Everyone in District Judge Scott Laird's courtroom knew Ian O'Toole is dead. But no one mentioned it at Thursday's preliminary hearing for O'Toole's alleged attacker.

The 24-year-old O'Toole, of Hopewell Township, died at 10:32 p.m. Oct. 9 in York Hospital, about three weeks after being beaten by Benjamin Robert Blair, according to York Area Regional Police.

Blair, 23, of 115 S. Franklin St. in Red Lion, was in court for his hearing on charges of aggravated assault, simple assault and harassment. The charges were forwarded to court and Blair is now facing trial.

He so far has not been charged with homicide.

Senior deputy prosecutor Seth Bortner said that's because his office is waiting for a forensic pathologist to submit a final autopsy report.

If O'Toole's death is ruled a homicide, Bortner said he expects Blair would be charged with that offense.

Shawn Curry, Blair's defense attorney, said it's too early to draw any conclusions about what caused O'Toole's death. Through Curry, Blair declined comment.

For now, he remains free on $5,000 bail and is scheduled for formal arraignment on Dec. 14.

Friend takes stand: Testifying Thursday was O'Toole's friend, William Prescott III of York Township, who police said also was attacked by Blair.

Prescott said he was driving as he and O'Toole left O'Toole's home and headed for Prescott's home the night of Sept. 16. They stopped at Royal Farms on South Queen Street near Leader Heights Road so Prescott could buy energy drinks.


After parking, a woman -- Abrianna Martinez, according to court documents -- parked in Prescott and started yelling at him, he said.

"She told me that I ran her off the road and I was going to get what was coming to me," he said, adding he did not run her off the road. "I waved her off and went into the store."

He bought drinks and returned to his car. By that time, O'Toole had gotten out of the passenger seat and was standing by a Redbox machine, helping an "older gentleman" use it, Prescott said.

Grabbed by throat: That's when Prescott was grabbed by the throat and struck in the back of the head three times, he said, allegedly by Blair. During the attack, he yelled for his friend to help and O'Toole ran over.

"(Blair) picked up and body-slammed Ian O'Toole to the ground," Prescott testified. "I heard his head crack on the ground."

Prescott said Blair then got on top of O'Toole and started punching him "over and over again" in the face or head. He said he got out of his car, at which point Blair fled the scene.

Injuries: O'Toole was left "lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood," Prescott testified, moaning as blood poured from his head.

Hospital reports indicate O'Toole's injuries included broken bones to his right eye and right upper cheek, facial bruising and two fractured wrist bones, according to York Area Regional Officer Michael Zinn, the only other person to testify.

Curry argued the aggravated assault charge should be dismissed because Blair didn't "accost" the victim.

'Mutual' fight? "The testimony is quite clear," Curry told the judge. "They charged each other. They engaged in a mutual confrontation."

Curry also argued O'Toole's injuries "don't rise to the level of serious bodily injury," a standard required for felony aggravated assault.

But Bortner prevailed after pointing out O'Toole was trying to help his friend, not start a fight. He also noted that slamming someone's head to the ground and causing broken bones certainly meet the "serious bodily injury" standard.

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.