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Published: Tuesday, 10/3/2006

Worker guilty in death of his boss

Showing little emotion as the circumstances of his fight with his boss were recounted, Donald O. Wheeler II changed his plea in Lucas County Common Pleas Court yesterday and was found guilty in the auto body shop manager's death.

Wheeler, 39, of Maumee pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of negligent homicide in the death of Jack Nidiffer, 51, of Sylvania Township.

Wheeler also pleaded no contest to a felonious assault charge for punching a customer, Ron Mastriciano, who was present in Mr. Nidiffer's office at the time of the Nov. 11, 2005, assault.

Wheeler remains free on bond and will be sentenced Nov. 13 by Judge Gary Cook.

Prosecutors said that Wheeler entered Affordable Auto Repair, 3653 Marine Rd., and assaulted both Mr. Nidiffer and Mr. Mastriciano. Shortly after the altercation, Mr. Nidiffer collapsed with chest pains and was taken to University Medical Center where it was determined he had suffered a heart attack. He died three weeks later.

Wheeler originally was charged with involuntary manslaughter, but agreed to a lesser charge. When pleading no contest, a defendant is found guilty but does not admit guilt.

Mr. Mastriciano, who said he temporarily lost his hearing after Wheeler hit him in the head, said he plans to speak at Wheeler's sentencing next month.

Wheeler faces up to eight years in prison for the felonious assault conviction and six months for the negligent homicide conviction.

"I'm going to ask for him not to be sentenced to prison," Mr. Mastriciano said, adding that he doesn't believe Wheeler intended to do any real harm that day. "He and Jack were friends a long time."

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