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Officials discuss weapons and other evidence during day four of Srebnik trial

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Michigan State Police Trooper Austin Hessling uses a large chalkboard to show the court where he found a cell phone that was thrown in a river near Alpena. The phone is being used as evidence in the trial of Brad Srebnik who is accused of murdering two women in 2021.

ALPENA — A Michigan State Police Firearms and Tool Examiner for the Michigan State Police was able to reassemble parts of a pistol prosecutors believe Brad Srebnik used to kill Abby Hill in 2021 and fire several rounds from it.

Parts of the weapon were found by an MSP dive team in the fall of 2021 in Wolf Creek and other sections of the gun were found in a section of the Thunder Bay River during another drive in 2022.

Members of the dive team, and the inspector, Ken Polhemus, testified during day four of Srebnik’s trial in the 26th Circuit Court on Thursday.

Srebnik is charged in the deaths of Mio teen Brynn Bills and Alpena woman Abby Hill. Charges against him include two counts of premeditated murder, weapons charges, and disinterment and mutilation of a body. He faces life in prison but denies the allegations.

On the second day of the trial, Josh Wirgau, who was originally charged with murder for Hill’s death, agreed to a plea deal in exchange for his honest testimony against Srebnik. Wirgau said that he saw his friend, Srebnik, shoot Hill in the back of the head in a secluded area behind the Holcim Alpena plant, which is formerly known as Lafarge.

Wirgau is charged in the destruction of Bills’ body and other felonies but reached a plea deal that removes a murder charge for the death of Hill. He faces no less than 15 years in prison and no more than 30 years.

Wirgau said after Hill was shot, another friend picked up Srebnik and himself and made two stops, one at Wolf Creek and another at the Thunder Bay River near Herron Road, where Wirgau claimed parts of the guns and cell phones were thrown into the water.

The dive team was able to locate the parts to the gun and a cell phone in Wolf Creek in late October of 2021. Those items were shown to the witness in court for positive identification.

David Jackson, an MSP trooper and diver, said he was in charge of the dive to find evidence in Wolf Creek in October of 2021. He said divers, who used metal detectors, were able to find the barrel of a handgun, a clip that holds bullets for the gun, as well as parts of a cell phone. Jackson said the condition of the firearm and phone seemed as if they hadn’t been in the water long.

Hill’s body was found early in October of 2021 and police conducted the first dive later in the month.

“The barrel was clean,” Jackson said. “There was no corrosion, no growth or algae and it looked to be in good condition. I looked at it like it wasn’t in the water long.”

With a few pieces of the gun in hand, the dive team returned nearly a year later when police were told things were thrown into the Thunder Bay River.

Jackson said the items police found weren’t in as pristine shape as what was found during the first dive, but they were important finds nevertheless.

During the dive, which happened at the end of September 2022, divers found a pistol frame, a slide to a gun, and a cell phone that someone tried to destroy by folding it in half.

Once the new parts to the gun were located, everything was forwarded to Polhemus who also received small metal bullet fragments that were found in Hills’ hair.

Polhemus said although he was able to assemble the gun and fire it, he could not tell with certainty that the bullet fragments came from it because the pieces were too small. He said he was able to ascertain that the metal fragments came from a bullet that could be used in a 9-millimeter handgun.

He said he was also unable to get a read on the serial number that is stamped on the gun because someone had ground it off and he was unable to retrieve it. He said the serial number would help investigators to learn who purchased the gun.

Srebnik’s trial is expected to resume today at 8:30 a.m.

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