NEW BALTIMORE (AP) - A couple suspected in three southeast Michigan murders killed their first two victims for money and the third because he figured out that they were wanted by police, authorities said yesterday.
Samantha Jean Bachynski, 19, and her fiance, Patrick Alan Selepak, 27, were being held in the Genesee County Jail while police continue their investigation into a crime spree that also included several armed robberies.
The first killings occurred last week in the Macomb County city of New Baltimore, where Scott and Melissa Berels, both 27, were found dead in their home. Melissa was 10 months pregnant, authorities said.
The third slaying occurred in Genesee County's Vienna Township. The victim was Winfield Frederick Johnson, 53, who had befriended the couple at a bar Saturday night, authorities said.
New Baltimore Police Chief John Bolgar said Selepak found his way into the Berelses' lives by befriending Melissa at the market where she worked.
The motive for the killings, Bolgar said, was robbery "just to make Patrick and Samantha's life a little easier."
Bolgar said Melissa Berels had several conversations with Selepak, but police had no evidence that they were romantically involved.
"I believe that it was Melissa's trusting nature . that welcomed Patrick into their lives," Bolgar said.
The Berelses' bodies were found bound head to toe in plastic wrap and tape and covered with a tarpaulin. Scott Berels was beaten and suffocated, while his wife was suffocated, Bolgar said.
Johnson's body was wrapped in plastic in a similar fashion, authorities said.
Police were led to the suspects by a drugstore sales receipt for duct tape that they apparently left at the Berelses' home.
Bolgar said the receipt came from a local CVS store, which had 24-hour video surveillance. Police obtained a search warrant for the video, found an image of a woman buying duct tape and released it to the media.
The police chief said a tipster recognized the woman as Bachynski.
The couple were arrested in Owosso on Tuesday while driving a pickup truck belonging to Johnson, whose body was found in the back of the truck, authorities said.
No charges had been filed in Genesee County, but the suspects were being held on murder warrants from New Baltimore and a federal robbery warrant that accuses them of a Feb. 13 sporting goods store holdup in the county's Flint Township, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said.
Selepak and Bachynski were named Monday in warrants charging them with first-degree murder, home invasion, auto theft and using a firearm in the commission of a felony. They are expected to be arraigned today in Macomb County.
A telephone tip led Owosso police to a motel parking lot, where the suspects were arrested Tuesday afternoon in Johnson's pickup truck, authorities said.
Genesee County officials said Johnson allowed Selepak and Bachynski to stay in his home. But he apparently figured out that they were wanted by police, and they shot him twice in the back and strangled him as he tried to leave his home Tuesday morning, authorities said.
From there they drove to see a friend of Bachynski in nearby Owosso, and she alerted authorities.
Selepak is from Macomb County's Chesterfield Township. Bachynski's hometown was reported as either Midland or New Baltimore.