Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Woodville man faces up to 45 years

FREMONT - A Woodville man faces up to 45 years in prison when sentenced for assaulting and robbing an elderly Gibsonburg couple.

Jimmy Houston, 34, pleaded guilty yesterday in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court to two counts of attempted murder and one count each of kidnapping, aggravated burglary, and grand theft before Sandusky County Common Pleas Judge John Dewey.

Houston, who is being held in the Sandusky County jail, was indicted last year along with Paul Biddwell, 32, of Alvada and Ronald Ruby, 33, of Toledo for breaking into the home of James Kohler, 74, and his wife, Mary, 76. The couple were beaten, and the intruders stole an extensive gun collection.

Sandusky County Prosecutor Tom Stierwalt told the court Houston had been at the Kohlers' home at least two times before the break-in and had sold guns to Mr. Kohler, a gun collector.

Mr. Stierwalt said that during those visits Houston had ample opportunity to see where Mr. Kohler stored his guns and cash box.

Then, on July 2, Houston recruited Biddwell and Ruby to go with him to the Kohlers' house, where they forced their way in and assaulted the couple.

Mr. Stierwalt said one of the masked intruders struck Mr. Kohler with a baseball bat, threatened to kill him, and threw him across the room and into a fireplace. One of the other intruders went upstairs and struck Mrs. Kohler with his fists.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Kohler were tied to chairs with black tie straps, and the trio then stole more than 30 guns and cash from the house, Mr. Stierwalt said. Mr. Kohler was hospitalized for five days after the attack, his wife for a day.

As part of plea agreements, both Biddwell and Ruby had agreed to testify against Houston, whose trial was to begin today.

In January, Biddwell pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder and one each of kidnapping and grand theft. Ruby had entered guilty pleas last September to two counts of attempted murder and one each of kidnapping, aggravated burglary, and grand theft. Sentencing dates for the three men have not been scheduled.

- Jennifer Feehan

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