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Names in the News: How Tom Drost Saved a Life

A minute later might have been too late for the Simonoski family after ax attack

Name: Tom Drost

Age: 58

Personal: Married to Vicki for 36 years; two grown children, four grandchildren; lives on Hollo Oval. Retired pattern maker, U.S. Marine Corps veteran, member of Strongsville Rotary.

Why he's in the news: Last Aug. 21, he heard his neighbor, Bilyana Simonoski, 23, screaming for help. He called 911, ran across the street and stopped , with an ax and hacked Bilyana's wrist, from hurting his family further. 

Most vivid memory of the day: Bilyana shrieking, "He killed my mother." "I can't describe that scream. It was a horrifying scream," Drost said. 

What he did: Drost, who was walking his dog, started to run over but realized he needed backup. "I thought, if he puts me down, then what?" So he put the pup in the house and called 911 before sprinting across the street. 

He told Vicki to stay in the house and, as he left, yelled "I love you" over his shoulder. "After that, I thought, OK, I can do this." 

He pulled Simonoski, with whom he'd had any number of pleasant front-yard chats, away from Bilyana. "I said Alex, this is Tom, and he just let go. He just released."

What happened next felt like he was in a movie. "I said Alex, did you really kill your wife? He reached in his pocket, took out a cigarette, lit it up and said, 'They pushed me too far, Tom.'"

After that, police arrived, and other neighbors ran to help. One put pressure on Milka's head wounds: Vicki, a nurse, tended to Bilyana's injury; a police officer ran in the house, saw Milka lying in a pool of blood and asked, "Is that the guy?" Drost nodded and Simonoski was handcuffed.

"It was amazing. It was like we'd practiced it," Drost said. "Everyone knew what to do."

Since then: On May 2, a judge sentenced Simonoski to 18 years in prison -- the maximum -- for the brutal attacks. Drost was in the courtroom with Bilyana and her siblings, Alex and Vesna, as and described how he spit on their mother and degraded her for years.

Drost was among those who wrote a letter to the judge, asking for the harshest sentence possible. "Even after Aco's time is served, Milka's life will continue to be mentally and physically destroyed," he wrote.

He insists he's not a hero. "I knew if I didn't do anything, if I just waited for the police to get there, I'd have to live with that the rest of my life," he said. "What if he hit one of them again? I'd have to live with that."

And now, as the kids try to move past that horrible day and Milka, who is unable to speak or take care of herself, struggles to recover in a nursing home, Drost can't help but be reminded of Aug. 21 over and over. "Every day when I take the dog out, I think of it," he said. "Every day."

Jeanne May 20, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Tom is a class act guy!

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