It was around 8AM on the 25th of April, 2005, when a relative made a grisly discovery in the foyer of the upscale home of 50-year-old Diane Michele, in Rochester Hills, Oakland County, Michigan.
It was the lifeless body of Diane, surrounded in a puddle of her own blood. She had been stabbed over 100 times, with injuries to her back, chest, head, face and eyes. In fact, her eyes had been stabbed with such force that they were hanging out of her skull. She also sustained blunt force trauma to the head.1
Diane had a doctoral agree in metaphysics and ran HeartLight Metaphysical Center in Birmingham. She additionally had a master’s degree in counselling and wrote a regular column for Phnome NEWS.2
Diane lived at the home with her 15-year-old son, Christopher Dankovich, who was a ninth-grade student at Adams High School, where he excelled in class. At the crime scene, police searched from room to room but there was no sign of Dankovich. Diane’s white Chevrolet Astro van was also noticeably absent from the driveway. Investigators put out a BOLO for the teenage boy, who they suspected of being the killer.
At around 1:30PM, Dankovich was found at a family’s cabin in Roscommon County’s St. Helen. He was arrested without incident and returned to Oakland County. He was charged as an adult with threatening and open murder.3
The threatening charge was in relation to threats that Dankovich had made to his mother in the days leading up to her stabbing.
According to relatives, the relationship between Diane and Dankovich had been rocky over the past couple of days. Dankovich had also recently been in trouble. He had been picked up by police after rattling the local school’s doors in the early morning hours. They had become concerned for Diane’s welfare when they couldn’t get a hold of her.
Investigators dug deeper into this information and they uncovered
Diane had uncovered that Dankovich had been using the internet to look at pornography and learn how to make weapons. In his bedroom, she found a gun that he had made out of a PVC pipe that was filled with gunpowder and marbles.4
Dankovich was ordered to stand trial for the murder of his mother and he waived his right to a preliminary hearing, meaning that he would be proceeding straight to trial. Before then, however, Dankovich was in court where the prosecution fought to have his charge elevated from open murder to first-degree murder.
In early 2006, Dankovich reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in which he pleaded guilty to the murder of his mother in exchange of a prison sentence of 22.5 years to 34 years in prison. Prosecutor Lisa Ortlieb Gorcya stated: “He didn’t want to leave prison in a casket.”5
The sentencing phase was to follow where Dankovich’s fate would be determined. Despite the fact that he had killed his mother in a frenzied and terrifying attack, Dankovich’s family would appeal to the judge for a lenient sentence. They stated during the sentencing hearing that they had forgiven him for what he had done and hope that one day, he will be released from prison. Elaine Palmer, Michele’s mother, said: “With the love and prayers of family, many friends and many churches, our most amazing God has helped us forgive our Christopher. He was a quiet, very loving child and grandson.”6
His father, James Dankovich, said that he often visited his son at Oakland County Children’s Village, where he was being held, and said he believed his son had expressed extreme remorse over his actions and was distraught. “Obviously, if he could take it back, he would,” he said.
The sentencing phase was held in March. While Dankovich had accepted a plea agreement, Judge John McDonald would reject it, stating: “I feel a responsibility to society.” He said that the sentencing guidelines were far too light for the crime.7 Dankovich’s defence attorney Mitchell Ribitwer immediately withdrew the guilty plea and requested a jury trial.8
Before the trial could proceed, a hearing was held to go over Dankovich’s mental state at the time of the murder. His defence believed that he was struggling from a mental illness, and could not differentiate between wrong and right. While Dankovich had been found competent to stand trial, he had attempted to take his own life on two occasions since his arrest, once by slicing his arms and once by drinking bleach.9
Dr. Harley Stock, a former deputy director of the Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry, told the judge that Dankovich believed that he was on a “mission for God” and that he was planning the deaths of abortionists, child molesters, and U.S. Senator John Kerry.
He revealed that after Diane confronted her son about the pornography and weapon websites. She took away his computer and grounded him. Dr. Stock commented: “Chris believed he was on a mission for God. As a soldier for God, he was above the law.” Dr. Stock suggested that Dankovich did not kill his mother because he was suddenly mad at her, but because she had disrupted his mission.
Dankovich subsequently pleaded guilty to second-degree murder despite the fact his defence attorney thought he would be found not guilty by reason of insanity if he proceeded to trial. Ultimately, however, the call was up to Dankovich.
While Judge McDonald had denied his earlier plea agreement, he approved this one, telling Dankovich: “I don’t know what else to say to you. You’re a young man and I feel very sorry for you. I hope you get the help you need.” 10 Dankovich apologised, telling the judge: “I’d just like to say how sorry I am for what I did.” He was asked how he felt, and replied: “I just feel sad… I feel nervous.”
Before Dankovich was sentenced, it was revealed that he had become obsessed with the Bible. He then turned to the internet and came across several anti-abortion groups, which only fuelled his obsession. From here, he found militia-type groups, and came to believe that he was on a mission from God.11
Christopher Dankovich was sentenced to 25 years to 37.5 years in prison.
- The Grand Rapids Press, 27 April, 2005 – “Teen Accused of Stabbing Mom”
- The Oakland Press, 26 April, 2005 – “Teen Suspected in Mom’s Slaying”
- UPI, 26 April, 2005 – “Son Charged with Stabbing Mom 11 Times”
- Associated Press, 15 November, 2005 – “Teen Accused of Killing Mother”
- Associated Press, 10 February, 2006 – “Teen Accused of Stabbing Mother 111 Times Pleads Guilty”
- The Oakland Press, 11 February, 2006 – “Son May Get 34 Years for Killing Mother”
- Associated Press, 13 March, 2006 – “Judge Rejects Plea Deal for Teen Who Stabbed Mother 111 Times”
- The Detroit News, 14 March, 2006 – “Teen to Stand Trial in Slaying”
- The Detroit News, 26 April, 2006 – “Teen Accused of Stabbing Mom on ‘Mission for God’”
- The Detroit News, 1 May, 2006 – “Teen Sentenced to 25 Years in Stabbing”
- The Oakland Press, 2 May, 2006 – “I’m Not a Violent Person”