Juggling Act: Cipriano family moves forward

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

The truth is time doesn’t heal all wounds.

Some are so deep and profound they never go away. Of course they may scab over, covered with new skin. But the wound is still there, lurking beneath the surface. All you can do is simply move forward — progress.

The Cipriano family of Farmington Hills has had no choice but to move forward. Four years after their family was shattered by a baseball bat attack that left patriarch Bob Cipriano dead and oldest son Tucker serving a life sentence behind bars, they continue to pick up the pieces of their lives one step at a time.

Tanner Cipriano — who hid with his young sister, Isabella, during that awful attack in April 2012 and called 911 — is now a student at the University of Notre Dame studying film, television and theater, and is active with the men’s rowing team. Rose Cipriano has returned to swimming weekly, said Tanner during the Cipriano Classic 5K in Farmington Hills on June 3. Now in its fifth year, the run has raised more than $200,000 for the Cipriano Children’s Fund, which pays for outside therapies and other treatment.

“We’ve made a lot of progress over the last five years,” Tanner said at the start of the race.

The biggest strides have come from Sal, Tanner’s twin. So severely injured after the family’s “tragedy,” as Rose calls it, that he required 24-hour care, a walker and feeding tube. Today Sal can walk without a walker, thanks in large part to treatment from a Windsor neurologist.

At the 5K, Sal — who can no longer speak, but types out messages on his cellphone — walked around near the starting line, mingling and hugging supporters. A video on Facebook from early May showed him hitting baseballs in a backyard.

“Prayers r being answered,” Sal wrote on the Cipriano Support Page created on Facebook.

Sal was just 17 and asleep at home with his parents Rose and Bob, along with Tanner and Isabella, when the Ciprianos’ oldest son, Tucker, and friend Mitchell Young orchestrated an attack on the family with baseball bats to get drug money. Bob, a Dearborn Public Schools official, was killed; Rose and Sal were severely injured.

For the first time this spring, Rose spoke in detail about the extent of Sal’s injuries, appearing with her son in a video for the Dr. Lemmo Brain Centre in Windsor, which treats patients suffering from brain injuries, concussions and degenerative disorders.

In the five-minute video, Rose said before the Lemmo Center, Sal was still dependent on a walker, even with daily physical therapy and other treatment. He also was having seizures and paralysis on his left side.

“Nothing was coming together,” said Rose, who did not respond to The Detroit News’ interview requests. “We’re both athletes, and we couldn’t figure out what to do next to get him to be more independent. He wants to play baseball again, and possibly golf again. All these questions go through our minds.”

The answer came from the family’s longtime chiropractor who suggested the Lemmo Centre. Dr. Anthony Lemmo, a board-certified functional neurologist, assessed Sal and gave him a series of daily exercises. “Within a week, he was able to walk without a walker,” Rose said.

As the sun shone down at the end of the Cipriano Classic 5K, there was no walker in site. With a crowd gathered around the finish line and the “Rocky” theme song playing in the background, the four Ciprianos — Sal, Tanner, Isabella and Rose — finished the race together.

Progress indeed.