Michael Wasserman (victim)

Michael Wasserman (victim)

Next Parole Hearing : August 2018 


Michael Wasserman was tortured and murdered by his mother’s boyfriend

Michael Wasserman
Michael Wasserman
Craig Popke
Craig Popke
Inmate Name: Craig Popke
Inmate Number: A221992
Victim: Michael Wasserman
Offense: Murder
Min/ Max Sentence: 15 Years – Life
Next Parole Hearing: August 2018

Case Summary

Three-year old Michael Wasserman was brutally beaten and held under scalding hot water by Craig Popke. Popke, who was Michael’s mother’s boyfriend, then put Michael in his bedroom where he would suffer alone for the next three to five days. During that time Michael’s mother, Peggy Wasserman, did nothing to help her son. Michael would eventually succumb from his injuries. Peggy Wasserman received a 40-year maximum sentence for her part in Michael’s death and was released after serving only 15 years. Craig Popke received a life sentence and remains in prison. He is regularly up for parole.

Michael Wasserman’s Story

A History of Abuse and A Horrific Murder

Shortly after three-year-old Michael Wasserman’s father passed away from an illness his mother, Peggy Wasserman, began dating Craig Popke. Popke immediately made it clear he did not want children and began abusing Michael regularly. Popke beat, kicked, and held Michael under scalding hot water on a regular basis. The abuse got so bad that one day Michael told his paternal grandmother “Me go home, me die and be with daddy.” Sadly Michael knew exactly how he was going to die.

Michael Wasserman
Michael Wasserman

On August 23, 1989 Michael was removed from the home of his mother and her live-in boyfriend Popke. Michael was removed after his maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather reported to Erie County Ohio Children’s Services that there was severe bruising on Michael’s body. A hospital examination confirmed the abuse and suspected Popke of hurting Michael. Michael was placed in the custody of his paternal grandfather.

Peggy Wasserman and Craig Popke were ordered to take parenting classes. Wasserman took seven of the eight classes however Popke attended only two. Despite the fact Popke had attended only two of the required eight parenting classes Erie County Children’s Services returned Michael to the home of his mother and Popke on December 18, 1989.

On January 20th, 1990, just a month after being placed back in the home, Michael Wasserman was found dead in his bedroom. Authorities found third degree burns on Michael’s buttocks, legs, groin and feet. The autopsy report also reported bruising all over Michael’s tiny body. It was determined that Michael died of sepsis (blood poisoning) as a result of the untreated burns.

Authorities determined that Michael’s burns resulted from Popke holding him under scalding hot bath water for an extended period of time. After removing Michael from the bathtub Popke put Michael into his bedroom where he suffered from three to five days before he died. Craig Popke and Peggy Wasserman did absolutely nothing to help Michael. Peggy Wasserman told authorities she thought Michael had the “flu” an she did not want to get sick. Popke had no excuse. Michael, likely screaming in pain for three to five days, died alone in his bedroom.

Two Convictions and The Injustice Continues

There was no doubt Craig Popke tortured and killed three-year-old Michael Wasserman. To avoid a trial Popke decided to plead guilty to murder on May 31, 1990. He was sentenced from 15 years to Life in prison.

Peggy Wasserman
Peggy Wasserman

Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter also successfully fought to get Michael’s mother charged with Michael’s murder. On July 18, 1990 a jury convicted Peggy Wasserman of involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment. She received a sentence of 14-40 years in prison. At her sentencing Judge James McMonagle stated, “It amazes me that your child died totally alone. The system failed Michael and there is nothing I can do about that now other than to say may he rest in peace. Justice cries out for punishment in this case as loud as your child cried out in the last days of his life.”

The injustice against Michael continued in 2005 when The Ohio Parole Board released Peggy Wasserman on February 1, 2005 after serving only 15 years of her 40-year maximum sentence. Craig Popke is now eligible for parole. In 2005 Prosecutor Kevin Baxter established Michael’s House to honor the memory of Michael Wasserman.

Michael Wasserman died alone. No one answered his cries. We must now be his voice.

No Parole

Craig Popke tortured and brutally murdered three-year-old Michael Wasserman. Releasing Popke at any point would endanger the life of any child that would come into contact with him. In addition releasing Craig Popke would deny justice to Michael Wasserman and demean Popke’s cruelty to him. Based on the fact Craig Popke refused to take mandated parenting classes prior to Michael Wasserman’s death, and the fact that Michael Wasserman’s brutal and horrific murder was a direct result of Craig Popke’s actions, we believe Craig Popke should be required to serve his MAXIMUM sentence of LIFE in prison.To further the interests of justice and to protect society we urge The Ohio Parole Board to give Craig Popke the maximum continuance of 10 years before his next parole hearing.