Wednesday, January 26, 2011

1/21 Akron Beacon Journal Article

Sandstrom is set to meet convicted assailant in jail
Wife says former Barberton Foundation director believes in forgiveness

By Marilyn Miller
Beacon Journal staff writer

Published on Friday, Jan 21, 2011

The former director of the Barberton Community Foundation, Chuck Sandstrom, will meet the man who beat him into a coma face-to-face Monday, at the Summit County Jail.

It will be the first time the two have been together since the July 1, 2009, attack.

Michael D. Ayers, 34, of Akron was charged with felonious assault and sentenced to four years in prison this week after pleading guilty to the severe beating that left Sandstrom in a coma for eight weeks.

Sandstrom continues to receive therapy.

''There has been a lot of aches and pains, but once the sentence was over that was replaced by relief and closure,'' said Sandstrom's wife, Auburn. ''We felt a sense of being respected by the court and his family.''

Ayers, a four-time convicted felon, was arrested in Akron after a 15-month search.

The attack happened after Ayers' Oldsmobile was towed from the driveway of a four-unit apartment building on Grand Avenue that Sandstrom owns.

Authorities said Ayers saw the tow truck pulling away with his car, which apparently was going to be used by his sister, who was a tenant in the apartment. Ayers' mother also was a tenant there. Ayers lived across the street.

The assault charge — a second-degree felony — carried a maximum penalty of two to eight years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000.

Plea deal reached

The assistant prosecutor and defense attorney reached a plea agreement Wednesday. Ayers was immediately sentenced by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands.

Sandstrom never returned to his job at the community foundation.

Neither he nor family members attended the sentencing.

''We accomplished everything we needed to do outside of court,'' said his wife. ''It was important to us that Michael Ayers took responsibility for his actions.

''We didn't want the case dragged through court putting my husband down, labeling Chuck as that poor SOB. We just wanted some dignity and respect. The assault was the opposite of dignity and respect.''

She said it was important for the family that Ayers wants to address his alcohol and anger issues.

''Every crime Ayers ever committed he was under the influence of alcohol,'' his wife said. ''We are told he is a pretty decent person when he's not drinking. We have come to know his family. He was also a good provider for his three children.''

Letter of apology

She said the mother of two of Ayers' children marched with the children into the church the Sandstroms attend. ''She went to the pulpit and read a heartfelt letter of apology on Jan. 2,'' Sandstrom said. ''It was very sincere. We were very moved. She is gutsy.''

It just happened to be a Sunday that Chuck Sandstrom was preaching.

''He has a speech impairment, but he can deliver a strong message,'' Auburn Sandstrom said. ''He tells stories of forgiveness, including his personal story. This is a new chapter in his life. And maybe down the road, the two will get a chance to speak together and deliver an even stronger message.''

Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or

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