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Farmington Hills

July 25, 2013

Cipriano asks family for forgiveness

Co-defendant says he had no part in murders

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

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Tucker Cipriano stands at his sentencing.

FARMINGTON HILLS — Two men were sentenced to mandatory life in prison with no possibility of parole in the baseball bat beating death of Robert Cipriano and the brutal assault of Rose, 51, and Sal, 18, in the Ciprianos’ Farmington Hills home in April of last year.

One man, Mitchell Young, 21, will appeal, and one man, Tucker Cipriano, 20, will not. Tucker pleaded no contest to felony murder June 17.

Police and prosecutors say the pair, while high on synthetic marijuana, killed Robert and severely beat Rose and Sal with baseball bats. According to witnesses, Tucker had broken into the home, where he was no longer living, twice earlier that night to get money.

Young was charged with premeditated murder, assault with intent to murder and armed robbery.

After weighing evidence and seeing graphic photos of the victims for four days, the jury rejected Young’s attorney Michael McCarthy’s assertion that it was Tucker, filled with rage, who brutally beat his father to death with a baseball bat and coerced Young to beat his mother, Rose. The jury found Young guilty on all counts.

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Shalina Kumar sentenced both defendants July 24. Both men read statements at the sentencing.

“My father was a great man,” Tucker said. “He was there for me time and time again.” He said his father was supportive of him through his struggles with a learning disability and had asked for leniency on his son’s behalf during a court proceeding stemming from Tucker’s drug abuse.

“My mom was an amazing mom. My mom was with me every step of the way,” Tucker said. He said his mother drove him to counseling sessions in Ann Arbor once a week since he was in the second grade and attended Al-Anon meetings to learn how to help him with his substance abuse.

Tucker wept, saying he was taking responsibility for his actions and telling his siblings, Tanner, Sal and Isabella, “I love you with all my heart,” and “Mom, I wish I had never let you go.” Neither Rose, Sal, Tanner nor Isabella Cipriano were present in court. Attorney Mitchell Ribitwer said that Tucker has not had contact with his mother or Sal, but has had contact with his uncle. “His hope is that he will have a relationship with his family,” he said.

“I’m taking responsibility for my part and being the direct cause of such immense pain. … I ask for forgiveness. I’ve made an act of contrition.”

Tucker’s attorney said that Tucker’s girlfriend, who was present in court for the sentencing, brought a rosary for Tucker to hold while he read his statement, but due to regulations, the deputies did not allow him to hold it.

“His actions are inexcusable,” said Ribitwer. “He’s taken responsibility for his actions. He deserves some credit.”

Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor John Skrzynski said Cipriano’s pre-sentence report was inaccurate in that Tucker stated he did not assault or restrain his father, when Tucker said to police that he grabbed his father and hit him on top of the head. Also, Skrzynski said that in the report Tucker stated he only “saw” his mother, and “didn’t hit her much,” while Isabella, 8, told police that Tucker took her bat from her and she saw him pounding his mother and brother Sal.

“The first step for forgiveness and rehabilitation is to admit what he did,” Skrzynski said. “He’s still not admitting what he actually did.”

Kumar said Tucker had been given the gift of a loving, supportive family. “You weren’t willing to help yourself,” she said. “You weren’t willing to do the hard work. All the support you had, all the love you had, you threw it away. You’ve ruined your life.”

McCarthy said he watched his client mature “quite a bit” from the onset of the charges leveled against him. “In April of last year, he was unable to control his emotions.”

“My relationship with him was positive. He caused me absolutely no difficulty,” McCarthy said. “He has a lot of people who think highly of him. … They communicate with him. He’s not alone in the world.” He added that Young intends to appeal and maintains he’s innocent.

Skrzynski described Young’s pre-sentencing report as “strange, disingenuous and a psychopathic description.” He noted the mandatory life sentence was a “good thing he’s removed from the rest of us.”

Young thanked McCarthy, who was appointed to represent him, but said he took issue with his representation on a number of matters and said the trial proceedings were a miscarriage of justice. “I am not satisfied with the counsel provided me.”

He said that McCarthy provided no defense exhibits or witnesses and said that testimony of Ian Zinderman, who was granted immunity, contained numerous blatant contradictions. “His seizure disorder was never addressed at trial,” he said. He also said that police testimony was inconsistent. “No evidence exists that I made statements.”

“I never intended any of this to happen,” he said.  “If I had known, I would never even been there. I pray every day that Rose and Sal make a full recovery. The only reason I went there was to assist someone to pick up personal belongings.  I am not guilty of the five crimes I am being sentenced for here today.”

“I have great potential,” he said. He said he finished high school with a 3.8 grade point average and successfully completed ROTC training and had been accepted at the Michigan Aviation and Technology Institute. He noted that people say he’s kind-hearted, talented and goes out of his way to help people.

“I associated with people who used drugs. That was my downfall.” He described Tucker as someone he had only associated with for one month with the only common interest of getting high.

He thanked his “true friends” who stood by him and the “beautiful family God has blessed me with. I apologize if anything I’ve said today seems inflammatory.”

“I am horrified,” Skrzynski said following Young’s statement.

Kumar told Young that he did not have the loving, supportive family as Tucker had, citing Young’s “emotionally and physically abusive stepfather. It’s a cycle. That’s what you turned into.”

She said that she believed Young could suffer from a mental disease. She said his absolute refusal to acknowledge any of his decisions or activities is “unbelievable.”

“You absolutely, without a doubt, knew right from wrong. … You played a significant role. I don’t think an attorney could have done a better job defending you. You have ruined your own life.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.