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Mother of Suspect in Hammer Attack Speaks Out

FOSTER TOWNSHIP — A worker continues to recover after he was randomly attacked on Black Friday by a man with a hammer. The mother of the suspect tells New...

FOSTER TOWNSHIP -- A worker continues to recover after he was randomly attacked on Black Friday by a man with a hammer.

The mother of the suspect tells Newswatch 16 her son is mentally ill and the public needs to be protected from him.

Josh Schoonmaker of the White Haven area was charged with aggravated assault after Friday's hammer attack. He's locked up in the Luzerne County jail and is on suicide watch.

His mother worries he won't get the help for his mental illness behind bars and fears he'll hurt someone else if and when he's released.

Diane Schoonmaker packed up her son's belongings at her home near White Haven, not knowing when he'll be back to collect them.

"I'm worried that he's going to end up dead one day or somebody else is going to end up dead if he's let out of jail," she said.

Joshua Schoonmaker is locked up because police say he walked to a rest stop along Interstate 80 near White Haven early Friday morning and beat rest area worker Rob Oney with a hammer. Oney had to be treated at a hospital.

Diane says her 35-year-old son has been in trouble since he was in grade school.

Court records from the past 15 years show Joshua Schoonmaker has been in and out of jail for fights and assaults.

A couple weeks ago, he moved from the Philadelphia area to stay with his mother at her home in Foster Township.

"I'm the only bridge he had left. He burned all his bridges," she said.

The morning before Thanksgiving Diane Schoonmaker says Joshua snapped and tried to strangle her.

"'You want to die now?' and he's just going on and on and on, and I'm getting to the point where, I couldn't swallow. I realized I can't even breathe now."

She says Joshua finally eased up and left the house.

That afternoon, Diane got a protection from abuse order against her son. When Joshua returned to the house Thanksgiving morning, she called police.

However, they could not arrest Joshua because police told her he had not been served with the protection order.

"So they turned and looked at me and said, 'Can you put him up in a hotel for the night?' and I said, 'I don't have any money.''

Diane Schoonmaker says police instead drove her son away. She doesn't know where they took him. But the next day police say Joshua ended up at the I-80 rest stop near White Haven and allegedly hit Rob Oney in the back of the head with a hammer.

Diane says she wishes she could talk to Oney in person.

"I am so, so sorry. I wish he would have killed me that day so he would have been locked up, and you would not have been hurt."

Joshua Schoonmaker is still waiting for his preliminary hearing.

Diane Schoonmaker hopes that if her son is convicted, that he will serve time, and be released to a group home that specializes in helping people like Joshua.