4th person charged in Struthers branding case

STRUTHERS, Ohio (WKBN) – A fourth person has been arrested in connection to a branding incident last month that resulted in a teenager suffering serious injuries.

Andrew Kocak, 33, was picked up Friday afternoon on a warrant charging him with witness intimidation. He was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Task Force at a home in Boardman, according to Struthers police.

Police said Kocak has been threatening witnesses and threatened the branding victim at the Struthers versus Campbell football game last week. Police said Kocak was trying to get witnesses to say that victim Derek Reber said at the time of the branding that he was over 18. Reber is 17.

Last week, Laurie Lyden, 46, Ronald Bier, 35, and Brian Pryjma, 38, all of Struthers, were indicted by a Mahoning County grand jury on charges of felonious assault, corrupting another with drugs and child endangering.

Police said Pryjma, Bier and a third man Reber identified as Kocak heated up a chewing tobacco lid with a torch and placed the red-hot metal against Reber’s hip. Police said Lyden videotaped the Aug. 11 event and can be heard on the tape encouraging the branding.

Pryjma, Bier and Lyden also are accused of giving Reber marijuana and pain pills after the branding session.

Kocak has not been charged with branding Reber. He was taken to the Struthers City Jail and will be taken to the Mahoning County Jail Friday evening.

The branding incident left Reber in the hospital for a week with third-degree burns that became infected. His dad, Robert Reber, said he is still troubled after seeing the video of Kocak burning his son.

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