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Published: Tuesday, 11/14/2006

Maumee man is spared jail

In throwing a punch at a customer during an argument a year ago, Donald O. Wheeler II may have triggered the heart attack that caused the death of the manager at a South Toledo auto repair shop.

Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Gary Cook yesterday spared Wheeler from a jail sentence and instead placed the mechanic on probation for the misdemeanor conviction of negligent homicide in the death of Jack Nidiffer.

Judge Cook ordered the punishment to run concurrently with the three years of community control that he gave Wheeler for assaulting the customer, Ron Mastriciano, in Mr. Nidiffer's office at Affordable Auto Repair, 3653 Marine Rd.

Wheeler, 40, of Maumee, was convicted Oct. 2 of felonious assault for punching Mr. Mastriciano Nov. 11, 2005, during the altercation at the auto body shop. Shortly after witnessing the altercation, Mr. Nidiffer, 51, of Sylvania Township, collapsed with chest pains and was taken to University Medical Center where it was determined he had suffered a heart attack.

Mr. Nidiffer, who had a history of heart problems, died three weeks later.

Judge Cook said Mr. Mastriciano claimed partial responsibility for the altercation and asked that Wheeler not be sent to prison. "The physical contact between you and Mr. Mastriciano was pretty elevated," the judge said. "But there was no physical contact between you and Mr. Nidiffer."

Judge Cook ordered Wheeler to participate in anger management counseling and undergo treatment for substance abuse; keep a steady job, and perform 80 hours of community service.

The sentence also requires that Wheeler pay $900 in restitution to Mr. Mastriciano for medical treatment and submit payment for his part of the cost for Mr. Nidiffer's funeral expenses.

If Wheeler would fail to comply with conditions of the community control sentence, he could be sentenced to up to four years in prison, Judge Cook said.

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