Michigan teen pleads guilty to dad's murder after family pressure
04/28/2016 3:59 pm PDT
The family of Tucker Cipriano did everything they could to get their son some help. But unfortunately his addiction would take a deadly turn.
From the outside, the Cipriano family lived a near-perfect life in a nearly perfect home in Farmington Hills, a wealthy community just outside of Detroit, Michigan.
Bob Cipriano, 52, was a beloved public school administrator. His wife Rose, 51, an avid swimmer and equally loved fitness instructor. By all accounts they are devoted parents who raised four sweet kids with strong values.
Theirs was a quaint, uneventful life until early on the morning of April 16, 2012, when evil rained down and completely shattered their near-perfect world.
Two intruders broke in and brutally beat Bob Cipriano with a baseball bat. Then they turn their rage on Rose. The Ciprianos' son Salvatore races in and is the next to fall.
Their little girl Isabella trembles with the horror playing out in front of her as her big brother Tanner hides in a closet and dials 911.
When police arrive, Rose and Salvatore are barely still alive. Tragically, Bob is bludgeoned so badly he drowned in a pool of his own blood.
Police say the motive for this heinous attack is robbery, and the assailants weren't planning to leave any witnesses behind.
The suspects? Every bit as shocking as the crime itself.
Within hours after the beatings, police arrest the Cipriano's oldest son, 19-year-old Tucker, and his friend, 20-year-old Mitchell Young.
In video arraignments, a tearful Mitchell Young and a calm, collected Tucker Cipriano both plead not guilty, each blaming the other for beating the Cipriano family.
Crime Watch Daily Detroit affiliate WXYZ reports Tucker is accused of killing his own father.
"Tucker attacks Mr. Cipriano with a baseball bat, and starts beating him with it. And Mr. Young says to Mr. Cipriano, 'What are you doing, what are you doing?'" said Assistant Prosecutor John Skrzynski.
But Tucker says it's the other way around, claiming Mitchell Young, who goes by his middle name, Roderick, is the one who savagely beat his parents.
"He stated he held him from behind and Roderick was hitting him in the head with a baseball bat," said Farmington Hills Detective Jason McDonald. "His words were 'a lot.'"
Tucker was adopted when he was just four days old and reportedly always struggled to fit in. He admits attacking his younger brother, Salvatore, but says he tried to get his 8-year-old sister out of harm's way.
"He was pleading with her to stay in her room because he didn't want anything bad happening to his sister," said McDonald. "She was stating, 'I thought you loved me. I thought you loved me.' And his response to that was he was telling her that he did love her, and to please stay in the room."
Tucker tells cops Isabella was literally saved by the bell.
"Roderick had his sister Isabella and the doorbell rang, she ran to the door, breaking away from Roderick, and it was the police, and at that point is when he said he ran out the back," said McDonald.
Both assailants reportedly copped to robbery, but neither one would confess to beating Tucker's parents.
"It was decided that Tucker was going to go after his two brothers and Roderick was going to go after the mom and the dad," said Tucker's friend Ian Zinderman.
Zinderman testified in exchange for immunity. He claims the whole attack was planned out after the three of them got high on "K2" synthetic marijuana. But Zinderman pulled out of the murderous plot.
"Roderick was supposed to go for the sister, from what I understand," said Zinderman.
"I did not go to the Cipriano household intending to hurt anyone," said Mitchell Young. "I didn't go there intending to hurt anyone, let alone to kill someone."
For weeks leading up to the trial, Bob Cipriano's brother Greg was desperate to keep the Cipriano family from having to relive their nightmare in court. He went to see Tucker in jail, hoping to convince him to man up, accept his fate, and plead guilty to first-degree murder.
"I don't see the point in doing life behind bars. I don't see living behind bars," Tucker said in a recorded phone call with Greg Cipriano.
"Well if you go through this trial, your family will be traumatized," said Greg Cipriano.
"I feel disrespectful saying this but I feel like fighting for the rest of my life is the only thing I have, the only option I have left to do," Tucker said. "Giving up is like hanging myself, Greg. That's what it feels like to me."
"Well, your dad paid for it with his life," Greg said. "And if you have any hope of redemption whatsoever of your soul you would do something about it."
"Don't come at me like that," said Tucker.
Tucker was defiant, insisting that he could never hurt his father. Then just days before the trial, Greg Cipriano tried again, this time bringing Tucker's brother Tanner along.
"The biggest moment of your life could be right now," Tanner told Tucker. "What is more meaningful to me is if you, that you could take responsibility for the first time in your life, just as dad always wanted you to."
His brother's pleas struck a chord.
"That opened my eyes and broke my heart," said Tucker. "I feel like the only way that I'll be able to express my love for the family enough, I'm taking responsibility, you know. I'm sorry for treating you the way I did, you know. I love you. Tanner, I love you so much."
"I love you too," said Tanner. "We all love you."
Just days later Tucker stood in open court and kept his word to his brother.
"So you're willing to accept the rest of your life in prison and take a plea?"
"Yes sir," said Tucker.
Through it all, Tucker graduated as valedictorian of his class. But his twin brother Salvatore is struggling to recover. He still can't speak, he only talks through text, and his mom says Salvatore is paralyzed on his left side.
"Salvatore was in a walker and he had a feeding tube," said Rose Cipriano. "He was drooling, he couldn't use his left arm very well, and his left leg."
Tucker Cipriano pleaded no contest to first-degree murder.
Prior to being led away he read an emotional farewell to his parents:
"Dad, a lot of people miss you down here. I love you and I hope, for what it's worth, I did what you would've wanted me to do. Mom, you remember when the teachers had to detach us, from you, to be able to leave on my first day of first grade, but wouldn't let you go? Well mom, I wish I would've never let go."