Pennsylvania mother smashed into, slashed on roadway in ex's fit of rage
04/20/2017 2:13 pm PDT
A couple is out running errands when they notice something is off. A car is following them. And before they can figure out who it is, that driver suddenly slams into them, pushing their car off the road. And he's not done there. Today we've got more on who was behind the wheel of that car, and what happened next.
Growing up in the sleepy hamlet of Moscow, Pennsylvania, Leslie Bacinelli gained a reputation for her blissful, carefree approach to life. After high school, Leslie began dating Tim McGoff.
But Leslie's best friend Criquet Boyle says she wasn't so sure Tim was the one.
"When I first met Tim he seemed a little rough, like he really didn't want to be around her friends," said Boyle. "I said are you sure about this one Leslie? Because he doesn't seem like he wants all of us together, like he just wants you but she'd be like, 'Well, we're just new,' and you know when you're starting to date that's all you want to do is be together."
As time passed, others began to notice a distinctly dark turn in Leslie.
"I noticed how she wasn't allowed to come out with us anymore and she started to be really secluded," said Boyle. "He had her all to his self and she'd tell me like things he said to her, and I would try to tell her 'I don't think that's normal for a relationship for you to be spoken to like that.'"
"There seemed to be a lot of arguing between the two of them, and he was a controller and he liked to punish her, is a term that I would use," said Charles Bacinelli, Leslie's father.
Before Leslie could get out of the relationship, Mother Nature dropped a bombshell: a baby boy named Colin.
"The pregnancy was unexpected," said Charles Bacinelli. "Neither one of them had the funds to establish a home, and so my wife and I talked about it and decided that we would make our home their home."
Leslie claims that Tim McGoff began to drink more and work less, with their refrigerator filled from top to bottom with beer.
"He spent most of his time in the back room in the lower level of our house watching TV and drinking," said Charles.
Leslie told family and friends the heavy drinking turned her lover into a monster.
"He's choked her at one time, she told me, and pushed her while she was pregnant, pushed her down," said Debra Bacinelli, Leslie's mother.
"I said to Debbie frequently, 'This guy is going to do something,'" said Charles.
"She had to reach her point where she said 'I can't do this anymore,'" said Criquet Boyle.
But Leslie still loved Tim, and instead of ending the relationship, Leslie doubled down, wanting another child. But a newborn only drove home the need to make a dramatic change.
"At this point it was the yelling like towards Collin and then towards her, and you could just see like the little boy that Collin was was starting to change, and she noticed it too because she changed too. She was more quiet and walked on eggshells and she was just a different person," said Criquet.
Leslie found the abuse too much, and then found the courage to finally leave her boyfriend.
"You could see she wasn't happy and I think she was afraid to make the move to get out of that," said Debra Bacinelli. "But when she did find the strength she did it."
Amazingly, within weeks, Leslie reconnected with a childhood sweetheart, Craig Hoover. Like Leslie, Hoover was recently separated and had two young children.
"Our relationship seemed pretty perfect," said Hoover. "We had a lot of good times, a lot of laughs."
But there was someone who thought it wasn't so perfect: Tim McGoff.
"He wasn't happy at all. He thought that I think we were trying to ruin his life of sorts," said Craig.
After years of alleged abuse, Leslie Bacinelli said she made the decision to finally leave Tim McGoff at the time. She had to, for her two kids. But sadly her life of violence did not end there.
After what she said was 13 years of emotional and physical abuse, Leslie had finally found happiness, thanks to a long-distance relationship with her childhood crush Craig Hoover.
According to Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Gene Riccardo, Tim McGoff was quietly seething over the relationship between Leslie Bacinelli and Craig Hoover.
"That's the highest risk for any victim of domestic violence, is when they are leaving or when they have left," said Riccardo. "I don't think she realized how significant that the hatred that he had for her."
That hatred reached its boiling point on a weekend when McGoff was scheduled to have a visit with his sons. But the boys decided they would rather stay home to play with Craig's kids.
"Craig had surprised Leslie with his two girls coming in for the weekend," said Riccardo. "You know, it's not unusual for kids wanting to be with other kids. And in this particular case young Colin wanted to spend time with Leslie and Craig and his two daughters."
That evening, Leslie and Craig left the kids with her parents and drove to the store to buy them ice cream and rent a movie. Leslie put on a thick scarf to keep the winter cold at bay. But a cold snap would be the least of her concerns. Immediately after they pulled out of the driveway, Craig knew something was wrong.
"A car had pulled out right behind us, and I asked Leslie if she noticed any headlights when we pulled out of the driveway, and she said no, and I'm like 'This car came out of nowhere,'" said Craig Hoover. "The car disappeared and we pulled out, we traveled a couple more miles, and there was a car on the side of the road, and I said it's kind of strange, and she kind of brushed it off."
Was Craig being paranoid? Or did Leslie have a fuming ex on her tail?
Once they arrived at the supermarket, the car was gone, but now fear was creeping up. On their way home, the mysterious car reappears. And the hair on the back of Craig's neck is standing at full attention.
"I pulled up to the stop sign and I looked over and said 'There's that same car.' I said 'I think we're being followed,'" said Craig.
And that mystery is now hot on their tail.
"I said 'It's time to call the police.' They've been following us for 10 miles probably at this point," said Craig.
Leslie and Craig are being chased by a madman, suddenly they realize it's Tim McGoff, and the cops can't help them.
"I was the only one on duty at Moscow that night," said Moscow Borough Police Officer Matthew Cianfichi. "It's a one-person shift, a small town, and I told them 'I'll be there as soon as I can.'"
Once Craig's attempts to outrun Tim McGoff fail, Leslie calls 911 again.
"I was waiting for a bullet to come through the windshield, that was the thought going through my head," said Craig. "It was just scary at that point."
In chilling 911 audio, McGoff can be heard slamming into their car at 60 miles per hour.
"It was violent," said Craig. "He just smashed into the back side of us and hit us so hard that it actually put us sideways into the road, and he was pushing on the passenger side of the car, and I just remember looking out the side of my car like we're going to die."
Still on the phone with 911, Leslie climbs out of the tangled mass of metal. "They're gonna kill us!" Leslie can be heard screaming on the 911 call.
"I could see him standing in the middle of the road holding her ponytail and a knife in his hand," said Craig. "I just stopped in my tracks. I was too far away to do anything else and i just looked at him and said 'Tim, you got two kids at home,' and he just looked at me and said 'I'm going to [----] kill both of you.' And then he grabbed ahold of her ponytail and then he tried to slice her throat. And then she grabbed ahold of her throat, and I thought she was dying right there.
"He turned his attention to me and completely forgot about her, and I was fine with that, him following me," said Craig. "He had his knife in his hand, open, and he was chasing me around the car. I joked that he was not going to 'high-five' me if he caught me."
Strangers driving by describe the carnage in frantic calls to 911.
"I really thought this was where I was going to die. He was going to catch me at this point," said Craig.
Mercifully, Officer Matt Cianfichi arrives on the scene just in time.
"When I pulled up Tim McGoff was chasing Craig Hoover up the onramp to the interstate," said Cianfichi.
"I had gone over to Leslie to check on her and she had a cut on her face from her from her lip all the way almost to her ear, and then she was bleeding pretty good," said Cianfichi.
The brutal knife attack was savage. But despite a deep and violent stab, Leslie survived.
Despite all the evidence against him, just wait till you hear McGoff's story of what happened that night.
"He yanked me back again by my ponytail and he said to me 'Say goodbye this is your last [----] breath,'" said Leslie.
In her first TV interview Leslie describes the sheer terror.
"That was the most horrific moment of my life, because I thought I was going to die," said Leslie.
"If I recall correctly he hit us around 60 mph when we were going about 35," said Leslie. "And when we hit the guardrail, the airbag exploded in Craig's face and he was like knocked out briefly, and I thought he died, I just thought I saw my best friend die, so I shook him and I kept saying 'Hoover, Hoover.'
"At one point I was waiting for bullets to come shooting through the car windows, it was awful, and for people to tell you there's nobody to help you, that's what they're supposed to be there for," said Leslie.
"And I saw Tim standing in the middle of the roadway with a knife like this, like just this awful evil glare, and no emotion, he just said 'I'm gonna [----] kill both of you," said Leslie.
"He put the knife in my mouth and sliced it from lip to cheek," said Leslie.
But they escaped the nightmare, barely.
"You could see that the wound that she had was exactly the way that she described he attacked her," said Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney Gene Riccardo. "When you look at the blade of the knife, had a circular blade so you can see how he would have just cut her, and it was so clear that he wanted her dead."
Leslie was rushed to the hospital with a deep gash across her face. What saved Leslie's life? When Leslie left the house she put on a winter scarf -- that scarf saved her. McGoff's knife didn't pierce the thick material.
"So if I didn't have it on I really wouldn't be here today. Craig would have watched me die in front of him," said Leslie.
"Oh my God, but for the scarf this would be a murder case instead of an attempted murder case," said Gene Riccardo.
Turns out the car McGoff turned into a tank had been stolen earlier that day. And looking inside, cops made a disturbing discovery.
"Besides the knife that he had on him, they found a loaded .22, three 2-liter bottles of gasoline, soda bottles in a backpack, and they said he had about 70 bullets in his pocket, and a Bic lighter," said Leslie.
"He was prepared to do some damage," said Lackawanna County District Attorney Shane Scanlon.
Cops showed Crime Watch Daily the evidence they say McGoff had with him. And chillingly, they believe Leslie and her boyfriend weren't all he was after: They say he may have had mass murder on his mind.
"Our speculation was, well, he had three bottles of gasoline and there's three ways in and out of Leslie's parents' house, so our speculation was that maybe he was going to torch the house, and as they were running out of the house, shoot them," said Cianfichi.
"Something dangerous was going to happen at that home," said Riccardo.
Incredibly, Tim McGoff pleads not guilty -- even turns down a plea deal of 10 years -- and takes the stand in his own defense at trial.
"It was surprising that he did testify and it was even more shocking as to what he testified to," said Riccardo. "The knife, he said, accidentally opened up. How it was an accident with how Leslie could have sustained those injuries, it just did not make any sense, and the jury saw right through that. We really knew that his story was not holding up and it was a pleasure to cross-examine him on those."
After less than three hours of deliberation, McGoff was found guilty on all 15 counts, including attempted murder. Instead of the 10 years he was offered in the plea deal, he receives a minimum of 21 years behind bars.
"We got 21 years minimum, which was tremendous and it certainly brought justice to the family," said Riccardo.
"At least for 21 years they'll have some peace," said Leslie's friend Criquet Boyle.
"I believe wholeheartedly that if that individual were to be released that everybody's life is in danger in this family," said Leslie's father Charles Baccinelli.
For Leslie and Craig, the physical scars have healed. But the emotional scars are a different story -- especially those of Leslie's young son.
"He blamed himself, and for a 6-year-old to tell you, 'Mom I'm sorry. If I just would have went to daddy's that night none of this would have ever happened,'" said Leslie. "How do you explain to him that it doesn't matter if it was that night or if he went or not, it could have been some other night and it was going to be some other night?"
For his part, Craig Hoover made a courageous, romantic gesture to try and seize control over this tragedy. Only a week after the attack, he drove Leslie back to the scene of the crime.
"My heart just kind of sank and I started to cry. And I'm like, 'I can't be here,'" said Leslie.
"And I told her I wanted to make this place happy as it could be, even though something horrible had just happened to us the week before," said Craig.
"And that's when he took the box and he said 'I was going to wait until your birthday in May, but I didn't want you to think I was going anywhere,' and he asked me to marry him, and of course I said yes," said Leslie.
"I thought that was kind of remarkable. That was a nice play by Mr. Hoover," said Gene Riccardo.
Today Leslie shares her remarkable story to bring hope and courage to other victims of domestic violence.
"I want him to know that because of a senseless, selfish act he doesn't get to see his children grow up," said Leslie. "He didn't win. This time I'm on top and he lost, and that in itself is empowering to me. He didn't break me and he's not going to."
Leslie says her main focus now is on the two youngest victims of this crime -- her sons.
Colin, who is now 9, has struggled since the attack, at times blaming himself for what happened. Thankfully Leslie's youngest child Thomas was only a year old and didn't understand the attack. Leslie says isn't sure what she will tell him when that time comes, but as of right now the father in his life is the only man who's acted like one: her fiancé Craig Hoover.