The Heroes of Hollo Oval: Behind the Scenes at the Ax Attack
Neighbors unite to protect family of man accused of trying to kill his wife
Tom and Vicki Drost were supposed to go out for a nice dinner Aug. 21 to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
If they had, things might have turned out even worse on Hollo Oval that night.
Instead, Tom was taking their dog Sassy for a short walk about 8:30 p.m. and so was able to hear screams coming from the house across the street.
And he was able to jump into the fray and possibly prevent more bloodshed after a neighbor attacked his ex-wife and daughter with an ax. The man, Aco Simonoski, is in jail on attempted murder charges and four counts of felonious assault in connection with the attack.
"If I didn't do anything, I'd have to live with that," Drost said with a shrug. "Anybody would have done the same."
'He Killed My Mother'
Drost said that when he heard the screams, he looked across the street and saw Aco Simonoski, known in the neighborhood as Alex, struggling with a woman in the garage.
The woman -- who turned out to be Aco's daughter, Bilyana -- was screaming, "He killed my mother."
Drost, a former Marine, took the dog back in the house and ran across the street, calling 911 as he went.
By the time he arrived, father and daughter had wrestled their way onto the garage floor.
"I thought, OK, here's my opportunity," Drost said.
He grabbed Aco, the neighbor he'd had many front-yard chats with during the last seven months, by the arm.
"I said, 'Alex, this is Tom. Let her go,'" Drost said.
And just like that, he did. Simonoski got up and walked with Drost into the driveway.
The first police officer arrived, ran into the house, saw Simonoski's wife Milka lying in a pool of blood and ran right back out.
"He yelled, 'is this the guy?' I said yes and he put the handcuffs on him," Drost said.
Vicki Drost, a registered nurse, tended to Bilyana's injuries until paramedics arrived.
When he heard the screams, Tom Drost thought Aco was trying to drag Bilyana back into the house so he could hurt her.
He later learned that Bilyana told police she was trying to push her father out of the house so he couldn't hurt her mother any more.
"If there's a hero in this story, it's got to be Bilyana for how she fought her father off till help came," Drost said.
Authorities say Simonoski struck his ex-wife in the head twice with an ax and cut Bilyana's hand when she tried to stop him.
Neighbors say Milka, 51, is in critical condition at MetroHealth Medical Center, with a 50-50 chance of regaining consciousness. The ax blows pushed part of her skull into her brain, friends said.
Bilyana, 22, who also suffered multiple bone fractures, underwent surgery to have pins placed in her hand on Wednesday.
The family, including the parents and three adult children, moved to Hollo Oval seven months ago. Neighbors say Milka and Aco, who were divorced, were trying to reconcile.
But on Aug. 21, the couple had an argument in the morning about whether Aco should continue to live there. He left, and Milka and Bilyana went to church, then out to dinner.
When they got home, Aco was there, apparently intoxicated. The couple argued, and he went to the garage for the ax, police said.
Ryan Miday, spokesman for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, said Aco went after Milka, but Bilyana intervened, and was cut on her hand.
He then hit Milka in the head. Bilyana struggled with him again in the doorway to the garage, but he got away from her.
"He came back inside and hit her mother again with the ax as she lay on the kitchen floor motionless," Miday said.
Aco Simonoski almost got out of jail on Wednesday. With his original bond set at $100,000, he could be released by paying $10,000.
And he was set to post it, too. Drost said he learned the church where Simonoski worked planned to help him get released.
But the neighbors, fearing for the safety of Simonoski's other two children, called Mason's office to protest.
Prosecutors quickly called for another bond hearing, and a judge agreed to raise it to $500,000.
And the neighbors aren't done. They are now trying to raise money for a place for the Simonoski children to live for the next few months.
"It's a nice street," said Drost, who is a member of Strongsville Rotary. "It really is."
On the night of the incident, he said dozens of people came out to help.
"I was impressed how all the neighbors came together," he said. "Everyone was asking what they could do."
'A Nice Guy'
Of all the people on Hollo Oval, Drost was the one who knew Aco Simonoski best.
"I'd be outside working in my yard and he'd come out and talk," Drost recalled. "He and I had a bond, I guess."
Neighbors were surprised to learn Aco, who is from Macedonia, is not a U.S. citizen and is here on a green card.
During their chats, Drost said, Simonoski seemed like a nice guy. But Drost was aware of a dark side, based on how Milka -- who was very popular in the neighborhood -- and the kids talked about Simonoski.
"I always told the kids, just scream," Drost recalled. "If there's any trouble, I told them to scream."
On Aug. 21, one of them did. And Drost was there to hear it.
"Some people have thanked me for what I did," Drost said. "But I think anyone would have done it."