Man who killed his father gets 18 to life
YOUNGSTOWN — There was very little for Judge Anthony D’Apolito to do during the sentencing hearing for Michael N. Bruno, 50, except to order him to serve 18 years to life in prison for killing his father, Michael J. Bruno, 74, in their Boardman home Sept. 17, 2022.
The judge had no option. The only sentence he could give under Ohio law for murder and a three-year gun specification was 18 to life. Bruno gets 373 days of jail time credit.
But the hearing in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court gave Judith McCauley the opportunity to unwind the story of how her nephew killed his own father by shooting him about a dozen times.
She eloquently spoke of her brother, whom she raised starting when he was 4 and she was 11, after their mother left. Her brother served in the military and returned home after serving in Vietnam to care for his wife and son — even though they made his life “a living hell.”
“I was left to raise him. He was a good kid. I loved him as if he were my own,” she said, standing before D’Apolito. She never appeared to look at her nephew throughout the hearing but later told him his life in prison will be “a living hell.”
Her brother signed up to enter the Air Force after high school. He held the rank of staff sergeant when he was discharged after Vietnam.
He suffered from depression and post traumatic stress disorder but eventually married, and they had a son. “Sadly, over the next years, there was not much happiness,” McCauley recalled. “But he felt it was his duty to stay and take care of his wife and son.”
He became ill in his older years and told her the home where they lived on Lealand Avenue “was nothing but a little house of horrors.” He said he lived in his bedroom because “it’s the only peace I have. I lock my door, and that’s my escape.”
His wife had dementia and was going to a nursing home. “I told him we were going to put that house up for sale, get him an apartment. He was going to live in peace and not worry about a grown adult (the defendant) who should be living on his own.
“When he put that house up for sale, his son went ballistic,” she said. His son yelled threats to his father, “who was on the other side of the bedroom door.”
She had her brother buried with full military honors. “I’ve been waiting for the time that I will see him again, hopefully in heaven,” she said. “I hope he knows that I will never ever forget him.”
‘ENTIRE LIFE SPONGING’
McCauley said her nephew pawned everything of value in the home, but she still obtained “the most important thing my brother ever owned in his life. I have his dog tags.” They were around her neck, and she held them in her hand as she spoke.
She said she accepted the plea agreement to reduce Bruno’s charge from aggravated murder to murder “as a way to put an end to something I can’t handle any longer. This is not the sentence you deserve, but for now it will have to do. You have spent your entire adult life sponging off your mother and from your father.
“You worked very little, but when you wanted something, you always got it. From the time you were a child, your mother put you on a pedestal,” she said of her nephew. “To me, you became a toxic narcissist. Everything has always been about you — your wants, your needs.”
McCauley said her nephew even warned his father he was going to kill him, she said. “On Sept. 17, 2022, you crept into my sleeping brothers’ bedroom and standing just inches away from a sleeping man … and you pulled that trigger 11 times. It would have but taken one bullet to kill him.”
She added: “It would take a monster to commit such a horrible act on their own father,” she said. “With my brother’s death, the Bruno name has ceased to exist.”
MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
Tony Meranto, Bruno’s attorney, said the number of times his client shot his father was actually 13. And that information seems to verify that his client had mental health issues that contributed to his actions.
Bruno, who worked about six years as a Mahoning County sheriff’s deputy in the early 2000s, was deemed not competent to stand trial shortly after the killing, and he spent time in a state mental hospital being “restored to competency.”
Bruno called 911 to tell police he shot his father, saying his “illness made him do it.” Boardman police located the defendant sitting on the front lawn in boxer shorts, flip-flops and a golf shirt, with blood on his arms, head and shirt.
“A person doesn’t shoot 13 shots when they are thinking rationally,” Meranto said.
Bruno told the judge: “I will apologize from the bottom of my heart to my aunt, Judith McCauley, also to my family.” He said, “I ask God to forgive me for the choices I made. I was not in my right mental state of mind. And more than anything I want to say I am sorry to my father.”
The judge said, “What you did was unforgivable.”