An Ohio man was sentenced to life in prison after a slew of evidence linked him to the murder of a 94-year-old World War II veteran, who was bludgeoned with a hammer during a “barbaric” home invasion, prosecutors announced this week.
Michael Dudas, 42, pleaded guilty to murdering 94-year-old Charles Vonderau in his home in Cleveland’s Old Brooklyn neighborhood in April 2020, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley announced on Tuesday. The slew of evidence, including DNA from the crime scene, credit card transactions and video surveillance, tied Dudas to the slaying, prosecutors said.
“Mr. Charles Vonderau was a World War II veteran and a treasure to his family and the Old Brooklyn community,” O’Malley said. “This barbaric crime should keep Michael Dudas in prison for the remainder of his life.”
On April 15, Vonderau’s daughter reached out to Cleveland police after she hadn’t heard from her father in several days, according to a Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office press release. Authorities who arrived at the nonagenarian’s residence that day found him unresponsive and pronounced him deceased at the scene. The following day, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death a homicide.
Prosecutors said that after Dudas entered Vonderau’s home, he struck him multiple times with a hammer on his head and body, and defensive wounds were found on the victim’s hands. Dudas then stole the victim’s credit cards and as he fled the scene he threw the murder weapon on the roof of a neighbor’s house, they said.
After the hammer was recovered, along with DNA evidence discovered at the scene, it was tested by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office, which connected Dudas to the scene. He was also tied to the scene by a hospital admission identification band found on the victim’s kitchen floor, prosecutors said. Surveillance video along with bank records also pointed investigators to Dudas, they said, as he’d used Vonderau’s credit cards at local gas stations and ATMs between April 14 and April 18.
Dudas, who according to Cleveland.com had had just been released from a drug treatment rehabilitation the day of the attack, was arrested on April 18 by Cleveland police and U.S. Marshals.
Vonderau was a veteran of World War II, where he served as a yeoman second class on the destroyer USS Bangust in the Pacific, according to his obituary. He had been the owner of a local paint center for a number of years and had retired in 1987.
Dudas was charged with one count of aggravated murder, one count of aggravated robbery, and two counts of misuse of credit cards. He was sentenced to life in prison immediately after his guilty plea. His first eligibility for parole will come up after serving 28 to 29-and-a-half years.
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