“The Shouting Was So Loud…It Sounded Like a Street Fight” — Laura Paglin, Dellwood Road resident and 9-1-1 caller
(UPDATED) In the pre-dawn darkness of Sept. 4, Dellwood Road residents Laura Paglin and her husband Duane Verh were readying for work. Three houses away, Dr. Alan Hoffer (at left) was fighting for his life.
During the attack, Hoffer, 39, was struck repeatedly in the head and arms with a steel crowbar. Eventually, Hoffer managed to overpower Bensimhon, who had been hiding in the shrubbery behind Hoffer’s house. Hoffer’s repeated shouts for help were heard by Paglin and Verh.
“We thought somebody was getting mugged or there was a street fight,” says Paglin. “The shouting was disturbing and unusual, especially for this quiet neighborhood.”
When Verh went outside to investigate the disturbance, he found the 250-pound Hoffer sitting atop the 5-foot-7 Bensimhon, an anesthesiologist from Allentown, Pa. Hoffer was bleeding profusely from his face, arms and neck.
Paglin then dialed 9-1-1 and awaited the arrival of Cleveland Heights police. Minutes later, a patrol car sped down Dellwood, directed to Hoffer’s house by Paglin and other neighbors who had gathered outside.
“When police arrived, Dr. Hoffer was still on top of Bensimhon, who was laying on his stomach,” Paglin says. “Hoffer had him under control. He’s a big guy and Bensimhon was complaining that he couldn’t breathe. He told Dr. Hoffer in an exasperated tone: ‘Alan, will you get off of me. My arm is broken!'”
Bensimhon’s alleged weapon was laying nearby. Initially it was described by a neighbor as a “scythe,” but police say it is a 12-inch crowbar with a sharpened point. The instrument had been wrapped in athletic tape. Also found nearby was a backpack, belonging to Bensimhon, that contained syringes and injectable sedatives. Police described Bensimhon as wearing a black mask and dressed all in black at the time of his arrest. He wore purple latex surgical gloves, and carried a silver flashlight in his pants pocket.
According to a police statement, Hoffer said that he was beaten with the crow bar and bitten repeatedly. He was treated at University Hospitals for his injuries, while Bensimhon was taken to the Cleveland Clinic.
Paglin, a longtime neighbor of Hoffer’s, describes him as a “nice guy who’s quiet and very pleasant.” She says she was shocked to learn that Hoffer was attacked by a family member. However, Alan Hoffer’s father, Dr. Barry Hoffer told police there has been a history of bad blood between his son and Dr. Bensimhon, including several threats of violence.
Since 2011, Alan Hoffer and Danielle Bensimhon have been involved in a contentious divorce and custody battle over their daughter, who is age 1. On the morning of the attack, Hoffer was preparing to leave for Florida to pick up the girl, police said.
Two years ago, Danielle Bensimhon, 34, relocated to West Palm Beach, Fla. A graduate of Oberlin College, she works as a realtor and is a cantor at Temple Beth David in Palm Beach Gardens.
Hoffer, a neurological surgeon at University Hospitals of Cleveland, lives on Dellwood with his 7-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.
Paglin says in the day or two after the attack, Dellwood Road residents were visited by a private investigator, who had been hired on behalf of Dr. Bensimhon. “He was talking to all the neighbors…just asking what we saw or heard. I guess he was gathering information for Bensimhon’s defense lawyers,” she says.
When asked if she had any theories about Bensimhon’s failed “hit”, Paglin, who works as a filmmaker, says she wonders whether the physician had plans to “knock out” Dr. Hoffer with sedatives, then transport him elsewhere. Police found Bensimhon’s car parked at the nearby Cleveland Heights Public Library on Lee Road.
Bensimhon was indicted Sept. 12 on charges of attempted murder, attempted aggravated murder, felonious assault, and kidnapping. His arraignment is set for Sept. 25 at Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. Bensimhon was born in Morocco and has U.S. and Israeli passports. As a condition of bail, Bensimhon surrendered his passports, which were reportedly held by Danielle