Hit-and-run victim fights for life

SANDUSKY A well-known martial arts trainer and ultimate fighter is battling for his life in a Toledo
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



A well-known martial arts trainer and ultimate fighter is battling for his life in a Toledo hospital — the victim of a brutal hit-and-run accident.

The man accused of the hit-and-run, Shawn Caston, served time in prison for an infamous drive-by shooting.

Mark L. Norcross, 35, 500 block Tiffin Ave., is in a coma at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center in Toledo with a brain injury, family members said.

He's listed in critical but stable condition in the intensive care unit. He has undergone two surgeries and suffered a broken femur.

"We're all trying to stay strong for Mark. That's all we can do. It's pretty much in the Lord's hands," said Christine Norcross, Mark's aunt.

Norcross was riding his 1998 Harley-Davidson east on Cleveland Road early Tuesday morning when Shawn Caston, driving a 2002 Dodge Intrepid, sped out of the parking lot of the Value Inn, slammed into the motorcycle and sped away, Sandusky police said.

Police spotted Caston's car fleeing from the crash scene and caught him behind a home on South Larchmont Street after a foot chase. Caston was drunk at the time of the crash, police said.

Caston, 42, has a long history of run-ins with the law. He was one of three men who were sent to prison in the 1994 drive-by shooting murder of Vivian Johnson. Caston was the trigger-man in the shooting, Sandusky acting police Chief Charlie Sams said. Sams was one of the investigators in the case.

Caston was granted a new trial by a federal appeals court and was found guilty of manslaughter in the subsequent trial. He served more prison time on that conviction, Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter said.

Sandusky Municipal Court records show other hit-skip and drunken driving charges against Caston. He pleaded no contest to operating a vehicle under the influence on March 31.

Caston pleaded not guilty Friday in Sandusky Municipal Court to vehicular assault, obstructing and hit-skip charges. Sandusky Municipal Court Judge Erich J. O'Brien set his bond at $30,677.

Caston was also charged with operating a vehicle under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. As of Friday night he remained in the Erie County Jail. His preliminary hearing must occur in the next 10 days, O'Brien said.

Norcross' family members are incensed that Caston did not stop to see if Norcross was injured and that Caston was out on the streets.

"I've hit animals and stopped to see how they were doing," Mary Shephard said. "The guy left him for dead." Shephard is the mother of Norcross' finance.

Christine Norcross, Mark's aunt, seethed with anger when she spoke of Caston's actions.

"He's going to burn in hell. He's going to going to burn in hell," she said.

Norcross, who has two sons, runs the T.A.P. Training Center at 145 Columbus Ave. Family members say he's known for his work with youngsters who train at his gym. Friday afternoon the building stood dark, and a hand-written note told students Norcross was injured and classes would resume on Monday.

A professional mixed martial arts fighter and an extreme combat trainer, Norcross holds a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a black belt in bushido-goschen ju-jitsu, and a second-degree black belt in mixed martial arts.

"He's a fighter and always been a fighter. We're hoping that will help him pull through now," Christine Norcross said.

Shephard said the family has been inundated with phone calls from friends and associates inquiring about his condition.

Christina Luberda, Norcross' fiancee, is keeping a bedside vigil.

"The doctors say he doesn't know anybody is with him, but I'd like to think he knows I'm here," she said.

Luberda said she plans to provide an update on Norcross' condition on his Web site, tapbjj.com.