BOARDMAN Victim's widow asks why suspect was free
An assistant prosecutor for Mahoning County said the situation is not unusual.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- The widow of a Struthers man killed when a purse thief ran over him with a Cadillac says the man accused of the murder has a criminal record that should have kept him behind bars at the time of the death.
Michael J. Hogan "absolutely" should have been in jail, said Louise Ruble.
"What happened in the past? Why was he on the loose?" she asked. "His past should have shown that he shouldn't have been out."
Hogan, 36, of Boardman, faces murder and aggravated robbery charges in the May 31 death of Mrs. Ruble's 71-year-old husband, John K. Ruble Sr., at the recycling center behind the township fire station on South Avenue.
Hogan is being held without bond after his arraignment Tuesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. He pleaded innocent to the charges.
This is not Hogan's first arrest. Beginning in 1989, he served three sentences in state prison, according to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction files. He has also been locked up numerous times in the Mahoning County jail, according to court and jail records. His convictions include theft, robbery, receiving stolen property, breaking and entering and assault.
Boardman Police Lt. J.D. Heaver said Hogan had been arrested several times for stealing purses from vehicles.
In and out of jail
"He usually stayed away from the violence," said Timothy E. Franken, chief assistant prosecutor in the county's criminal division. "It was just a matter of time. They do it so many times, they're going to step over the line."
Franken said a thief can go a long time rotating between jail and freedom.
"The way judges and everyone else looks at it, violent crime gets the most attention," Franken said. He said it is not mandatory that judges consider a past criminal history when sentencing convicts.
But, he said, Hogan's case is neither unusual nor wrong.
"Everybody gets out [of jail] sometime, especially thieves," he said.
Common Pleas Judge James C. Evans said analyzing Hogan's situation would mean looking at transcripts of sentencing hearings and reviewing the judges and courts who handled his past cases.
He said situations like this show that there are longtime criminals on the streets.
Hogan's attorney, Mark Lavelle of New Middletown, declined to comment.
Investigators said Hogan had tried to steal Mrs. Ruble's purse from the couple's car at about 1:30 p.m. as they unloaded items at the recycling center. As Ruble tried to stop the theft, he was run down by a car driven by the thief, police said.
Car tracked down
Police recovered Hogan's Cadillac at an East Myrtle Avenue address in Youngstown the day after Ruble's death. They said it was damaged and its underside contained a belt loop from Ruble's pants and hairs from his scalp.
Witnesses have identified Hogan and his car as being involved in the crime, investigators said. They also said Hogan lived at his mother's Forest Ridge Drive address, only blocks from the recycling center.
But Hogan's mother, Beverly Hogan, said her son did not live with her but was staying with his girlfriend at the East Myrtle Avenue residence.
Court files show Hogan with former addresses on East Judson and Hilton avenues in Youngstown, Oregon Trail in Boardman and McGaffney Avenue in Lowellville.
Parole officers prohibited her son from living in the Forest Ridge home, Mrs. Hogan said. She said it was not clear to her why he could not live at the home, but she asserts a parole officer had it in for Michael Hogan.
"He tried to have Mike sent back [to jail] time and time again," she said. "He always tried to get him sent back."
Believes son is innocent
She acknowledged that her son has a criminal record but said he's "just like quite a lot of people in the whole United States." Her son made mistakes, she said, but did his time and deserves a chance. She also said her son's features do not match a description of the thief police put out in the days after Ruble's death.
"I believe in my son. I don't think my son did this," Mrs. Hogan said. "I don't see how people can be so vindictive."
But Mrs. Ruble said she is placing her trust in the evidence investigators have collected.
"I hope he's given what he's supposed to be given," Ruble said. "Whatever he has coming to him, I hope that's what he gets."