Jenny's Market robbery case dropped; business carries on in midst of legal battles
Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com
The attack sent Hoey to the hospital for three days and launched an investigation by the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office. But it’s a case that likely will never be solved. Investigators dropped it after Hoey failed a polygraph test and then refused to further discuss the case with an officer, a police report shows.
Meanwhile, Hoey is in the middle of a protracted zoning dispute with Webster Township. At the same time, a lawsuit filed against Hoey and his business by an injured former employee after a devastating hayride accident last fall is winding its way through the courts.
After the difficult season last year, Hoey says he’s just trying to carry on with the business. He said the attack has left him afraid.
“There’s only one person involved in this mess and it was me getting nearly killed,” he said. “I’m so frightened for my life right now that I’ve had to buy two dogs.”
Hoey said the administrator of the polygraph test told him he had failed it after he took it, but didn’t explain what answers were deemed not truthful or provide any evidence of his failure.
He said he doesn’t have any insurance, so there would be no motive for him to make up the story or stage a fake attack. He said deputies told him he had slightly changed his story about the attack during interviews, but he said that’s no wonder considering the seriousness of his injuries. “They questioned me in the hospital, and I was beaten nearly to death,” he said.
The night he reported the attack, Hoey told deputies the robbers stole about $50,000 that he had in a bag with a strap around his neck, a newly released police report on the incident shows. He later told Cpl. Mark Mesko that he had left the money in a trailer on the property and that while the robbers were beating him they asked where the money was. He told them it was in his trailer, and then the assailants stopped beating him, went to the trailer and stole the money, Mesko said Hoey told him.
The police report also states that the night of the attack, Hoey said he had been robbed of $50,000 but later said it was $55,000. He also initially said he did not see the face of one of the suspects who attacked him but later said he did, and that the attacker was Mexican, but he could not provide any further identifying features.
Hoey took a polygraph test on Nov. 3, 2011, which the test administrator said he failed, the police report indicates. In the report, sheriff’s Det. Everette Robbins wrote that he tried to interview Hoey after the polygraph test, but Hoey was uncooperative and asked to leave, which he was allowed to do. Robbins wrote that he told Hoey the department could reopen the investigation if Hoey contacted him with a “truthful version of events.”
On Jan. 31, 2012, Robbins wrote that the case was “closed due to the lack of victim cooperation/truthfulness.”
The night of the reported attack, Hoey told deputies he was in a trailer on the property when the lights went out. The power to the trailer is supplied by an extension cord that runs to the barn, so Hoey went to the barn to check on the power.
“In the barn, Mr. Hoey was struck in the head from behind and grabbed by one of the suspects,” sheriff’s Deputy Harry Valentine wrote in the police report. “Mr. Hoey was struck with a wooden horse yoke. The suspects beat Mr. Hoey, took the moneybag and fled out the north side barn door. The suspects fled to Island Lake Road. Mr. Hoey stated the suspects did not speak. He stated the suspect holding him whistled as a signal for the other one to hit him with the yoke.”
Deputies who responded to Hoey’s 911 call that night found him covered with blood. Pictures in the police report show blood streaming down his face and head. They also show a gash on the back of his head.
Deputies found Hoey’s baseball hat on the floor of the barn as well as a black ski mask. Blood was on the floor and on a wooden yoke, as well as on a table in the barn. Deputies also found blood droplets leading out of the barn and on boxes near an entry door at the rear of the market store.
Hoey told deputies the suspects were "short, non-white males, possibly Hispanic. Both males were dirty and smelled of cow dung." He said one of them had a shaved head. He said both were in their 30s.
Hoey said in an interview that he was scared to leave the hospital because of the brutality of the attack. “This was not a push and shove ‘em deal. They hit me with a club lots of times. I’ve got stitches in my head. One tooth’s knocked out. My face was black for a week.”
A season of trouble
The robbery report came several weeks after a hayride accident at the business left one of Hoey’s employees paralyzed from the waist down. Mary Armbruster was seriously injured when she fell off the wagon during a hayride in September. She has since sued the business and Hoey.
Hoey called what happened to Armbruster awful and said when he begins offering hayrides again during the busy fall season, he will be the one driving the wagon, so no one else can be injured.
Hoey hopes that by then, his lawsuit against the township will be resolved so that he can go back to making his popular doughnuts, a practice he had to suspend last fall after the state cited him for food-safety violations and the lack of hand-washing facilities.
Hoey sued the township in April over its refusal to grant him a permit to install a bathroom. In denying the permit, township officials said Hoey had failed to submit a required site plan.
Hoey contends he doesn’t need a site plan because the township previously approved a plan for the business, and this is a minor alteration.
The skirmish is the latest in a long-running battle between Hoey and Webster Township over alleged zoning violations. Last fall, the township sought to shut the market down, citing nine alleged zoning violations that range from lack of an approved site plan and failure to get a special use permit for some of its activities, to failure to have a certificate of zoning compliance for a building addition.
But recently, lawyers for the township and Hoey have both said they expect to come to a negotiated settlement over the matter.
John Bredell, who represents Hoey, said he and his client agree with the state that hand-washing facilities are needed, especially since the business has horses and other animals with which visitors interact. “We don’t think it’s safe to touch a horse and eat a doughnut,” he said.
However, he said the township has approved previous site plans and a new one is not needed. He expressed confidence the two sides can come to an agreement.
Ross Bower, Webster Township attorney, expressed a similar sentiment. “The township's goal is bringing the Jenny's Farm Market property into compliance with the township's zoning ordinance, just like any other property,” he said in an email. “The parties, through their counsel, are actively negotiating to meet that goal. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to resolve the matter quickly.”