April 17, 2012 at 1:00 am

Family tragedy: A troubled son, a father brutally beaten to death

Farmington Hills man held in killing of dad, injuring mom, brother

Tucker Robert Cipriano, left, and Robert Cipriano )

Farmington Hills — Tanner Cipriano, 17, awoke in the middle of the night Monday to discover a struggle between several family members and two intruders wielding baseball bats.

He scooped up his 8-year-old sister while he hid in the home and called 911, police said.

He later emerged to find his father beaten to death and his mother and twin brother critically injured.

As shocking as those beatings were, so was the identity of one of the people who allegedly inflicted them — another brother, Tucker.

Tucker Robert Cipriano, 19, who has several convictions for using drugs, may have broken into the home to look for money when he was confronted by family members, police said.

"No one was prepared for what they found inside," said Farmington Hills Police Chief Chuck Nebus. "It's a horrible, tragic situation."

Despite the trappings of a comfortable middle-class life, Tucker Cipriano was a troubled teen, according to public records.

At age 15, he was arrested for smoking marijuana on school grounds. At 16, he was placed on probation for drinking alcohol from a Gatorade bottle at school.

He dropped out of North Farmington High last year after failing all his classes during the 2008-09 school year.

After his most recent offense, possession of a controlled substance less than 25 grams, he was freed from the Oakland County Jail in February. He was still on probation from that October conviction.

Killed in the baseball-bat attack was Cipriano's father, Robert, 52, financial manager of Dearborn Public Schools. His mother, Rose, 51, and brother, Salvatore, 17, were in critical condition late Monday at Botsford Hospital, according to friends of the family.

"We were all shocked because he had such a close-knit family," said Brian Whiston, superintendent of Dearborn Public Schools. "When drugs are involved, you never know."

Tucker Cipriano was arrested five hours after the 2:48 a.m. attack at the home of an acquaintance in Keego Harbor, which is 12 miles from the Cipriano home.

A second man, 20, was arrested at the Cipriano home. His identity hasn't been released.

Police also were talking to a third man but his connection to the attack was unclear.

No charges were filed Monday.

A comfortable life

Bob and Rose Cipriano tried to create a comfortable life for their four children, said friends.

They attended private schools. Twins Sal and Tanner are juniors at Detroit Catholic Central High, where Sal plays for the baseball team.

Isabella is a third-grader at St. Fabian's Catholic School.

Bob was a regular attendee at his children's activities, sporting and otherwise, said friends. Sometimes he came into work early so he could leave early to attend them.

At Catholic Central, the principal, the Rev. John Huber, told students over the school's public-address system that the incident was incomprehensible.

"Violence is evil and we're all capable of evil," he said. "But we can't understand what would lead someone to this."

Despite the parents' best efforts to care for their children, the eldest one, Tucker, never seemed to fit in. His parents had been trying to help him for what seemed like his entire life, said acquaintances.

Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, he started receiving counseling in the second-grade.

In 2010, he was seeing both a psychiatrist and psychologist, according to a juvenile referee's report that year.

Finally, his parents had enough, said friends. They kicked him out of the house.

Their travails with their wayward son were well known to friends.

"She had her hands full," neighbor Marion Linn said about Rose Cipriano. "He was nothing but trouble."

The last straw for the family may have occurred in June when Tucker was spotted by police buying drugs behind a 7-Eleven store in Farmington Hills. A search yielded a tin foil packet containing a 50-milligram morphine pill.

He pleaded guilty to drug possession and was sentenced to 153 days in the Oakland County Jail. From jail, he wrote a note to the sentencing judge, asking him to release him early so he could join the Marines.

"It's always been a dream of mine," he wrote. "I believe it would be a good way to make money, learn responsibility and keep me out of trouble."

He was released early, on Feb. 24, but it wasn't clear if the reason was related to his note.

He didn't join the Marines.

Sadness all around

At Dearborn Public Schools, which has 19,000 students, Bob Cipriano was responsible for the school district's $200 million budget. He had worked there since 2000.

He was always quick with a smile and patient while explaining the intricacies of the budgetary process, said co-workers.

"A life was lost that was too young," said David Mustonen, communications coordinator for Dearborn Public Schools. "He had much more to give to his family."

He and other administrators in the school system were offered the use of counselors.

The same was being done at Catholic Central, as University of Detroit Jesuit High School and other schools offered to send counselors there to aid students and people who knew the family.

Late Monday afternoon, Tanner Cipriano thanked supporters using his twitter.com account:

"hasnt been the best day for the ciprianos but with all your prayers and wishes were gonna stay strong. thank you everyone," he wrote.


(313) 223-4186

Detroit News Staff Writer Tom Greenwood contributed.

No one was prepared for what they found inside, said Farmington Hills ... (David Coates/The Detroit News)