The Death of John Maruschak

Much in this case is confusing, as well as disputed.  The only things that are known for sure is that brothers, Alex and Aaron Wulff killed John Maruschak on July 16, 2008 and that a 9-1-1 operator failed to do her job. 

In the early morning hours of July 16, 2008 a man made a 9-1-1 call. Confusion, at least for me, begins here.  The man who called reported that he was witnessing a man being beat with a baseball bat.  While he is on the phone he tells the operator that the two men that were beating the man have now thrown him into their red truck.  The operator asked him if he could see a license plate number on the truck and when he indicated he could not he was told that there was nothing that could be done and to call back if the truck returned and he had a license plate.  Now, where I became confused was if this caller was a neighbor of the victim, John Maruschak, or the perpetrators, Alex and Aaron Wulff, or both.  The articles I read did not truly explain it well but the caller indicated that he knew at least some of the people involved as they were his neighbors. It was later discovered that not only did the 9-1-1 operator not call out officers to the scene she failed to log the call in at all.

The following day John Maruschak's mother reported him missing.  After talking to people within a week officers had arrested both Alex and Aaron Wulff.  It seems that Alex, the older of the two brothers, readily confessed. He admitted that he and his brother had beat John with an aluminum baseball bat; they then threw him into their truck and drove him down the road.  They apparently believed at this time that John was still alive and basically just pushed him out of the truck on the side of the road.  Alex (and possibly Aaron too) went back a while later and realized that he was dead.  At this point he gathered John's body and drove to some property owned by his parents where he burned the corpse.  

It seems that reason behind the murder depends on who you ask.  The Wulff's claim that they caught Maruschak breaking into their home but there are some, including the prosecutor, who do not believe that to be true.  It does appear that Maruschak was not in the running for citizen of the year, that is for sure, but whether he had done this is unclear.  Others believe that this was a beating over a mere $50 owed to one or both of the Wulff brothers by Maruschak.  For me, I would like to think that the Wulff's story is the accurate one if for only that it was not over money, let along such a small sum.  

The Wulff brothers would plead guilty in June of 2009.  For Alex, he pleaded guilty to murder, tampering with evidence, and abuse of a corpse.  He received a sentence of fifteen years to life.  Aaron pleaded guilty to attempted murder and received a sentence of eight years.  According to the Ohio Department of Corrections Aaron was released on supervised probation in May of 2016 and his supervision is to last five years.  Reading the information on Alex was a bit harder.  There is a line that says "expiration stated term" in which the date of July 17, 2028 is listed.  There is also one that says his first hearing is June of 2028 so I am not sure what either of these mean other than it seems he will be serving at least the fifteen years before being considered for parole.  

So it would appear that this case and all surrounding it would have ended there, just that easy.  But, not so fast.  John Maruschak's mother filed suit against several entities in the death of her son including the City of Cleveland, the Cleveland Police Department and the 9-1-1 operator who spoke to the neighbor on the day of the murder.  Eventually as is usually the case all of the respondents were dropped from the case except for Donna Yousef, the operator. I am unsure that while it does happen, I totally agree with allowing everyone, but her off the hook on this one.  The suit accused the city of Cleveland of hiring unqualified people who they then did not give proper training to.  Now, if this is correct or not, I cannot say, but it does appear that Yousef, a dispatcher for about three years at the time had already had issues relating to work.  She was apparently not a dependable employee as she seemingly missed work often and her evaluations seemed to have be substandard.  Yousef was not fired for her conduct on this call, and it is unclear as to if she was disciplined at all.  She would tell the media later that she remembered the call and wish she would have handled things differently.  The suit argued that had she sent officers to the scene John Maruschak may not have died.  I disagree with that, but it does not preclude Yousef from properly doing her job.  

Yousef was eventually fired by the department but not directly due to issues with this case.  She was officially terminated on January 28, 2009, some six months after this call. But, it seemed to be a traumatic six months for Yousef. I found a report that says that in July of 2008 (the same month as the murder, but it does not specify if this was before or after the murder) Yousef was intoxicated and was on a bridge threatening to jump.  She then taunted the officers in attempts to get them to taser her.  Sometime after she OD'd on prescription pills and was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.  It was sometime after this that she missed an administrative meeting due to the over consumption of alcohol on the evening prior.  Now, one could say that Yousef's life could have spun out of control after learning of the murder and her actions, or non-actions as they were.  It was apparently determined early on that the 9-1-1 call made that day was near the end of Yousef's shift, a shift that when it was over was leading into her vacation.  How many of us have been so caught up with going on vacation that we take a few short cuts to get there?  This is in no way to excuse her behavior, just maybe explaining it.  I am extremely curious however again, when the bridge incident happened with her.  Had she done this before July 16th and was back on the job?  Or was this after the 16th, implying that her actions on that day bothered her to the point that it seems she need professional help.  Was she already spiraling out of control and had no business working a job in which she could have been the life or death answer to a situation?

In my opinion Yousef is one more example of something we see, maybe not all of the time, but from time to time, where untrained or unstable people are allowed to work in a job that is not only stressful but that their decision making could make all the difference in the world.  I am disappointed that the City of Cleveland was removed from John Maruschak's mother's law suit.  Sometimes people just need to be pushed to do better. 


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