Judge John M. Solovan sentenced Thomas Lee Gessler Jr. to 10 years in prison Friday for a car jacking that left a woman seriously injured in March.
Gessler, , 36, of Martins Ferry was sentenced in Belmont County Common Pleas Court. He was charged with felonious assault, theft of a motor vehicle and aggravated robbery.
The charges stem from an incident in which the Rev. Theresa Bobot of Belmont United Methodist Church had driven to her daughter's home just outside St. Clairsville on Barton Road to pick up her grandson to take him to school. As she was pulling into the driveway, Bobot observed a man approaching on foot and waving his arms, asking for help.
Gessler entered the vehicle. Bobot exited the car, and the man got behind the wheel and hit the gas, taking off in reverse at high speed. Bobot became caught in the car door and was dragged some distance before she was freed, suffering serious injuries and a subsequent stroke.
A manhunt ensued, involving multiple agencies. Gessler eventually turned himself in and claimed to have been under the influence of synthetic marijuana.
Assistant Prosecutor Dan Frye called three of Bobot's children to speak about the fear they experienced when their mother's well-being was in doubt, as well as the enduring physical, mental and emotional trauma that Bobot, her family and community still suffer.
Gessler's defense attorney called a former drug addict to speak about the power drug addiction can exert over a person's actions - how it can impair judgment and motivate related crimes to support the addiction. The witness added that rehabilitation is possible.
The defense added that Gessler had been unfamiliar with synthetic marijuana and its effects. In this case, she said the drug induced an extreme sensation of paranoia in Gessler.
Gessler addressed an apology to the Bobot family.