucas County Juvenile Courtroom together Thursday, sporting green jumpsuits before Judge Connie Zemmelman. They each entered a plea of no contest to involuntary manslaughter, a third-degree felony, and disorderly conduct. 

The incident was reported on Aug. 5 in a parking lot in the 5000 block of Douglas Road. 

Lori Olender, deputy chief of the juvenile division, outlined a statement of facts Thursday that would have been presented if the case had gone to trial, which was scheduled to begin that day.

It started with the boys, who were passengers, in one car and Mr. Lehman in another at a stop light on Tremainsville Road, Ms. Olender said. Some exchange happened between the occupants of the two cars while waiting for the light to change, she said. 

Mr. Lehman, who had two passengers in his vehicle, pulled into a parking lot and the youths’ car followed. Both parties got out of their vehicles and the fight ensued, Ms. Olender said. 

The prosecutor said officials are unsure if they’ll ever know who started the fight because each side “points the finger” at one another. There were eight people between the two cars as well as people on the street with different points of view, she said. 

“There’s no way to ever know. There’s video, but it’s just silent video of cars on the street. We’re never going to know exactly what was said,” Ms. Olender said.

Ms. Olender said witnesses would testify the Almaguer youth punched Mr. Lehman, knocking him to the ground. The Collins youth is also accused of “stomping” on Mr. Lehman.  

The boys’ group drove away, while Mr. Lehman was left unconscious on the ground, Ms. Olender said. A witness to the incident reported the vehicle’s license plate to authorities. 

Mr. Lehman died Aug. 9 as a result of his injuries, according to Toledo police. He suffered blunt force trauma to the neck and injury to his vertebral artery, which led to brain swelling, said Dr. Jeffrey Hudson, a deputy coroner at the Lucas County Coroner’s Office. A blow to the neck — a punch or a kick — could have caused the injury, Ms. Olender said per the autopsy results.

Family of both boys sat in the courtroom, along with the family of Mr. Lehman, including the mother of their child. She sat hunched over crying as she heard about what happened during the incident. 

The Collins youth glanced at his co-defendant, who kept his head down until his mother entered and put her hand on his back. She sat next to the Almaguer youth, linking her arm around his. 

Charges of felonious assault, aggravated assault, and a higher level of involuntary manslaughter were dismissed with their no contest pleas. 

Jeremy Levy, who represents the Almaguer youth, said it’s a fair resolution for all parties involved. The attorney called the incident a “tragic event” and said his client never meant to harm anyone. 

Ms. Olender said it was not what she or the family had hoped for, but the final charges were appropriate, given the evidence in the case. 

“It was the right thing for how fast it happened, it was the right thing for the intent, which was probably nothing on anybody’s part when they first got to that parking lot when this happened,” said Ms. Olender.

The teens could be placed into youth detention services until they’re 21, said Judge Zemmelman. The judge said the teenagers didn’t have records prior to this incident. They will be sentenced Nov. 9.

Family of Mr. Lehman declined to comment following the hearing, and The Blade was not able to speak with members of the youths’ families.  

Contact Allison Reamer at areamer@theblade.com, 419-724-6506 or on Twitter @AllisonRBlade.

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