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Witnesses In Cipriano Case: Family's Death Was Planned, Scene Was Brutal

By Christy Strawser
CBS Detroit Managing Editor
FARMINGTON HILLS (CBS Detroit) The first day of testimony in the Cipriano preliminary examination painted a picture of cold-blooded brutality.

Ian Zinderman, 20, friend of accused killers Tucker Cipriano, 19, and Mitchell Young, 20 -- testified the pair planned to kill a family for weeks before the April 16 crime, actually debating between the Ciprianos and another local family before deciding the Ciprianos "had more wealth."

The first responder, Farmington Hills police officer Michael Meister, described a scene out of a horror movie in the baseball ball attack that killed father Bob Cipriano, 52, and left mother Rose Cipriano and Salvatore Cipriano, 17, critically injured.

Tanner Cipriano, 17, and Isabella Cipriano, 8, the baby of the family, escaped unharmed, with Zinderman testifying that Tucker Cipriano told Young during planning sessions he would have to kill his sister. Cipriano couldn't do it himself because he "loved his sister," Zinderman said.

Young and Cipriano face life in prison if they're bound over for trial and found guilty on charges of murder, armed robbery and assault with intent to murder. Testimony was stopped at the end of the court day Wednesday and set to resume at 9:30 a.m. June 8.

"I saw blood ... a person's head ... leaning against a rail, I basically grabbed Isabella and got her out of that residence," Meister said of what happened when he arrived, later adding, "On the wood floor you could see one large puddle of blood and drag marks of blood going down the stairs."

Officers went through the house, securing Young, who was still inside. They found an open rifle case in Salvatore's bedroom, and a pair of latex gloves and an open floor safe in another bedroom, Meister said.

Mitchell Young (credit: WXYZ)

"Salvatore was face down on the landing ... Rose had fallen or was somehow laying on top of Salvatore at that time ... She was face down at that point, with her hair, you could just see blood ... On Salvatore, I could see blood at the top of his head.

"I could hear gurgling coming from Salvatore ... We pulled Rose off Salvatore, basically just held her head at that point, what I could see, her right eye was puffed up and swollen, her left one was covered in blood."

Meister said he felt like he was holding Rose Cipriano's eye to keep it in its socket; Salvatore was so misshapen from the attack the officer said he couldn't determine anything about who he was.

Cipriano's friend Zinderman took the stand to say the teen and his pal Young had talked about murdering a family for about two weeks before they allegedly went berserk in the Cipriano home.

He said the motive was money, adding, "Tucker Cipriano was estimating about three grand overall, I would take home $1,000."

Zinderman, who was granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony, explained how he planned, with Tucker Cipriano and Young, how to get into the Cipriano home through the garage to get cash for drugs. They broke into the house twice the night of the killing, he said, with Cipriano returning from the first heist with "some kind of bank account card."

The first card was declined at a gas station where they bought cigarettes, cigarellos, and "spice," a synthetic marijuana, Zinderman said. They went back to the Cipriano home to get more money, rolling a joint and smoking it along the way, he said.

"We were supposed to go back in and find money because the card didn't work," Zinderman said.

He said he waited outside while Young and Cipriano went back inside. They returned a few minutes later with a VISA gift card, and the trio headed out to Keego Harbor.

"They decided on going to the Cipriano house and killing the family ... I heard one of them, I don't remember who said it ... They were talking about how, which family members should be taken care of, who would take of which family member,"  Zinderman said.

Cipriano allegedly said he would kill his brothers while Young killed the mother and father and his sister. "They discussed that the father was going to go first, he was bigger," Zinderman said, adding that they planned to weigh down the bodies and throw them in the Detroit River.

Zinderman said he told them he wanted no part of the crime, and insisted that they drop him off at a friend's house. Young and Cipriano allegedly returned on their own a third time, and that's when the killing happened.

Zinderman said he woke up at the house where he was crashing in Keego Harbor the next morning and saw Cipriano there with blood on his clothes. He said he gave Cipriano a new shirt because he didn't like to the see blood on his friends shirt.  "They were talking about burning it," Zinderman said.

He added Cipriano told him to throw away a knife that was under the seat of his truck, and then park the truck away from the house. Police showed up a short time later and arrested Cipriano.

The two survivors of the attack, Tanner and Isabella Cipriano, escaped unharmed; Tanner because he hid and dialed 911, and Isabella, who rushed to the scene with her own pink and purple bat to defend her family, because they left her alone. Both are expected to testify against their brother when the case resumes.

Salvatore Cipriano remains in critical condition; Rose Cipriano is in a local rehabilitation center, where she's reportedly getting stronger.

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