Prosecution opens preliminary exam for Wirgau, Srebnik

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Michigan State Police Detective Sergeant Anthony Utt shows off a pistol that was reconstructed from part found in rivers near Alpena, while 88th District Court Judge Alan Curtis looks on. The weapon parts were submitted as evidence in an alleged murder case.

ALPENA — A combination of evidence and witness testimony during a preliminary examination hearing on Monday may connect the puzzle pieces in the alleged murders of two women in Alpena.

During nearly eight hours of witness testimony, the prosecution, which is being led by the Michigan Attorney General’s office, took its first steps to prove there is enough evidence to bind Brad Srebnik, 36, and Joshua Wirgau, 35 over to circuit court for trial in the alleged murders of Brynn Bills and Abby Hill in 2021.

The preliminary examination is in 88th District Court, but the hearings are being held in circuit court.

Srebnik faces two counts of premeditated murder, weapons charges, and disinterment and mutilation of a body, while Wirgau faces one count of premeditated murder, disinterment, weapons charges, and a count of accessory after the fact to a felony in the deaths of Hill and Bills.

Both men are currently in prison on unrelated charges, but were in the courtroom on Monday.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Brad Srebnik is escorted into court for his joint preliminary examination for the alleged murder of Brynn Bills and Abby Hill in the summer of 2021.

Michigan State Police Detective Sergeant Anthony Utt took the witness stand and told the court how the investigation into the disappearance of Bills, and the discovery of her body, buried behind the home of Wirgau, played out.

Utt said when Bills was reported missing in August 2021, police interviewed those close to Bills, and combed through her social media to try to get a grasp on where she could be or what happened to her.

Eventually, a tip was faxed to Alpena County Central Dispatch from Srebnik’s bail bondsman, who said he believed the body was on the property of Wirgau.

Srebnik was in jail for an alleged carjacking crime and used the bondman to post bail.

Utt said police acted on the tip and searched the property at Wirgau’s residence on Naylor Road and while doing so, found two large, freshly dug holes and a smaller one. After digging and sifting through the dirt, police found Bills’ remains under a slab of concrete and with scorched cardboard.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena County deputies search a woman before she enters the Alpena County Courthouse. This week, Brad Srebnik and Joshua Wirgau, who are accused of crimes in the murder of Brynn Bills and Abby Hill in the summer of 2021, are having their preliminary examination.

Bills’ body was discovered naked and wearing only a baby diaper.

Defense attorney for Srebnik, Patrick Cherry, requested that Judge Alan Curtis have the diaper unsealed and unpackaged and shown to the court in open session, because, he said, it is going to be used as evidence against his client. Photos of Bills’ body in the hole were also shown.

Another, smaller hole, was also located, Utt said.

“Closer to the house there was a smaller, freshly dug hole where it appeared items were burned,” Utt said.

Weeks later, it is alleged that Hill was killed because she knew too much about Bills’ murder. Utt outlined the events of what he believes evidence points to.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Joshua Wirgau is escorted out of the courtroom in Alpena on Monday. He is charged with premeditated murder, disinterment, weapons charges, and a count of accessory after the fact to a felony in the deaths of Hill and Bills.

Utt said Wirgau turned himself in to authorities and he met with police and investigators at his own request. It was then, he told them he witnessed Srebnik shoot Hill in the back of the head in the woods behind Lafarge in September.

Photos of Hill laying dead leaning against a tree were shown and submitted as evidence.

Srebnik, Wirgau, and Hill were dropped off near the private property by a friend, Bruce Kinsey. Kinsey said he was told the three friends were going to camp behind the plant and they walked into the woods and he returned to his home in Hubbard Lake.

A short time later, Kinsey said Srebnik called him and told him Hill had left them with someone in a car and needed a ride once more.

Kinsey said when he returned to Lafarge, Srebnik, Wirgau climbed into his girlfriend’s van and he began to take them to his house, when he was asked to stop several times.

Kinsey told police that the two men threw what police now consider evidence into three rivers.

Utt said divers were able to locate a barrel and a magazine for a 9 mm pistol in Wolf Creek, and a pistol frame and slide to a similar gun in the Thunder Bay River in Herron. Other items were located in the Wolf Creek area.

Police reconstructed the weapon, but have yet to prove it is a weapon that was allegedly stolen by Srebnik from Wirgau’s wife. Police say three guns, two long guns and a pistol were stolen.

The defense attorney went after Kinsey hard and questioned his honesty and a deal he cut with the AG’s office in exchange for his testimony.

Wirgau’s attorney Rick Steiger reminded Kinsey about his long list of past crimes and his constant lying to police.

In October, Kinsey pleaded guilty to lying to a police officer during the state’s investigation. As part of the deal, the charge of interfering with a murder investigation was reduced to a perjury under an investigative subpoena charge. If he was convicted of the more serious crime, he could have faced life in prison.

Kinsey was interviewed and questioned by police and the attorney general’s office on several occasions and admitted to lying each time, including one where he was under oath. Steiger told Kinsey he believes Kinsey is still lying, and trying to save his own skin.

“That is a sweetheart deal you got,” Steiger said. “You do realize that if you lie, or fabricate anything now, you can still go to prison for the rest of your life.”

During the entire hearing there was a heavy police presence in and around the interior and exterior of the courthouse. People entering the building were checked with a metal detector and any items they had on them placed on a table for examination.

The second day of testimony begins at 8:30 a.m. today.


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