Killer son: 'I'm not a violent
Teen will spend at least 25 years in prison for
stabbing mother to death
By Stephen Frye - The
May 2, 2006
His lawyer still believes that a jury would have
struggled to convict him and the judge can't understand why the murder
happened, but the Rochester Hills teenager who stabbed his mother to
death was sentenced Monday to at least 25 years in prison.
Christopher Dankovich, 16, apologized for what he did
and said that he was not a violent person.
Now the boy will not be eligible for parole until he
is 40 years old.
The youth was a 15-year-old Rochester Adams High
School student when he stabbed his mother, 50-year-old Diane Michele,
111 times with a small knife on the night of April 24, 2005, inside
their home near Tienken and Adams roads.
Her body was found the next morning, after Dankovich
had fled to his father's northern Michigan cottage, where he was
arrested with survival gear.
After several attempts to negotiate a sentencing
agreement, a deal was finally reached on Monday, when Oakland County
Circuit Judge John J. McDonald said that he was as satisfi ed as he
could be with the potential outcome.
"I've reviewed everything I can review," McDonald
Defense attorney Mitchell Ribitwer said the decision
to continue with his guilty plea to open murder - in which the judge
found him guilty of seconddegree - not premeditated - came from
"He had a very good defense for not guilty by reason
of insanity," Ribitwer said. "Christopher made the final decision. He
wanted to accept responsibility for his actions.
"Personally, I feel we should have gone to trial for
a criminal responsibility issue. It's not my call."
Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Lisa Ortlieb
Gorcyca has long said that they had a strong case against Dankovich, who
faced a mandatory life sentence without parole if convicted of fi
McDonald, who had nixed an earlier deal for a 22 1
/2-year minimum term because of concerns about public safety once
Dankovich is released, sentenced the meek-looking youth to 25-to-37 1 /2
years in prison.
"I'd just like to say how sorry I am for what I did,"
Dankovich told the judge.
When McDonald questioned him as to how he felt,
Dankovich responded, "I just feel sad. ... I feel nervous."
Earlier testimony from a psychologist - requested by
the judge, who feared that Dankovich would present a danger to society
after his release - indicated that the boy believed he was on a mission
from God to protect children. When his mother tried to discipline him
for his homemade weapons, intended for abortionists and child
pornographers, he lashed out at her.
When asked about what drove him to that belief
system, Dankovich said: "I'd prefer to not have to talk about it. ...
Everything went wrong."
Dankovich said he felt horrible about what happened.
The judge noted a letter he received, which Ribitwer
said alleged emotional abuse by Michele as a factor in shaping
Dankovich's mind, but the judge did not say who sent it.
The judge also addressed the boy's father during the
sentencing, and he later spoke to him privately at the bench.
"It's a very tragic case, and my heart goes out to
you and your other family members," McDonald told James Dankovich, a
successful chiropractor who lives in Troy and was divorced from Michele.
But, the judge added, he had a job to do. McDonald spoke at length about
his frustration with understanding what drove a boy who seemed a model
student and citizen to commit one of Oakland County's most vicious
crimes, killing one's mother with 111 stab wounds, including stabbing
out her eyes. "You were a fairly model student, no behavior problems at
all," the judge said. "That's what concerns me. I just can't see any
good reason for this." The judge asked that if he did this once, why
won't he do it again? "I'm not a violent person," Dankovich responded.
"That's what makes this case so bizarre," McDonald answered back.
Not God's mission
Ribitwer said he explained fully to Dankovich what to
expect in prison and admitted it will be difficult to determine what
kind of man emerges from the prison system.
The teenager's thoughts and beliefs, though, are
being modifi ed from his belief that he was on a mission from God,
Ribitwer said. He has recognized "the inappropriateness of his
behavior," Ribitwer said.
While Michele was in the process of fi nding out
about Dankovich making weapons, including homemade bombs, Ribitwer said
he does not believe she knew fully what was motivating him.
"They didn't see it coming," Ribitwer said of the
From becoming enamored with the Bible, Dankovich
turned to the Internet and several anti-abortion groups, his lawyer said.
From the philosophical ideas, Dankovich then turned to militia-type
"Chris, in his mind, was basically on a mission from
God," Ribitwer said. "He believed in a higher authority. His mother was
not going to stand in his way. He was attempting to stop the
abortionists. He was attempting to stop the pornographers. He wanted to
That, Ribitwer continued, showed a substantial
disorder of thought, a key component of insanity in the criminal justice
"He didn't have the ability to conform or modify his
conduct," Ribitwer said.
The judge questioned the boy thoroughly several times
about whether he understood his rights and what his sentence meant.
"This doesn't necessarily mean that you'll get out
then," McDonald said of his 2030 parole eligibility. "A lot will depend
on your behavior while incarcerated" and help received from mental
The judge discussed at length what kind of treatment
Dankovich will receive, but he noted that he can only strongly suggest
it and not order it. Initially, Dankovich will be housed with other
minors, but then he would move to the adult population after he turns
"You're a young man, and I feel really sorry for you,"
McDonald said. "I hope you get the help you need."
"Thank you, your
honor," the shackled Dankovich said, before being led from court by
Judge: 34 years too little for 111
Teen withdraws guilty plea and will mount insanity
PONTIAC, Michigan (AP) -- A suburban teenager
accused of stabbing his mother 111 times withdrew his guilty plea
Monday after a judge rejected a plea deal that would have freed him
within 34 years.
Christopher Dankovich, 16, faces a March 27
preliminary examination on charges of murder and using a computer to
commit a crime.
"I feel a responsibility to society," Oakland County
Circuit Court Judge John J. McDonald said in rejecting the deal
prosecutors and defense attorneys had worked out. The judge said a
prison term of 22 1/2 to 34 years was too light for the crime.
Mitchell Ribitwer, Dankovich's attorney, said he
would use an insanity defense at trial.
Dankovich was 15 when his mother, Diane Michele, was
stabbed to death on April 24, 2005. Authorities have said she had
discovered her son was using the Internet to look at pornography and
learn how to make weapons.
The teenager was arrested at his family's cabin in St.
Helen, more than 100 miles to the north.
Hills teen pleads guilty to murder
By Annette Kingsbury - The Observer &
Christopher Dankovich, the Rochester Hills teen
accused of killing his mother by stabbing her 111 times, pleaded
guilty to murder Friday. Sentencing is set for March 6.
Under an agreement between his defense attorney and
the Oakland County Prosecutor’s office, Dankovich’s guilty plea came in
exchange for a recommended prison sentence of 22 1/2 to 34 years.
Oakland County Circuit Court Judge John McDonald will
now review the agreement and decide whether it’s acceptable. If not, the
case could still go to trial.
Dankovich was 15 and a freshman at Adams High School
when the body of his mother, psychotherapist Diane Michele, was found in
her Palm Aire Drive home April 25, 2005. He was arrested later the same
day at a family home in Roscommon County. At his arraignment, the
prosecution described the case against him as overwhelming.
Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Lisa Ortleib
Gorcyca and defense attorney Mitchell Ribitwer both said Friday that
Dankovich’s family wanted to avoid a trial.
“The victim’s mother spoke and she asked the judge to
sentence him to second degree,” Ortleib Gorcyca said. “She has forgiven
him and wants to move on.”
“They don’t want any more trauma, anger or hurt for
the family,” Ribitwer said. “We have a sentencing agreement of 22 1/2 to
34 years. The judge still has to approve that. ... There is that
A second felony charge related to Dankovich’s use of
a computer to access explosives-related Web sites was also agreed to
“Rather than let the entire agreement fall,
we agreed to plead to the second charge,” Ribitwer said. “It didn’t
really impact the sentencing agreement.”
If the plea agreement is ultimately accepted
by the judge, Dankovich, who recently turned 16, will be turned over to
the state department of corrections for placement.
“Generally, the Michigan Department of
Corrections will house the population under 21 years of age with other
people under 21,” Ribitwer said. But there’s no guarantee. “They can
place him anywhere in the state.”
When asked why Dankovich killed his mother,
Ribitwer said he can’t address that until the case is finally closed.
Teen accused of stabbing mother 111
times waives court hearing
By Bree Fowler - Associated Press
Lansing State Journal
ROCHESTER HILLS - A teenager accused of stabbing
his mother 111 times waived his right to a preliminary examination
Christopher Dankovich, 16, did not speak during his
brief court appearance in Rochester Hills other than to acknowledge to
District Court Judge Nancy Tolwin Carniak that he had agreed to waive
Carniak did not set a date for the teenager's circuit
court arraignment, but it was expected to take place later this month.
Dankovich has been charged as an adult with open
murder. He is accused of stabbing his mother, Diane Michele, 50, whose
body was found in her Rochester Hills home on April 25. The teen was
arrested later that day at his family's cabin in St. Helen, more than
100 miles to the north in Roscommon County.
Attorneys are negotiating the number of years the
teen would spend behind bars if he is allowed to plead guilty to second-degree
murder, Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Ortlieb said.
Dankovich will continue to be held without bond in a
juvenile detention center and could face life in prison if convicted of
first- or second- degree murder.
Boy allegedly stabs mom 111 times
April 28, 2005
Rochester Hills, Michigan - A confrontation with his
mother over Internet pornography and home-made weaponry preceded an
attack in which a 15-year-old American boy apparently stabbed her more
than 100 times, say police and prosecutors.
Christopher Dankovich has been charged as an adult
with murder in Oakland County district court in Michigan. Judge Nancy
Carniak scheduled a preliminary hearing for May 17 and ordered the teen
held without bail.
Carniak asked Christopher if he understood that he
could receive life in prison if convicted. According to the Detroit News,
the slight-framed teen, head freshly shaven, politely answered; "Yes,
"He's very baffled and distraught," said Mitchell
Ribitwer, the boy's lawyer.
Ribitwer said he was likely to request a
psychiatric examination for his client, who he said had never been in
"I believe there are some mental health
issues in this case," the attorney said. "It's out of the blue. There's
no explanation for it."
Police began searching for Christopher
shortly after his grandmother found the body of Diane Michele in the
foyer of her Rochester Hills home on Monday morning. Christopher was not
in the house or at his school, and his mother's van was missing.
Christopher was located at about 2pm at
his family's cabin in St Helen, more than 160km to the north.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard
said his office had contacted officials in the area on the hunch that
Christopher might have gone to the cabin.
Richfield Township police chief Bradley
Bannon said his officers went to the cabin, spotted Michele's van and
set up watch. Three hours later, Christopher came out of the cabin and
surrendered, Bannon told the Daily Oakland Press of Pontiac, Michigan.
Michele was stabbed 111 times, chief
deputy prosecutor Deborah Carley said.
"It was just about everywhere. She was
stabbed in the back, chest, head, heart, face and eyes," Carley said. "She
also had blunt-force trauma to her head."
Michele, 50, was a psychologist who ran
the HeartLight Metaphysical Centre in nearby Birmingham. She was a
certified hypnotherapist and had a master's degree in counselling.
Authorities said Michele had recently
discovered that her son was using the Internet to look at pornography
and learn how to make weapons. Michele had found a gun that her son made
out of PVC pipe filled with gunpowder and marbles, took it away and gave
it to the boy's father, her ex-husband, James Dankovich of Troy,
James Dankovich declined to comment on
Tuesday, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Michele and her son also had been arguing
about his girlfriend and his use of the computer, but authorities still
lacked a clear motive for the slaying.
"That's the million-dollar question,"
Oakland county prosecutor David Gorcyca said.
"What motivated a 15-year-old who was
otherwise a well-behaved child to butcher his mom? This investigation is
far from complete. There has to be something in this boy's background
for him to commit such an angry crime."
Son charged as adult in 'horrific' slaying
Teen did not have violent past
By Korie Wilkins and Stephen Frye - The Daily Oakland
Apr 27, 2005
ROCHESTER HILLS - Over and over again, 111 times, a
teenager stabbed his mother in the head, neck and eyes, authorities say.
Why? No one knows for sure. Diane Michele, 50, had
recently discovered that her son had been looking at pornographic and
weapons-related Web sites. And Christopher Dankovich had also recently
been in trouble in Bloomfield Hills after officers there caught him
rattling the doors at a church-school.
But Christopher is a boy without a violent past,
authorities say. The viciousness of the attack stunned investigators,
who are at a loss as to why the 15-year-old - charged as an adult
Tuesday with open murder - would kill in such a manner.
"This is one of the most horrific crime scenes (anyone)
has ever seen," said Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Kelly Chard.
The body of Michele, a certified hypnotherapist,
minister and social worker who ran the HeartLight Metaphysical Center in
Birmingham, was found by her mother at about 8 a.m. Monday. Michele was
partially covered by a tarp in the foyer of her home at 3160 Palm Aire
Drive in Rochester Hills.
Oakland County Sheriff's Office deputies found a
blue-handled folding knife with blood and hair on it outside. They also
found bloody clothes in the laundry room, blood droplets in the home and
blood in sinks.
Missing was Christopher - a freshman at Adams High
School - and Michele's white Chevrolet Astro van with the vanity plate
LOVE 4 U.
Christopher was arrested Monday morning at his
father's northern Michigan cabin in Roscommon County's Richfield
The cabin, near Twin Lakes, had been a part of the
couple's divorce settlement, going to the boy's father, James Dankovich,
a chiropractor who is remarried and has a young daughter.
In the cabin, deputies found military and survival-type
gear, Chard said. Christopher indicated to authorities that he had
planned to drive south and go into hiding. He also said he knew
authorities were there to arrest him because of his mother's murder,
said Detective Dennis Finney, during a hearing in which he swore to the
warrant against Christopher.
Richfield Township Police Chief Bradley Bannon said
his officers went to the cabin, a year-round house, after being called
by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office. They spotted the van and set up
"We were able to secure the area without him knowing
we were there," Bannon said.
Three hours later, supplied with a cell phone number
from Oakland County detectives, Richfield police tried calling
Christopher. When he didn't answer, they approached the house with a
bullhorn, Bannon said.
"He did come out of the house and surrender," Bannon
said. "It was the best outcome for us."
The boy had shaved his head at the cabin, cutting off
hair he had recently died blue.
According to Chard, Christopher had been doing more
than changing his hair color recently. He had been looking at
pornographic Web sites and sites on how to make guns. The teenager had
made guns, capable of firing projectiles, using PVC pipe, Chard said.
Despite the charges lodged against Christopher,
several friends and family members gathered in Rochester Hills District
Court Judge Nancy Tolwin Carniak's courtroom Tuesday afternoon to
support the youth, said the boy's attorney Mitchell Ribitwer. None spoke
to the media.
"He has excellent family support," Ribitwer said. "He
is still loved."
One of Christopher's supporters yelled out "We love
you, Chris." The teenager, sporting a maroon-colored shirt and navy
slacks, turned his head and said softly, "I love you, too."
Carniak denied bond to Christopher, who will remain
in custody until a May 17 preliminary examination. He faces life in
prison if convicted of the open murder charge.
"He's very baffled and distraught," Ribitwer said.
Ribitwer, who was retained by Christopher's family,
said he will likely request a psychiatric examination for his client. He
said Christopher is a good kid who had never before been in trouble.
Friends and family members say there was no indication that the youth
had violent tendencies.
"I believe there are some mental health issues in
this case," Ribitwer said. "It's out of the blue. There's no explanation
But there were signs something was wrong. While
staying at his father's Troy home on Saturday, Christopher cut a hole in
the screen in his bedroom, tied sheets and clothing together and climbed
down to the ground, authorities said. From there, he rode his bicycle to
Bloomfield Hills where police caught him rattling the doors at St. Hugo
of the Hills school on Hickory Grove.
Police, believing the boy was a runaway, returned
Christopher to his father's home. James Dankovich took him to Michele's
home Sunday afternoon, where there was a family meeting. Later Sunday,
James Dankovich tried to call his ex-wife, but could not reach her. He
contacted Michele's mother and asked her to check on the house Monday
morning. She discovered the body and called police, telling them she
believed Christopher was responsible because mother and son had been
arguing recently, Finney said.
Ribitwer said there are no signs either parent abused
The Dankoviches were married May 20, 1989, in
Rochester. Christopher was their only child, born on Oct. 23, 1989.
Michele filed for divorce in August of 1995 and it was finalized a year
Michele's divorce attorney said the couple's split
"They really had a fabulous relationship coming out
of the divorce, especially looking out for the best interest of the
child," said Bloomfield Hills-based attorney James Elliott.
But initial court filings showed that Michele accused
her husband of physical and verbal abuse.
With a maiden name of Diane O'Connor after the
divorce, Christopher's mother changed her name to Diane Michele,
according to court records. It is unclear why.
While both parents in their initial divorce filings
sought custody of the child, Michele received physical custody but
allowed visitation with his father. In August of 2000, Michele moved to
the home on Palm Aire Drive.
Elliott said the news of the killing both amazed and
saddened him. He said he remembers the young boy from visits to his
"(Michele) was just so close to him," Elliott said. "She
was a genuinely good person. She wanted the best for her son, and so did
the father, as I recall. I think he really had two very loving parents."
While friends and family are still reeling from
Michele's untimely death, students who knew Christopher are also
struggling to cope.
Adams High School students were sent home with
letters Tuesday updating parents on general information about the
killing and subsequent arrest.
"This tragic event has caused great anxiety and
sadness to our school and community," Principal Diann Flack wrote.
On Monday, officials at Adams quickly determined that
Christopher had not come to class. Flack also said in the letter that "heightened
security was added in the building."
"It's a tragedy and we don't want to go overboard
with it," said Adams senior Brandon Busuito. "We're just trying not to
Senior Rachel Long said the word in school was that
Christopher was quiet. His spiked blue hair, she said, did not appear
until a dance last week. She was still dumbfounded at the savage attack.
"I don't understand what would possess someone to do
that," she said. "It's really weird that someone in our school would do
something like that."
Michele is survived by her son; parents Elaine and
Nick Palmer and brother Dean (Susan) Palmer. Visitation will be from 2-9
p.m. Friday at the Potere-Modetz Funeral Home, 339 Walnut Blvd., in
Rochester. Her funeral will be 1 p.m. Saturday at University
Presbyterian Church, 1385 S. Adams Road in Rochester Hills.
Teen Taken Into Custody After Mom
Woman Found Stabbed To Death In Home
April 25, 2005
ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. --
A 15-year-old boy was brought back to Oakland County by a sheriff's
department helicopter on Monday afternoon for questioning in his
Oakland County Sheriff's deputies said
Christopher Dankovich was taken into custody at his grandmother's
cabin in Roscommon County, in northern lower Michigan.
Sheriff's deputies said the teen had been arguing
with his mother, Diane Michele, a 50-year-old psychologist, over the
past few days.
At some point Sunday night or Monday morning,
Michele was stabbed to death, sheriff's deputies said. Michele's
body was found by her mother on Monday morning in her home in the
3000 block of Palm Aire Drive in Rochester Hills, according to
"There appears to be multiple stab wounds and we
did find a knife or two in the area," said Oakland County Sheriff
Michael J. Bouchard.
Dankovich, who does not have a license, was
believed to have fled the home in his mother's white 1999 Chevrolet
Astro van with a personalized plate that says LOVE4U, according to
"We're checking every place we think. We'd like
the public's help if they see this guy," said Bouchard.
Sheriff's deputies were concerned that the teen
may be a threat to himself or to others, the station reported.
The 15-year-old was taken into custody without
There was no word on what charges the teen may