PONTIAC (WWJ) – Tucker Cipriano has pleaded no contest to felony murder, accepting life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The 20-year-old Farmington Hills man was charged in the baseball bat beating death of his adoptive father, 52-year-old Robert Cipriano, who died at his home in April 2012.
His wife, Rose, and another son, Sal, were also attacked. Sal Cipriano remains hospitalized.
Prosecutor Jessica Cooper had refused to negotiate a plea deal despite pleas from the family, who did not want to have to relive the brutal crime in court.
A no contest plea is treated as a guilty plea for the purposed of sentencing, and prosecutors say there was no “plea bargain” because they’re not offering him any kind of a deal.
Tucker Cipriano appeared in court, Monday afternoon, with a closely buzzed haircut and wearing a white button-down shirt with chains around his waist. As the hearing began, he placed a string of rosary beads around his neck.
While Assistant Prosecutor John Skrzynski read testimony from his sister, 8-year-old Isabella Cipriano — describing in detail the events of the terrifying night — he stood with his arms crossed and fidgeted, several times using his shoulder to push his glasses further up on his face.
“So I woke up and I went downstairs and I saw this boy pounding my mom with a bat, and Tucker was there, too. Tucker said to go back upstairs, but I didn’t,” Isabella told police. “… I got my bat — I was trying to get Tucker —but then Tucker took my bat and started to pound [Salvatore] and my mom with the other kid.”
Tucker Cipriano spoke quietly, answering “yes” when asked if he chose to plead of his own free will. He also said, “yes,” when asked if he was satisfied with the services of his attorney.
Judge Shalina Kumar accepted Tucker Cipriano’s plea and sentencing was set for July 9.
Prosecutors allege the attack was fueled by a desire to break into a safe to steal money to buy drugs. According to the testimony of a friend, Ian Zinderman, Tucker Cipriano and co-defendant, 21-year-old Mitchell Young, had talked about murdering a family for about two weeks and had also considered some neighbors before settling on the Ciprianos.
“He [Zinderman] said they were planning on weighing the bodies down and throwing them in the river, the Detroit River,” Skrzynski said, reading from typed testimony.
Zinderman said it was decided “the father was going to go first, to get killed first, because he was bigger and more of a threat.”
At a pre-trial hearing, Tucker Cipriano testified that he took several drugs the night of the attack. His attorney contended that the effects of the now-banned “synthetic marijuana” product K2 may have driven him temporarily insane.
Jury selection for Young is still set to begin Thursday.
[Catch up on this case HERE].