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Farmington Hills

June 26, 2013

Jury trial for co-defendant in Cipriano trial continues

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

It remains unclear whether family members of victims brutally beaten with baseball bats will testify against the man charged in the death of their father and the assault of their mother and brother.

Fourteen jurors, six men and eight women, will listen to testimony and determine what hand Mitchell Young, 21, may have had in the beating death of Robert Cipriano and the assault of Rose Cipriano, 51, and Salvatore Cipriano, 18, in the Cipriano home the night of April 16, 2012.

Young stands charged with premeditated murder, assault with intent to murder and armed robbery. Tucker Cipriano, 20, pleaded no contest to felony murder June 17.

Young’s attorney, Michael McCarthy, Oakland County Circuit Judge Shalina Kumar and Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor John Skrzynski asked that the media turn off microphones during breaks in court proceedings when Young’s trial began June 18.

Skrzynski said he will not release a witness list.

Young appeared in court in a suit and tie and looked at the jury during the attorneys’ opening statements.

“He has been looking forward to the day of his trial,” McCarthy said. “He had confidence if the case could be presented to a jury, it would be a day of vindication. You are the ones in analysis who will write this story. You can’t allow your emotions to enter into this decision. He’s not asking you to do him any favors. He’s asking you to be impartial and fair.”

Skrzynski explained that if someone gives assistance to a person who is committing a crime, that person is “just as guilty as the person who actually commits the crime.”

Skrzynski said that Tucker told a friend, Ian Zinderman, who testified against Young in court June 20 and has immunity from prosecution, that he had violated his probation and wanted to go to Mexico, rather than jail, but needed money. Tucker and Young planned to rob someone to get money, and they asked Zinderman to be the getaway driver, Skrzynski said.

The three drove from Keego Harbor, where they were staying because they were homeless, in Young’s pickup truck to the Cipriano home in Farmington Hills to steal money because they wanted to buy synthetic marijuana, Skrzynski said. Zinderman gave Tucker a boost to a garage window and Tucker broke in and took a debit card from a vehicle, according to Skrzynski. The three drove to a gas station and tried to withdraw $100 on the card, but it didn’t work. They were able to use the card inside the store for the synthetic marijuana and to purchase gas.

They tried to use the card later that night but it didn’t work, Skrzynski said. The three discussed whom to rob for more money: the Ciprianos or neighbors. Tucker reportedly said, “My family has more money,” Skrzynski said.

“Then Mitchell Young and Tucker Cipriano decide who is going to kill who,” Skrzynski said. “Mitchell Young brings up Isabella (now age 9), and Mitchell Young said, ‘I’ll kill her,’ and Tucker gets uncomfortable. They try the garage again,” Skrzynski said.

Skrzynski said Tucker found a Visa gift card with a note written on it — $265 — and the three drove to Keego Harbor, but discovered that the card had $2.65 left. Tucker and Young decided to go back to the Cipriano home, but Zinderman said he would not be a part of it, so they left him at the home in Keego Harbor, Skrzynski said.

Tucker broke into the Cipriano garage, picked up a baseball bat, then let Young in through a door, Skrzynski said. The Ciprianos’ family dog attacked Tucker, a light went on and Robert confronted Tucker in the kitchen and told him to “get the f—k out,” Skrzynski said.

Skrzynski said Tucker then attacked his dad with a baseball bat.

Rose came into the kitchen and screamed, and Young told her to shut up, then struck her with a bat, Skrzynski said.

Isabella came down the stairs, and Tucker took her back upstairs, then beat his brother Salvatore in the foyer with a bat, Skrzynski said.

“Tanner (Cipriano, now 18) hears the fight, hides in a room and calls 911 on a cellphone,” Skrzynski said.

911 call
Jurors listened to Tanner’s call to police stating his brother and his brother’s friend were assaulting his mom and dad with baseball bats. They also heard testimony from the dispatch operator who took the call. She left the courtroom in tears after she testified June 18.

When police arrived at the home five minutes after the 911 call, Young ran upstairs and Isabella opened the door for the police, Skrzynski said. Police found Robert dead at the scene and Rose and Salvatore critically injured, Skrzynski said.

Salvatore, Rose and Young were transported to Botsford Hospital. Skrzynski said that Young had jaw pain and a bloody nose, and police saw that the bottoms of his pants were covered with blood and other material. Skrzynski noted that a DNA test confirmed that the blood on Young’s pants was Robert’s. 

“Each knew what the other intended,” Skrzynski said of the friends. He asked the jury to render the “only verdict possible: first-degree, premeditated felony murder.” 

“This will be a difficult task,” McCarthy said. “There are times I would expect people would shed some tears. You can’t decide my client’s case in a vacuum without hearing about Tucker Cipriano and what he did.” 

On June 22, jurors were shown graphic photos of the victims. Police that day testified that Tucker said the family dog bit him in the leg and on the back when he entered the home.

Police said that they saw blood on Young’s hands and under his fingernails as he lay in a bed handcuffed at Botsford Hospital being treated for pain in his face that Young said resulted from Tucker hitting him with a baseball bat.

“It did not appear to be a noticeable injury,” said Farmington Hills police officer Mark Rash. He said that Young complied with police requests and was cooperative.

Farmington Hills Sgt. Richard Wehby, then a detective, said he believed Salvatore, an “all-star baseball player,” has remained in medical facilities since he was injured, either in a hospital or a rehabilitation unit. Rose reportedly has been released from in-patient facilities.

He said Young spoke to police in the hospital in clenched teeth at times.

“It seemed to be put on,” Wehby said. He noted that Young had no abrasions on his face when he was in the hospital.

Young told police that Tucker wanted to go to his parents’ home “to get money and valuable items, anything of value they could carry,” Wehby said. Police tracked and apprehended Tucker using Young’s cellphone, which he’d left turned on in his pickup truck, along with Keego Harbor police surveillance tapes from the police station across the street from the house in Keego Harbor where Tucker, Zinderman and Young were staying, Wehby said.

Young told Wehby that after Tucker attacked his father, Young yelled, “What are you doing?” and Tucker said, “If you don’t get with the program, you’ll join him,” then struck him with the baseball bat, Wehby said.

Young told Wehby that Rose came into the kitchen, screamed, and said to Tucker, “I love you, I love you, we’ll give you money.”

At that point, Wehby said, Young said Tucker handed him the bat and told him to “shut her up,” and Young said he pleaded with her to be quiet, then hit her “one or two or times in the head while Tucker grabbed Isabella and ran downstairs (to the basement),” Wehby said.

Young told Wehby that Tucker ran upstairs and fought with Salvatore and came downstairs with a baseball bat, beating Salvatore with it in the foyer. Police removed two bats from the Cipriano home.

Wehby said that Young told police that when police arrived, Tucker ran to the back of the house and he ran upstairs. Wehby noted that Young’s story changed on various points throughout the interview.

Wehby said that after court proceedings in the 47th District Court June 5, 2012, Young appeared contrite and upset before news cameras. He said that after the proceedings, Young had a “180 change,” turned to him, smiled, and said, “Off the record, how do you think I’m doing?” 

Kumar dismissed the jury June 21 and asked they return at 8:30 a.m. June 24.

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