Family joins fight to keep child killer behind bars

Family members of Michael Wasserman will do anything they can to keep his killer in jail.
Jessica Cuffman
Dec 4, 2012


The 3-year-old died in 1990 after suffering from third-degree burns for days, his wounds inflicted by scalding water. When firefighters were finally called to help the boy, it was too late. Michael died a few hours later of dehydration and blood poisoning.

Craig Popke, boyfriend of Peggy Wasserman, Michael's mother, was accused of causing the deathly burns.

Family members were alerted Popke was eligible for a parole hearing when they read it in the Register on Monday. Martina Wassermann, Michael's aunt, her sister Tammy Brown, and their sister-in-law Martha Wassermann, each called the newspaper.

"There's still quite a few of us here in town," Martha said. "We will fight for Michael. We are here."

For more on the fight to block Popke's parole and new legislation requiring notification of victim's family members when an offender is up for parole, pick up a copy of Tuesday's Register.


Want to help?
Craig Popke, 47, is up for parole at Richland Correctional Institution on Dec. 27.
Popke was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for the 1990 death of his girlfriend's 3-year-old boy, Michael Wasserman.
Michael suffered third-degree burns that eventually lead to his death after an excruciating three days.
To sign a petition to oppose Popke's release, visit




Why did the Register say that there were no relatives left in town. Did Baxter's office drop the ball or did the Register use their award winning "investigative skills" to come up empty?

If they cannot get something as simple as opening the phonebook correct, it makes you wonder about the other stories.

Sarah Weber

Michael Wasserman's grandmother was the main point of contact for the family with the prosecutor's office regarding this case. When she passed away, the prosecutor's office no longer had any family contacts on file (Michael has no remaining immediate family members.) So the prosecutor's office sent a letter on Michael's behalf to the parole board asking that Popke not be released and the victim's advocacy group from Columbus started a petition. When we talked to the prosecutor's office for this story, they told us no family members had been contacted and none had come forward to address the parole board - hence the initial story. After the story was published, several Wasserman family members called us and said they will write and speak to the parole board to keep Popke in prison. They were vaguely aware this parole hearing was coming up, but had lost track of exactly when. It's a long-winded explanation, but in the end it seems the two sides just didn't connect until we published a story. But, the result is there will be plenty of opposition, both from the community and the family, to Popke's parole hearing, which is coming up later this month.


I for one am very glad that you took the time to explain, Sarah.

Good 2 B Me

Make that two! I had already signed the petition, but the explanation helps people to understand!


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights) and Libel and defamation.


Just curious because I have not seen anything said but is Peggy Wasserman still around? I have only ever seen things about the trial and her convictions and that she was released in '05. It states in today's paper that everything was a slap in the face but nothing about were she is at.


I signed the petition. I was curious about the others that were up for parole too though and read just one of the petitions about a man that killed a little 7 year old girl. To say the story made me sick is an understatement!! This guy - along with Popke - need to be kept right where they're at!!!

Just Thinkin

Mikey's mother's side was hurt and fought just as hard as everyone else, They have a ton of people working to keep him behind bars,So many dropped chances to save Mikey, But before anyone throws stones, you better know the hidden facts ,which no one will.abuse is both physical and mental. mind control is a real issue and addiction is also a cause, but none are an excuse thats true.Still we as a human race need to protect our children GOD BLESS the little ones


This is a sickening story and I, like many others, also signed the petition. If you have the time read about some of the other inmates that are on that website and take the time to sign a few more of the petitions. There are plenty of other horrible people locked up that are coming up for parole that do not need to be back in society and given the opportunity to cause harm to another innocent life. I have even bookmarked the website so that I can go back to it at any time and read into some more of the cases and continue to sign others' petitions.

he said she said

I also signed the petition and will sign it again if need be. This coward, Milner, and Clinton should not see the light of day again. What did these babies do to them that made these cowards do this to them? There is no excuse for what they have done to these innocent babies (Milner said Owen started it)and there should be applause to what happens to them in prison.


Clinton should FRY for what he did, he killed three, two of them children. I hope they give him the hot needle in the arm unless they decide to resurrect the electric chair. Either would be fine with me.


I am on Mikey's other side of the family!!!!!! We are fighting just as hard! I have already personally submitted my letter to the parole board! Mikey didnt ask to be taken out of this world! We are the only voice for him!!!!!!!! I will fight to the end to see the
bastard Craig popke rott in jail for the rest of his life!!!!! It was not his right to yank Mikey from us!!!!!!!


I say let him out, maybe he"ll have the opportunity to meet Dexter

Simple Enough II

My thoughts also.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


I'm also on Mikeys other side and I would gladly speak out for him!


Clue? What clue? I need a sign.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


I say let him out, may be he will have the opportunity to meet Dexter.......



The child's paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother reported the first abuse to Erie County Department of Human Services on August 23, 1989, and a hospital examination found extensive bruising. Michael was removed from his mother's custody and placed with the paternal grandfather.

The mother and Popke were ordered to attend parenting classes at the Firelands Hospital. She attended 7 of the 8 scheduled classes, but Popke attended only 2. On December 18, 1989, Michael was returned to the home of his mother and Popke. On January 20, 1990, Michael died of burns inflicted by Popke by immersing him in a tub of scalding water.

Child Services was also at fault for giving Michael back to the abusive couple. The mother attended 7 of 8 classes and Popke only attended 2 of 8. Michael should not have been returned to the couple because they didn't complete the classes.

Michael's paternal grandfather filed a lawsuit against Erie County Department of Human services and three county officials. The county claimed Ohio's sovereign immunity law, R.C. Chapter 2744. The county won.

Popke should have been sentenced to life with no chance of parole.


I think if the mother is out he should be able to get out too. She was the primary caretaker and protector of this little boy. Her action were no less if not more monstrous than his. Some of you need to make up your minds. You can't whine about your "tax dollars" going towards taking care of him in prison on one hand then advocate keeping him behind bars on the other. The mother and Popke should have been given life w/o parole but they were not for whatever reason. There is nothing that will bring Michael back so the focus should be on preventing these type of tragedies.


While I usually agree with deertracker, I just cant agree that two wrongs make a right....his mother is out so we should let Popke out too? NO WAY !!! I will agree that far too many people play both sides of the fence regarding the whining about tax dollars and then advocating longer sentences. And by the way are 100% correct is saying that the system continues to drop the ball in PREVENTING this type of tragedy and that is the true problem.