Man sent to prison for assaulting Middletown business owner

A former homeless man, who was taken in by a Middletown woman, has been sent to prison for assaulting her last summer in her home.

Joshua Speaks, 33, was charged with felonious assault after he attacked his roommate on Aug. 14, 2021, in her Central Avenue residence.

Sarah Little Risner, a pet groomer and owner of the Pink Poodle Boutique in downtown Middletown, was severely beaten during the attack, according to Middletown police.

She suffered a crushed orbital eye socket and a brain bleed, according to police.

Speaks was found guilty in September of this year following jury trial in Butler County Common Pleas Court. On Thursday, Judge Jennifer McElfresh sentenced Speaks to eight to 12 years in prison. Speaks will get credit for time served and he has been in jail since his arrest.

Risner said after multiple surgeries and bed rest she recovered enough to reopen the business two months ago. She is working with a speech therapist to regain her normal diction. She has foreign accent syndrome caused by the trauma to her brain.

“After I woke up from the brain bleed, I spoke this way. People tell me I sound like I have a foreign accent, but I am from Ohio,” she said.

On Aug. 14, as a Middletown police officer was on patrol about 3:10 p.m. the officer saw a man leave a house in the 3800 block of Central Avenue. As the officer passed, the man called out “hey,” and he stopped.

Risner, 43, was found upstairs semi-conscious with facial injuries. McDonald said Risner said she was beaten with an object and used a knife to protect herself. Speaks was not injured, according to police.

Police detectives said Risner took Speaks in as a favor for a friend. When she wanted him to leave, he became upset and got physical, police said.

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