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Srebnik contests unlawful imprisonment charge

News Photo by Julie Riddle Brad Srebnik, top left, listens as Alpena County Prosecutor Cynthia Muszynski, bottom left, explains an illegal imprisonment charge to Judge Lora Greene, top right, during a videoconferenced hearing in Alpena’s 26th Circuit Court on Monday.

ALPENA – Brad Srebnik says he was just along for the ride when another man hijacked a tow truck in Alpena Township.

Srebnik, 35, said through his attorney on Monday that he was “merely present” when Joshua Wirgau, 34, allegedly wielded a gun while demanding a ride from a coworker in September.

In Monday’s hearing, Srebnik’s defense attorney, Mike Vogler, contested a charge of unlawful imprisonment related to the alleged hijacking.

According to Vogler, Srebnik had nothing to do with Wirgau’s actions — if those even constituted a hijacking — and Judge Ed Black should have dropped the charge when he sent Srebnik toward trial for allegedly possessing a gun, which Srebnik is not allowed to do because of a felony record.

Alpena County Prosecutor Cynthia Muszynski countered that Srebnik’s armed presence constituted an implied threat that served as an intentional part of Wirgau’s plan.

Judge Lora Greene, after hearing attorneys’ arguments, said she would decide later whether the court can continue to pursue the imprisonment charge.

Rick Steiger, attorney for Wirgau, declined to comment for this story.

Greene presided over the hearing at the request of Black, whose decision to bind Srebnik over to the higher court was challenged by Vogler’s motion.

Police say Wirgau, Srebnik, and a woman, Abby Hill, forced an acquaintance to drive them from Wirgau’s house to a nearby intersection late on Sept. 21.

According to police, Wirgau called Greg Schuelke, a driver at the tow truck company for which Wirgau worked as a mechanic, and asked for a ride to the business.

Instead, when Schuelke arrived at Wirgau’s house, Srebnik and Hill, armed with rifles, allegedly leaped onto the bed of Schuelke’s tow truck as Wirgau climbed in the cab. Wirgau allegedly briefly pointed a pistol at the driver’s head and ordered him to drive to the intersection.

The three alleged hijackers spoke little as they boarded the tow truck, according to the driver, and Srebnik showed no surprise at Wirgau’s actions — points Muszynski on Monday offered as evidence Srebnik knew the plan and played an active part in the hijacking.

The $100 Srebnik allegedly handed to Schuelke upon arriving at the intersection, within walking distance from his parents’ house, further proved his complicity, she said.

Both Srebnik and Wirgau are scheduled for trial in March on the hijacking charges. Both men are incarcerated on $350,000 bonds, Srebnik at the Presque Isle County Jail and Wirgau at the Alpena County Jail.

The alleged hijacking happened outside Wirgau’s Alpena Township home, where, one week later, police found the body of Alpena teenager Brynn Bills buried in the back yard.

Police have not publicly connected the hijacking to Bills’ death or to the suspicious death of Hill, whose body police found in a wooded Alpena Township area in October.

Alpena County Prosecutor Cynthia Muszynski has not charged anyone in the deaths, though police have handed their investigatory reports over to her for review for possible charges.

Muszynski in November called Srebnik a primary suspect in homicide investigations into both deaths.

Police have called Wirgau a person of interest in Bills’ death but have not publicly named him a suspect.

Neither police nor Muszynski have confirmed whether Srebnik or Wirgau might be charged.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693 or jriddle@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jriddleX.

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