Krasucki’s Last Stand

Krasucki’s Last Stand

Gabriel Baird
Plain Dealer reporter

Teenage thugs returned to prey on Joseph Krasucki yet again, this time on the night of his 78th birthday.

It would be at least the sixth time – and the last – that delinquents targeted him in his Slavic Village home.

In the previous attacks, they took his 30 gold coins, his mother’s birth certificate, his bank book and his decade-old Dodge Aries. The thugs had reduced him to a prisoner in his own home, afraid to leave even for church or Christmas dinners.

His niece, Mary Lawrence, and other relatives had pleaded with him to join them in the suburbs. But despite his fear, Krasucki refused to let thugs force him out of the neighborhood where he had been since he was a youngster living with his parents.

Now, at about 9 p.m. on March 15, thugs again were outside his house, trying to break in through the bathroom window. Krasucki grabbed his flashlight, opened the back door and stepped outside into the darkness.

Decades ago, Slavic Village was a safe, working-class neighborhood.

Lawrence remembers visiting Krasucki and her grandma there as a girl. The lawns were immaculate, the houses freshly painted, the neighbors willing to give you a cup of sugar so you could finish making cookies without running to the store.

Krasucki moved about 40 years ago into his beige house with brown shutters on Hosmer Avenue and went to church just a block away at Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

He worked as a clerk for the Postal Service, taught ballroom dancing and loyally followed the Cleveland Indians, regardless of whether they were winning.

He cared for his aging mother and his brother, who never fully recovered from an injury suffered in World War II. Krasucki buried them both.

The days of living safely in Slavic Village are long gone. It’s an especially perilous place for the elderly.

In 2005, a gang of teens calling themselves the Goonies terrorized the neighborhood. In their wake they left 27 victims, many of them frail old women, before they mugged 76-year-old Therese Szelugowski at a bus stop in broad daylight. She fell, hit her head and later died.

On Nov. 14, Roman Grasela’s house in the 4100 block of East 59th Street was broken into.

The intruder crushed the skull of the 71-year-old man who lived there. Police charged Patrick Hoover, 22, with aggravated murder. The case is still pending.

The vacant lots on Krasucki’s street are overgrown with weeds and littered with plastic cups, paper bags and even a 60-watt bulb. Signs on the power poles outside his house say “Neighborhood Watch.” But not many upstanding citizens are left to keep up the vigil.

He finally agreed to leave neighborhood

At least four houses on the street have boarded-up windows, including one of Krasucki’s neighbors. The house on the other side is for sale.

Other neighbors cannot be counted on for help. The house directly across the street was home to one of the teens convicted of robbing him last year.

But plenty of thugs are left.

After Krasucki’s car was vandalized by neighborhood toughs on March 7, he finally agreed to move to the suburbs.

Just days later, he was on his way to a nighttime snack when he heard a sound at his bathroom window and decided to investigate.

When Krasucki stepped outside with his flashlight, he saw the boys, still in their teens, just like those who had terrorized him so many times before. They wore dark clothes. Krasucki saw two for sure, but there may have been a third.

Thugs laughed as they kicked him

They pounced on him, knocked him to the ground and kicked him repeatedly. He cried for them to stop.

They laughed and kicked him more.

He surrendered his wallet and car keys. They drove the old Dodge just a block before they ditched it, keys still in the ignition, motor running. Krasucki struggled inside and called for help.

An ambulance rushed him to MetroHealth Medical Center, where he was conscious and lucid enough to tell police about the attack.

The harsh beating he endured was too punishing for his aged body. He died Monday.