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Police: Bills body found; investigation continues

News Photo by Julie Riddle 1st Lt. John Grimshaw, commander of the Michigan State Police-Alpena Post, speaks to reporters on Wednesday about Tuesday’s discovery of the body of missing Alpena teen Brynn Bills.

ALPENA — Police confirmed Wednesday they have found the body of Alpena teen Brynn Bills, who had been missing since the first days of August, and their investigation now shifts to a suspicious death inquiry.

Acting on a tip, police on Tuesday dug behind an Alpena Township home and discovered human remains in recently overturned soil. Police identified the body as Bills by tattoo markings.

Police arrested the owner of the Naylor Road home, Joshua Wirgau, on unrelated charges on Monday night. As of Wednesday, police consider Wirgau a person of interest in Bills’ death, according to 1st Lt. John Grimshaw, commander of the Michigan State Police-Alpena Post.

Police on Wednesday offered no details about the condition of Bills’ body, including how long it may have been buried or the potential cause of death, Grimshaw said.

Police have no suspects in Bills’ death at this time, although they have multiple persons of interest, according to Grimshaw.

Bills would have turned 18 on Aug. 12.

Her father, Duane Bills, believes his daughter probably did not reach that birthday, he told The News on Wednesday. He encouraged people to continue to call in tips and hopes police will find anyone involved with his daughter’s death.

“They found her, so, obviously, somebody’s got some answering to do on the subject,” Duane Bills said.

Wirgau was arraigned on Tuesday in 88th District Court on charges of unlawful imprisonment and assault with a dangerous weapon. The alleged victim related to those charges is not Bills, according to court records.

Wirgau’s court record indicates multiple prior charges, including for sexual assault and drugs.

He is lodged in the Alpena County Jail without bond.

Grimshaw would not say whether Bills knew Wirgau.

Grimshaw would not say how many people of interest police have in the case or whether police included Wirgau in their investigation before they uncovered Bills’ body in his yard.

Grimshaw would not say whether Wirgau has made a statement to police concerning the body.

Wirgau is represented by attorney Rick Steiger, of the Northeast Michigan Regional Defender Office, who could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Police zeroed in on Wirgau’s yard through tips and other information police developed during their investigation into the missing teen, Grimshaw told reporters at the press conference.

An anonymous tip came in to police over the weekend.

Several recent incidents made the tip a “pressing investigative lead,” Grimshaw said, without specifying the nature of the incidents.

In an all-day search of Wirgau’s property on Tuesday, Michigan State Police crime lab representatives and other officers brought in a backhoe to dig in a secluded portion of Wirgau’s rural backyard.

Police found Bills’ body about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and, shortly thereafter, called the girl’s father to the scene.

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While police easily identified spots in the yard in which to dig because of evidence of recent disturbance of the soil, actually finding and removing the body took hours, Grimshaw said.

Officers arriving around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday remained at work until at least 6 p.m.

An autopsy was expected on Wednesday at Western Michigan University, although results may take up to several months to arrive, Grimshaw said.

Once police know the cause of death, they will share that information with the public, Grimshaw said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, police continued to search Wirgau’s home for evidence.

Public property records list Joshua and Chelsey Wirgau as owners of the property where police found Bills’ body. Grimshaw would not say whether Chelsey Wirgau is considered a person of interest.

Children who live at the home are safe and staying somewhere else, and police do not believe anyone else is in danger in relation to the discovery of the body, Grimshaw said.

Bills’ family members are handling the news “as well as can be expected,” Grimshaw said.

Some family members came to the State Police-Alpena Post before the press conference but left before reporters could speak to them.

Police urge anyone with any information regarding Bills’ death to call the Michigan State Police-Alpena Post at 989-354-4101.

News staff writer Steve Schulwitz contributed to this story.

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