A Family Divided

Grandparents Are Pitted Against Granddaughter

At her murder trial, Mindy Berenyi took the stand and got a chance to tell her side of the story. She admitted that she had killed her father, Andy Berenyi, but said she had done so in self-defense.

A key defense witness was Shirley Berenyi, who testified that during their marriage, her former husband Andy was abusive and violent to her and their two sons. But, she said, he never turned on Mindy. But when Mindy was 15, this apparently changed.

"Please Mom, please. I can't take this any more," Shirley recalled her daughter saying. But when Mindy offered no specifics, Shirley Berenyi left her daughter with her ex-husband.

After that Mindy fell apart, says Larry Dilabbio, her lawyer. She was diagnosed as depressed, suicidal and homicidal. She spent nine days in a hospital, but still told no one about any abuse.

"The fear of going back there anyway and of having told everyone just far outweighed the risk of telling, and maybe I wouldn't have to go back," Mindy Berenyi said.

So doctors released her to her father. "It was like a turning point for me; I just didn't care about myself any more," she said.

At that point, Dilabbio said, her drinking and drug use escalated. She began running away. Andy Berenyi called a social services agency. Child abuse investigator Laura Alverado interviewed Mindy. She sided with the teen, saying she saw signs of emotional abuse.

"I didn't feel the child was an unruly child," said Alverado. "I felt the child was troubled by what was going on in the home."

Mindy told Alverado she was willing to go to military school or a foster home to escape her father. But Mindy was still a minor, and her father wouldn't agree to those measures.

On the fourth anniversary of her father's death, Mindy Berenyi took the stand. She recounted years of sexual, emotional and physical abuse. Then the defense called psychiatrist Kathleen Quinn, who said Mindy Berenyi showed signs of post-traumatic stress, related to her father's abuse.

The prosecution closed with two powerful witnesses: Mindy's brothers, Steve and Scott, who claimed that no abuse took place.

"They said it didn't happen," Shirley Berenyi said, of her two sons' testimony. "But neither one of them would look me in the eye."

After deliberating for 24 hours, the jury reached a verdict: guilty of aggravated murder. The judge sentenced Mindy Berenyi to life in prison. She will be eligible for parole in 23 years. After the sentencing, Dilabbio fainted; Mindy was nearly catatonic.

"We didn't expect it to be this severe," said Bill Berenyi, Andy's father. "But I'm just glad my son's name and character was more or less cleared up. That he was not the monster they made him out to be. I'm sorry, Mindy, but that's what you deserved, and that's what you got."

"We'll keep fighting," said Shirley, Mindy's mother. "As long as (Mindy) stays strong she'll be OK."

Mndy Berenyi appealed her conviction. The appeal was denied by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Go back to Part I, Murder or Self-Defense?

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