Man Accused of Killing Three Asks for New Attorney

A man accused of killing three people after being mistakenly released from prison asked for another attorney Wednesday at a hearing where he had been expected to plead guilty to two of the slayings.

Attorneys for Patrick Selepak indicated previously that he would plead guilty to torturing and killing Scott and Melissa Berels in their home in New Baltimore last February.

But in court, Selepak said he had not seen any of the evidence and claimed his lawyer had not discussed the case with him. The lawyer, Bernard Jocuns, told the judge he had discussed the case in detail with Selepak, but their attorney-client relationship had broken down.

"Breakdown isn't the word for it, sir," Selepak told the judge. "There is no relationship."

Judge Richard Caretti ordered that Selepak be assigned a new lawyer and scheduled a pretrial hearing for July 12.

Selepak already has been sentenced to life in prison without parole in the death of Winfield Johnson Jr., 53, who was shot and strangled at his home in Genesee County. Corrections officials have acknowledged that Selepak should have been in prison at the time of the February slayings.

"We were hoping he wanted to plead guilty to save everybody money, time and effort, but it's his constitutional right, and we'll convict him at trial," assistant county prosecutor William Cataldo said after the hearing.

Randall Juip, a spokesman for the Berels family, said all concerned had thought Selepak would plead guilty Wednesday, and that he was "deliberately causing heartbreak."

Selepak's girlfriend, Samantha Bachynski, 20, faces trial Aug. 8 in Johnson's killing and has pleaded not guilty. Bachynski also has pleaded not guilty in the Berels' deaths.

The two were arrested together in Johnson's truck, but Selepak has refused to implicate Bachynski.

Selepak's mistaken prison release had led to employee suspensions, investigations and policy changes within the Department of Corrections.

He was released in June 2005 after serving eight years for armed robbery but was arrested again in November on a parole violation charge. When he didn't get a parole hearing with 45 days of his arrest, he was released.