Michigan Murder Suspect Should Have Been Behind Bars

One of two suspects in three southeastern Michigan slayings should have been behind bars at the time of the deaths, a corrections official says.

Now the state is investigating why Patrick Alan Selepak was released from prison last month despite a recommendation from his parole officer that he be kept behind bars.

Selepak, 27, and his fiancee, Samantha Jean Bachynski, 19, were jailed in New Baltimore, where they are accused of killing a man and his pregnant wife during a robbery last week.

Both appeared at arraignments Thursday on charges of first-degree murder, home invasion, auto theft and using a firearm in the commission of a felony. The judge entered a not guilty plea on Selepak's behalf. There was no immediate word on whether Bachynski entered a plea. Both were ordered held without bond.

The couple also are suspects in the slaying of another man, whose body was found in the back of the pickup truck they had been driving when they were arrested.

Authorities said Thursday that Selepak and Bachynski confessed to the crime spree when questioned.

Selepak was paroled from prison in June after serving nearly eight years for armed robbery and escaping from prison.

He was re-arrested in November on parole violation charges after a former girlfriend told police he assaulted her, Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan said Wednesday.

Selepak was returned to prison, where he was to await a hearing, but a corrections employee failed to schedule it, Marlan said.

Under a department policy, a parole hearing must be scheduled within 45 days of arrest. When the prison staff noticed that Selepak had been held longer than 45 days, corrections officials placed him back on parole, Marlan said.

Selepak's parole officer recommended that Selepak be sent back to prison, but he was released Jan. 10, Marlan said.

The state Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that the Corrections Department must hold a hearing — but does not have to release — any prisoner accused of a parole violation, even one held longer than 45 days.

"We were aware of that opinion and thought it was being applied," Marlan said. "That is certainly part of our investigation."

Selepak pleaded guilty Jan. 19 to the misdemeanor domestic violence charge. He was sentenced to 64 days in jail but received credit for time served.

Two managers, including one who decided to release Selepak, have been suspended, Marlan said. A clerical worker has also been suspended. Their names were not released.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm called the error unacceptable and said she has asked the Corrections Department to investigate possible policy changes. State legislators said they will hold hearings.

Scott Berels had been beaten and both he and his wife, Melissa, had been suffocated, New Baltimore Police Chief John J. Bolgar said. Assistant Macomb County Prosecutor William Cataldo, who handles homicide prosecutions, said Thursday that Scott Berels was tortured and said Bachynski told authorities that they tried to inject bleach into Berels' bloodstream.

The Berelses' bodies were found Feb. 16 bound in plastic wrap and duct tape and covered with a tarpaulin.

Police traced the duct tape receipt to a local CVS store, which had video surveillance. Bolgar said a tip from someone who saw the video led them to Bachynski.

On Wednesday, police accused Selepak and Bachynski of killing a Vienna Township man because he figured out they were wanted in the deaths of the New Baltimore couple. New Baltimore is about 30 miles northeast of Detroit.

Bachynski and Selepak were arrested Tuesday in a motel parking lot. In the pickup they were driving, police discovered the body of Winfield Frederick Johnson, 53, who had befriended them at a bar Saturday night, authorities said.

Johnson allowed the couple to stay in his home but apparently figured out they were wanted by authorities, Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell said. The pair shot him twice in the back and strangled him, then wrapped his body in plastic similar to the other victims, police said.

Selepak "broke down and cried like a baby immediately after his arrest," Cataldo said.

No charges had yet been filed in Johnson's death. The suspects were being held on the murder warrants and a federal robbery warrant in a sporting goods store holdup.