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Teens charged in vicious attack of man who cared for strays

 

By Charles Sercombe

          Longtime police investigators say they’ve never seen this level of violence allegedly committed by two boys barely in their teens.

          On Saturday night, at 11 p.m., police say that De’Vante Howard, 14, of Hamtramck, and Martell Dewberry, 13, of Detroit, savagely attacked a 55-year-old semi-homeless man on Danforth St.

          “They just wanted to beat someone up,” said Police Chief Max Garbarino.

          The two teens, possibly playing a game called “put them to sleep,” beat and kicked Nick Vanasnack unconscious. Vanasnack is commonly known by his street name, “Casper.”

          Residents on Danforth found Vanasnack unconscious and crumpled up on a curb.

          He remains in critical condition at Detroit Receiving Hospital, and until recently was on life-supporting assistance. As of Wednesday, he remained unconscious but moved when talked to, said Detective Jackie Crachiola.

          Even if Vanasnack regains consciousness, there is a good chance he has suffered brain damage, Crachiola said.

          The two teens were arraigned on Tuesday in the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Center on a charge of assault with intent to murder. They are being held in custody on $25,000 cash bonds.

          Their preliminary examination is Oct. 29 at the detention center.

          According to Crachiola, Howard already has a lengthy criminal record. As for why the two teens were out at 11 p.m., Crachiola said she was only aware that in the case of Martell Dewberry, the 13-year-old, he snuck out of his house.

          Although there appears to be no eyewitnesses, the teens have implicated themselves in a recorded police interview. Crachiola said officers were able to figure out who the suspects were after interviewing a number of residents on Danforth St.

          Finally, one person said someone overheard the two teens talking about the incident. By Monday, the teens were arrested.

          Garbarino praised his officers for gathering the information so quickly.

          “They worked the neighborhood,” he said.

          As for a motive, one investigator said the teens said it was a game of trying to beat someone unconscious. There is at least one other case of a man being attacked in town for no apparent reason, said a police source. That man suffered a broken jaw.

          If this was a case of “put them to sleep,” the teens could not have picked a more vulnerable victim. Vanasnack was known for taking care of stray cats and being helpful to his neighbors.

          He had been a fixture on Jos. Campau for many years, seen wearing earphones in all weather conditions and occasionally picking through public trash cans. He also often spoke to himself as he walked Campau.

          It is believed that Vanasnack was occasionally homeless and lived in various locations. It is believed he has been living in a house on Danforth St.

          Police Chief Garbarino said many of the department’s officers knew Vanasnack and considered him a friendly person.

          “My guys took this personally,” Garbarino said.

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