Testimony in Cipriano Trial Details Attacks on the Farmington Hills Family
Tucker Cipriano and Mitchell Young will go to trial on charges that they killed Tucker's father, Bob, and assaulted his mother and brother.
Editor's note: This story contains graphic details about the attack on the Cipriano family.
Today's 47th District Court preliminary exam for Tucker Cipriano, 19, and Mitchell Young, 20, did not go well for the defendants, even before anyone took the stand.
The two, who were shackled and handcuffed, face five felony counts in connection with the death of Tucker Cipriano's father, Bob, and assaults on his mother, Rose, and brother, Salvatore. Attorneys for the men asked Friday morning that one of their handcuffs be removed, so they could take notes and assist in their defense.
"At this time, I'm going to deny the request," Judge Marla Parker said, citing "security concerns of the court."
The morning ended with Cipriano and Young being bound over for trial in Circuit Court, after Parker concluded "sufficient evidence" had been presented. Testimony in a courtroom filled with family and friends of the defendants and victims spanned about two hours and shed additional light on what happened to the Cipriano family on the night of April 16.
Dr. Ruben Ortiz-Reyes, a forensic pathologist with the Oakland County Medical Examiner's office, testified that Bob Cipriano suffered multiple injuries to his head, including one that shredded his left ear. Ortiz-Reyes said the autopsy showed a fracture that extended along the back of the skull, as well as "multiple blunt force trauma" on the sides, top and back of the head and face.
Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor John Skrzynski asked, "Is that consistent with something like a bat?"
"Yes," Ortiz-Reyes answered. He said injuries to the head included scalp lacerations and bones on the left side of the victim's head being "fragmented". The autopsy also showed a subdural hemorrhage.
Despite those injuries, Ortiz-Reyes said, Bob Cipriano was still breathing and "drowned in his own blood". He said the autopsy showed signs that Cipriano aspirated blood into his lungs.
'There was blood really all over the place.'
Detective Richard Wehby, a co-lead investigator on the case, described seeing pools of blood and blood spatter on the walls, on kitchen cabinets, all over the floors and ceiling in the kitchen, where Bob Cipriano was found laying on the floor, his right arm twisted around his back.
"It was a complicated scene," Wehby said. "There was a dog, there were multiple victims, multiple suspects ... There was blood really all over the place."
Detective Jason McDonald said Tucker Cipriano gave several accounts of what happened in the 24 hours before his arrest and initially said he left the house before the attacks. McDonald said Tucker denied smoking Spice or having alcohol during that time.
Ultimately, Tucker said he and Young, whom he called "Roderick", broke into the home to get money or anything they could sell for money, McDonald said. Tucker told police that the family dog attacked and bit him, before Bob Cipriano confronted the men.
"He said his father told him to leave, and he took steps toward the door," McDonald said. "Roderick was hiding in a coat rack area ... He didn't know what happened first, if he grabbed his father and then Roderick hit him or Roderick hit him and he grabbed his father."
'I thought you loved me.'
McDonald said Tucker Cipriano described holding his father from behind as Roderick hit him with a baseball bat. Rose Cipriano was attacked after she came downstairs, Tucker told police.
"Tucker said he grabbed Isabella (his 8-year-old sister) and took her into what used to be his bedroom," McDonald said, adding Tucker pleaded with her to stay there, so she wouldn't get hurt.
McDonald testified that Tucker told police Isabella said, "I thought you loved me. I thought you loved me."
"His response was he did love her and to please stay in the room," McDonald said.
Tucker also told police that he wrestled with his brother, Salvatore, who was taking a BB gun out of a case in his bedroom. After he hit Salvatore with the gun and with a baseball bat he had taken from Isabella, Tucker told police he went to a bathroom and vomited.
Police arrived as "Roderick" (Young) came upstairs from the basement with Isabella, Tucker told police, and Isabella broke away to let officers inside the home. That's when Tucker ran out the back door, McDonald said.
Under questioning, Tucker broke down after being told his father was dead and cried several times during the interview, McDonald testified.
'They're both guilty of premeditated murder.'
In his closing statement, Skrzynski said the May 23 testimony of Ian Thomas Zinderman, a friend of the defendants, showed the two talked in advance about killing a family and determined that Tucker would kill his twin brothers, Salvatore and Tanner.
His voice dripping with sarcasm, Skrzynski said they planned that "Roderick" would kill 8-year-old Isabella because Tucker "loved his sister so much".
Skrzynski argued that it doesn't matter who held Bob Cipriano and who hit him, "They're both guilty of premeditated murder." He added the two are also guilty of felony murder, because they broke into the house with the intent of stealing money, an action also tied to the count of armed robbery.
Young's attorney Michael McCarthy countered that none of what Tucker Cipriano said could be used against his client. He said the judge could only consider what Zinderman said and called that testimony into question. There is also no evidence that either Tucker Cipriano or Young purchased a weapon before the attacks and the weapon used was in the house.
"That doesn't show premeditation or deliberation," McCarthy said. "The question now is who's the person who possessed that weapon and who actually used it." He said after eliminating Tucker's statements, there was "nothing in the record that says my client did anything wrong."
McCarthy also pointed out that, like Rose and Salvatore Cipriano, Young was taken to Botsford Hospital the night of the attacks. He was treated for a dislocated jaw, McCarthy said.
"Even if he's wrongfully inside the house, that's only step one," McCarthy said. "There's no evidence he had the requisite state of mind to be guilty of felony murder."
Tucker Cipriano's attorney Mitchell Ribitwer also challenged Zinderman's credibility and said there was no evidence that Tucker struck his mother or "had any intent to kill his mother". While he may have struck Salvatore, Ribitwer said, "there's nothing to show intent to murder".
Skrzynski dismissed McCarthy's statement about Young's injury, which he suggested could have happened during the assault. Bringing bats from the garage into the house is evidence of premeditation, he said.
Parker agreed. "I think it's clear there was a crime committed on each of the five counts," she said. "The injuries of Salvatore and Rose certainly show an intent to murder. I am satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to bind the defendants over on all counts."