Jewish World Review May 15, 2000 / 10 Iyar, 5760
'Evidently he didn't like the way she dusted the
"SHE WAS DUSTING," said Starke County, Ind.,
Prosecuting Atty. Kim Hall. "She was cleaning the
house, and apparently he didn't think she had
cleaned well enough."
Hall was explaining the reason that Liliana Ciprianu,
12, was beaten to death with the butt of a rifle on
"Evidently her stepfather didn't like the way she
dusted the house," said Starke County Sheriff
He was talking about the same crime. John Dumitru
-- the child's stepfather -- is charged with the
murder of the child. And, the best that law
enforcement officials can determine, the reason
Dumitru allegedly did it is that he had been drinking
since morning on Easter -- and by midafternoon he
became displeased by the job of dusting that the
12-year-old girl had done. Dumitru, the sheriff and
prosecutor said, got out his rifle and beat the child
with the end of the stock.
We can't even keep up with these stories. The
reporters who cover them, the law enforcement
officials who are called to the scene, the children's
services workers who are assigned to try to protect
the boys and girls before something like this
happens, the judges and attorneys who deal with
the cases in court . . . we can't even keep up. We
look into why one child was betrayed by a parent,
or a court of law, or a social agency . . . and even
as all of us, reporters, police officers, judges, try to
find an explanation for the inexplicable, it happens
And as the children wait for us to come up with
some answers to help them, to save them, another
death reminds us of how big this job is, and how
completely out of hand it has gotten.
Shortly after 3 p.m. on Easter Sunday, law
enforcement officers in Starke County received
several calls about a disturbance in a house near
the city of Knox. An injured woman -- Mariana
Dumitru, the wife of John Dumitru -- said that her
husband had attacked her, that she had fled from a
house on East County Road 150 South, and that
her children were still in the house with Dumitru.
Officers hurried to the house. Dumitru was at a
front window, police said; they said that he used
two of his three younger children as shields to
prevent officers from getting to him.
Mariana Dumitru told officers that her 12-year-old
daughter, Liliana, had been attacked by Dumitru.
Sheriff Sims, fearing for the girl's safety, called for
more officers. Sims distracted Dumitru at the front
window, while other officers entered the house
through a side door.
What they found was Liliana on the floor, her head
all but crushed, in a puddle of blood 3 feet long by
1 foot wide.
The child -- a 6th grader at Knox Middle School
-- was transported to a hospital, and later died.
Dumitru did not resist arrest; when Starke County
Sheriff's Detective Ronald Lawson questioned him,
Dumitru reportedly said he had been drinking
brandy since breakfast time.
"She was his stepdaughter -- the daughter of his
wife -- and he didn't get along with her at all,"
Lawson said. "He wanted her to clean and dust the
place that day, and she did it, but he didn't feel she
had done the cleaning well enough."
Lawson said Dumitru went into a bedroom, got a
rifle, and used the wooden butt of the gun to beat
the child in the head, causing "a terrible injury . . .
her skull was fractured in several places."
Lawson hesitated before continuing. "It's hard to
talk about," the officer said. "I have a 10-year-old
son, and this little girl was just two years older than
he is, and what was done to her. . . ."
He said Dumitru beat the girl so ferociously that the
rifle "broke in two . . . it broke right at the narrow
part of the wood, where the barrel of the gun
begins. There was blood splattered on the walls . .
. it was that kind of an attack. On the gun, where
he had beaten her with it, there was blood and
strands of her hair. . . ."
Liliana, according to officers who have spoken with
officials at her school, was "a bubbly, well-liked girl
. . . she never caused anyone any trouble." After
her death, though, some of her classmates said they
knew she had been abused before; one classmate
said that Liliana had spoken of wanting to die
because of her "bad life."
The three younger children -- Dumitru is their
biological father, and reportedly did not exhibit the
same dislike toward them that he did toward his
stepdaughter -- were removed from the house after
Dumitru was arrested. Because their mother was
being treated for injuries, the three children, with
nowhere else to go, were taken to the Starke
County Jail. Employees cared for them until social
workers could arrive.
Dumitru is in jail awaiting trial for murder. Often,
inmates who are accused of committing violent
crimes against children are separated from other
prisoners, for their own protection.
But the Starke County Jail has only one isolation
cell, and it is already taken -- by Joseph Grad, the
child torturer who kept his 6-year-old son locked
and chained in a closet.
The answers to all of this must be out there
somewhere. We try to keep up with these cases,
all of us try. But then, on a Sunday afternoon, a
child is told to dust the house. And someone
decides he doesn't like the way she has done her
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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