ALBANY, Ore. — The family of 50-year-old Ronald Whitehead is mourning the loss of an uncle, nephew, son, brother, and friend – one year after the Lebanon man with cerebral palsy was assaulted – and the Linn County District Attorney’s Office is not ruling out further prosecution of the convicted attackers.
Last August, Whitehead was assaulted by two men who stole his bike. Trevin King, 18, and Jesse Jimenez, 20, have both since been convicted of assault in the second degree and robbery in the first degree. King, who took a plea deal, will serve 10 years in prison. Jimenez, who pleaded not guilty, was found guilty by a jury in May and will serve more than 13 years.
“While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his incredible life,” said Maria Wise-Toney, Whitehead’s niece.
Whitehead died early Sunday morning. Although it was a huge blow to his family members, they say they are at peace knowing he is no longer in pain.
“He was in a lot of pain in his final days,” Wise-Toney said.
Although Wise-Toney is not able to say exactly how Whitehead died, the family says he had been in a 24-hour care facility since his assault, suffering from severe brain injuries. Wise-Toney says she does not know if his death is directly related to the assault.
Court records show that both Jimenez and King have appealed their convictions. The Linn County DA’s Office says it is in the process of reviewing “legal issues” to determine if it will prosecute the men for other charges related to homicide. Heidi Sternhagen, the prosecutor in the case, no longer works for the Linn County DA’s Office, so the office says it could take a while to fully review the case.
Meanwhile, Whitehead’s family members are remembering the man they called “Uncle Ronnie.”
“We have to focus on Ron and not them,” Wise-Toney said. “And make everything now about him, honoring him, and not the criminals and the crime that was committed against him.”
“We also celebrate an incredible life, and hope that it serves as an example to love unconditionally, selflessly; serve a greater cause than themselves. And treat every day as an adventure like Ronnie did.”
Wise-Toney says the family already feels it has justice and that it is now focusing on taking each day at a time to honor Whitehead.
“For those who ask what they can do to honor Ron, we have a simple request. Honor him by example. Of the way he lived his life so selflessly.”