An 83-year-old deaf man was critically injured in a robbery on Sunbury Road around 5 a.m. Oct. 22.

An 83-year-old deaf man was critically injured in a robbery on Sunbury Road around 5 a.m. Oct. 22.

According to Westerville police, Paul Earhart, a resident of Columbus Colony, was walking home from purchasing his morning paper when a man stole his wallet and punched him in the face before fleeing.

Earhart is in Riverside Methodist Hospital with severe brain injuries, said Westerville Det. Steve Fridley.

"He is in critical condition, and he is currently on life support," Fridley said. "The assault that occurred caused damage to the back of his head, which caused internal bleeding."

The man regularly walked to the nearby Duke and Duchess convenience store for his morning paper, but Fridley said detectives believe the attack was a "crime of opportunity."

There were several witnesses to the assault, mostly motorists passing by on Sunbury Road.

Those witnesses reported seeing a man strike Earhart before leaving the scene in a two-door yellow car, which police believe was either a Pontiac Sunfire or a Chevy Cavalier.

The assailant was described as being a young, white man who is thin and shorter than 6 feet tall. He had light-colored, shaggy hair hanging beneath a black ball cap, which had a flat brim and white embroidery on one half of the front.

Another man was driving the car, but witnesses were unable to provide a description, Fridley said.

Westerville police are hoping that a sketch of the assailant and the description of a car will bring tips leading to the culprit's arrest, Fridley said.

"What we're looking for is help from the public," he said. "We're hoping that someone out there recognizes the individual that might have been associated with that car, or they heard someone say anything about what happened."

Central Ohio Crime Stoppers has teamed with Westerville on the investigation. Det. Gerald Milner said the group is offering up to a $2,000 reward for tips leading to the assailant's arrest and indictment and will do whatever possible to help Westerville police solve the case.

"This (crime) is particularly heinous," Milner said.

The case is being investigated as an aggravated robbery and felonious assault, Fridley said, but he acknowledged that Earhart's condition is dire.

"We investigate what we have now as far as the charges. At this point, the charges are the aggravated robbery and the felonious assault," he said.

Those with tips on the case can call Crime Stoppers at (614) 461-8477 or the Westerville police tip line at (614) 901-6866.