GREEN TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - A retired Cincinnati firefighter nearly killed in a crash with a motorist described by authorities as "a menace to society" is out of a coma but still has a long recovery ahead.
Bill DeRemer will celebrate his 78th birthday Saturday at the Drake Center. He is being moved there Friday from the intensive care unit at University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
The Vietnam veteran faces months of rehabilitation and can't talk or eat. But he can open his eyes again and recognizes family and friends.
That's a huge relief to his daughter, Jenny DeRemer, and several retired and active duty firefighters who have constantly been at his bedside over the past two weeks.
"He's pulling through. He does have a very long, long road to recovery. He's a strong man," she said Thursday. "I know he'll bounce back. But he'll need another surgery in eight weeks just to get the rods out of his pelvis. Lots of prayers are still needed."
Her father was driving to the store to buy a lottery ticket Jan. 11 when a motorist behind the wheel of a stolen van crashed into his sport utility vehicle.
A Hamilton County sheriff's deputy spotted the stolen 1997 Chrysler Voyager and turned around to come after it, sheriff's officials say.
But the driver, Mark Newton, sped off so fast, the deputy never had time to activate the siren and lights on his cruiser to initiate a pursuit.
The next time the deputy saw the van, it had slammed into the side of DeRemer's 2005 Honda CRV at the intersection of Homelawn Avenue and School Section Road.
The impact of the crash was so powerful, it knocked DeRemer's SUV airborne about 15 feet. It rolled three times and slammed into a house on School Section Road.
Green Township Fire EMS District Chief Darren Mooney was among first responders on scene. He is a friend of the family and recognized DeRemer.
Mooney knew the widower lived alone with his daughter after his wife unexpectedly died from non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. His other daughter died of a heroin overdose, despite DeRemer's efforts to try to resuscitate her until paramedics arrived.
So Mooney knew the accident would hit Jenny DeRemer hard. He phoned another friend of the family, retired Cincinnati District 3 Chief Paul Weber. He asked him to alert Jenny. Weber picked her up at work and drove her to the hospital.
She is grateful for the overwhelming support of her father's former colleagues and active duty firefighters, calling it a Godsend. She wears her father's wedding ring on her finger and a necklace with his fire badge number, 182.
Firefighters are setting up a schedule so that when her father is moved to Drake, someone will always be there at his side, Weber said.
They also are already volunteering to reconstruct parts of the DeRemer house to suit Bill when he is able to return home, something that is not likely for months.
"It has been very hard and tiring. I won't leave his side and my firefighter family has been absolutely amazing," she said. "I couldn't ask for a better family. They have never left me. They are always here for me."
Her father was in a coma for eight days. DeRemer suffered 13 broken ribs; broken pelvis, broken sternum, broken collarbone, broken bones in his back, bleeding on his brain and broken bone in his sinus cavity as well as multiple lacerations that had to be stitched up, according to his daughter.
It breaks her heart to see him suffer, especially after devoting his life to helping others and serving his community here at home and during a time of war.
"He helps anyone and everyone all the time and will drop anything to help anyone," his daughter said.
Newton, meanwhile, has spent his life in and out of county jails and state prisons, court records show.
He has a lengthy criminal record, racking up more than 80 arrests and 11 convictions, including several felonies, court records show.
Newton was convicted in 2008 of three counts of trafficking in cocaine and one count of trafficking in drugs in Hamilton County. He served just over a year in a state prison before he was released in November 2009, according to a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Norwood police wrote in an affidavit he sold crack cocaine during an undercover drug task force operation within 1,000 feet of a school zone in November 2007.
Newton returned to prison in Dec. 17, 2011 after convictions for failure to comply, receiving stolen property and theft out of Butler County and receiving stolen property and possession of drugs in Hamilton County, according to ODRC.
He was released on Aug. 1, 2014 but was back in a state prison by Aug. 16, 2016 after a conviction of failing to comply with a police officer, court records show. He was released just over two months ago, on Nov. 7, 2017.
Newton's driving history with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles runs three pages long - and he's never held a valid driver's license in the state, according to Lindsey Bohrer, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Pubic Safety.
That didn't stop Newton from driving.
He was just charged Dec. 9 with OVI by Blue Ash police after he was found asleep behind the wheel of another stolen minivan, court records show. He submitted a urine test; the case is pending in the courts.
Newton also has racked up 17 license suspensions since 2007 alone, meaning he could not apply to get a license, Bohrer said. In 2016, he was given a five year license suspension.
In addition, he was cited for speeding in Georgia and failing to control his vehicle in Brown County, she said.
Newton was indicted earlier this month on one count of receiving stolen property in connection with the stolen van that slammed into DeRemer's SUV.
More indictments seem likely in connection with the crash, possibly for aggravated vehicular assault, once his blood analysis is completed.
We reached out to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to discuss the case.
"More charges may be coming so Mr. Deters does not want to do an interview now," Julie Wilson wrote in an email to FOX19. "I will keep an eye on this and let you know if Mr. Deters will do an interview in the future."
Sheriff's officials, however, have not shied away from speaking out about Newton.
A sheriff's corporal went before the judge at his first arraignment on Jan. 12 and described him as "a menace to society."
"He has no due regard for anybody in society. He only worries about himself," Corporal Tom Lang said, urging the judge to set a high bond. "He tried to walk away from the hospital last night. He's a flight risk."
Newton yawned and looked around during the brief court proceeding.
The judge set his bond at $250,000 cash.
When Newton appeared in court again Thursday, his lawyer, James Bogen, told Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Lisa Allen that Newton has been clean for the last 3 1/2 years and was trying to find a treatment facility, our news partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer report.
"But none of the facilities would take his insurance, and he couldn't afford the cost," Bogen told the judge, according to the Enquirer.
Judge Allen ordered Newton held without bond, pending competency tests, which Bogen requested, court records show.
Jenny DeRemer said she hopes Newton remains locked up for good this time.
"He's just someone who should not be out on the road, period. I would like to see him be punished and just not be out on the road to hurt any more innocent people at all."