An Ohio man fatally beat a World War II vet with a hammer during a “barbaric” home invasion, prosecutors said.
Michael Dudas, 42, pleaded guilty Tuesday to attacking 94-year-old Charles Vonderau on April 15 inside the elderly veteran’s Cleveland home, where DNA evidence, bank records and video surveillance tied Dudas to the slaying, according to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.
Vonderau was found dead in the city’s Old Brooklyn section when his daughter called Cleveland cops to request a welfare check after not hearing from him for a few days. Police then discovered the Navy vet who served on the USS Bangust warship in the Pacific during World War II dead inside, prosecutors said.
A subsequent investigation revealed Dudas, of Parma, struck Vonderau several times with a hammer, hitting him on the head and body. Defensive wounds were also found on the vet’s hands, prosecutors said.
Dudas proceeded to steal Vonderau’s credit cards and tossed the hammer on the roof of a neighbor’s home. Investigators later recovered the tool and found DNA evidence at the crime scene connecting Dudas to the slaying.
An identification band from a hospital belonging to Dudas was also found on Vonderau’s kitchen floor, prosecutors said. Dudas had been released from a drug treatment center at a Cleveland hospital earlier that day, Cleveland.com reported.
Surveillance video and bank records revealed that Dudas used Vonderau’s credit cards to rack up charges until April 18 when he was arrested by the US Marshals at a restaurant in Cleveland, prosecutors said.
Dudas — who pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and misuse of credit cards — will spend at least 28 years in prison before he’s eligible for parole, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley 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 rest of his life.”
Vonderau — who was married nearly 51 years to his late wife, Nellie — owned a paint store in Lakewood after serving in the Pacific. He then worked at Koehler Rubber & Supply Company in Cleveland for 20 years until retiring in 1987, according to his obit.
“Mr. Vonderau liked to do jigsaw puzzles, play Scrabble and he loved watching the Browns [and] Indians, and watching old movies,” the obituary read. “He leaves behind many neighborhood friends.”