Gessler pleads guilty

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Thomas Lee Gessler, Jr., 35, 114 1/2 Eighth Street, pleaded guilty in a case of carjacking and felonious assault that left a woman injured in Richland Township March 1.

Gessler pleaded guilty to felonious assault, a felony of the second degree, theft, aggravated robbery, a felony of the first degree. Sentence was set for Nov. 30. A pre-sentence investigation and victim impact statement were ordered.

Gessler faces a maximum sentence of 11 years.

Charges stem from an incident in which Rev. Theresa Bobot, Belmont United Methodist Church, had driven to her daughter’s home just outside of city limits on Barton Road to pick up her grandson to take him to school. As she was pulling into driveway, she observed a man approaching on foot waving his arms asking for help.

Gessler allegedly entered the vehicle. Bobot exited the car, and the man got behind the wheel and hit the gas, taking off in reverse at high speed.

She became caught in the car door and was dragged some distance before she became free, suffering serious injuries.

A manhunt ensued involving multiple agencies. Gessler would eventually turn himself in and be held on a bond of $1 million.

Bobot was present in court.

“I wanted to be here to hear him plead guilty to those charges, because I know he is,” Bobot said, adding that she and other family members will speak at the sentencing hearing.

Gessler has previously been convicted of aggravated robbery.

DeFrank can be reached at