Four members of the Makarenko family have been charged with first-degree attempted murder, burglary with battery, and kidnapping. (Video still/YouTube/WFOR)
A Florida man was brutally beaten and blinded by members of his boyfriend’s family because they believed the man “made” their son gay, according to court documents.
Prosecutors allege that Inna Makarenko, 44; Yevhen Makarenko, 43; and two of their adult sons, Oleh, 21, and Vladyslav, 25, ambushed the man at his apartment in Pompano Beach last August and beat him so badly that they left him severely injured in a pool of his own blood for about 14 hours.
The reason for the attack, the man told deputies, was because of his relationship with Oleh, whom he had been dating for about nine months.
“Unfortunately, your son’s gay,” the man reportedly told Inna as the family was allegedly attacking him. The 31-year-old man has asked authorities to withhold his identity under Marsy’s Law, which allows alleged victims to keep “information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family” from being released.
The Makarenkos are all charged with first-degree attempted murder, burglary with battery, and kidnapping. Prosecutors “enhanced” the charges for Inna, Yevhen, and Oleh under the state’s hate-crime law, meaning the three face up to life in prison on each of the three counts.
Vladyslav, who does not face the upgraded charges, was extradited from Alabama and joined his family at the Broward County jail. Paula McMahon, a spokeswoman for the Broward State Attorney’s Office, told The Washington Post that Vladyslav is expected to be charged next week.
The attorney’s office has accused the family of “severely beating a man based on his sexual orientation.” In a statement announcing the hate-crime charges, prosecutors said the man “has been permanently blinded and sustained other serious injuries as a result of the incident.”
“He stated that the reason for this attack was because he was a homosexual, was dating Oleh, and that the family felt that he made Oleh a homosexual,” the warrant said.
Michael Glasser, the family’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday. Glasser told WFOR last week that the family denies attacking the man and said the victim’s credibility should be questioned because he waited six months to make the allegations against the Makarenkos.
“Many, if not all of them, didn’t even know this person in any way shape, or form and they adamantly denied being there at the residence for any of the incidents,” Glasser told the outlet. “Thus far, there’s really been scant and borderline nothing remotely compelling that points to this family having anything to do with this poor guy’s injuries.”
LGBTQ issues have been at the forefront of debate in Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) earlier this month signed into law the Parental Rights in Education bill, which critics have labeled the “don’t say gay” law. The measure bans instruction or classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity issues in kindergarten through third grade and also empowers parents to sue a school district over teachings they don’t like.
Florida’s law limiting LGBTQ discussion in schools explained
LGBTQ advocates say the measure furthers efforts in the state to paint the LGBTQ community as “other,” or even dangerous, and gay rights groups have sued Florida over the law, arguing that it violates the constitutionally protected rights of free speech, equal protection, and due process of students and families. But DeSantis and Republicans have stood firm in defending the law, with the government arguing that it protects against “sexualizing kids in kindergarten.”
Florida teen worries for LGBTQ students after ‘Don’t Say Gay' bill becomes law
Teen LGBTQ rights activist Will Larkins spoke to The Post about fighting this controversial bill less than a month after it was signed into law. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)
The 31-year-old man started dating Oleh sometime in late 2020, with Oleh sleeping over many times and even having a key to the man’s apartment, according to court records. Their relationship shifted in the summer of 2021, when Yevhen, Oleh’s father, “found out that he was homosexual,” according to the warrant. At a time when the father “was treating [Oleh] poorly and was not accepting him,” Oleh had also allegedly mentioned to his boyfriend that his mother “was going to force him to marry a woman.”
On. Aug. 6, 2021, the man thought something was weird when Oleh asked for his address, even though he had visited regularly for months, prosecutors say. About 1 a.m., the man opened the gate and saw not just Oleh but also his family, whom the man recognized from photos, the warrant says. Oleh, who the man said appeared nervous, yelled, “Go inside!”
Then, the family allegedly chased the man and forced their way into his South Florida apartment. All four family members “continued holding [the victim] and began punching, kicking and hitting [him] all over his face, head, and body,” according to the warrant.
When the man told Inna that Oleh was gay, the victim stated, “one of them grabbed an unknown object, and struck him in the face.”
“After falling to the floor, he pretended to be dead so they would believe he was dead and stop beating him,” the warrant said.
About 3 p.m., about 14 hours after the attack, a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy, who was at the complex for an unrelated event, noticed the door to the man’s apartment open. The deputy entered the apartment and saw the man lying on the floor covered in his own blood, court records show.
The victim did not immediately tell police what happened, claiming he had been drinking and fell. About six months later, he told prosecutors that “his memory of the incident” had returned and sought to press charges against Oleh and his family.
Prosecutors say that the man was blinded and suffered extensive injuries as a result of the attack, including brain swelling, severe bruising, multiple fractures in his facial bones, a fractured jaw, and a concussion. His medical bills have exceeded $100,000, according to court records. The man, who has undergone four surgeries and is expected to undergo at least two more, “has been told he will most likely never regain eyesight in either eye again,” according to the warrant.
Despite the allegations, supporters of the Makarenkos have proclaimed the family’s innocence. An online petition in support of them describes the Makarenkos as Ukrainian refugees who came to the United States six years ago and operate the thriving door and interior design renovation companies.
Among those proclaiming the family’s innocence is Christina Herman, who is Oleh’s fiancee. She told WPLG she does not believe Oleh, who also goes by Alex, is gay.
“I have proof,” Herman said. “I wear a ring which is an engagement and one kind of marriage ring. I know Alex has his ring in jail. That is proof to me. I know we are in a relationship.”
But Broward Sheriff’s Detective Conor Ryan wrote in the warrant that the man’s allegations and other evidence points to a potential hate crime.
“This crime was a senseless and unprovoked attack done onto a homosexual man, just due to the mere fact that he was homosexual,” Ryan wrote.
Inna is scheduled to appear for a bond hearing on Monday afternoon, McMahon said. None of the other family members has hearings scheduled as of early Friday.
Amber Phillips contributed to this report.