3 plead guilty in Struthers branding case

Branding Trial

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Seven months after they were arrested, Laurie Lyden, Brian Pryjma and Ron Bier pleaded guilty Monday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court in connection to a Sruthers branding incident.

“In effect, these adults should have known better,” Mahoning County Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Burns said.

Prosecutors say the three, all from Struthers, were drinking in Pryjma’s garage late last summer when they tried to convince 17-year-old Derrick Reber to eat cherries soaked in moonshine. When the boy refused, authorities say the men turned on him, while Lyden was capturing it with her cell phone.

“There were some recordings taken of an incident that involved this juvenile being the victim of what can best be characterized as a branding,” Burns said.

Investigators said Pryjma and Bier held the victim down on the ground while a fourth suspect, Andrew Kocak of Boardman, burned the boy on his buttocks and hip using a heated can of chewing tobacco. Kocak pleaded guilty in November to charges of endangering children, corrupting another with drugs, felonious assault and intimidation. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

At the time, Lyden had been working as a secretary for the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office but lost her job after being indicted.

All three are due back in court later this spring for sentencing.

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