ALPENA – What began in early August with the search for a missing teenager has since expanded to two homicide investigations and a suspected armed robbery.
Here’s what we know so far:
In the fall of 2021, police found the bodies of two women – 17-year-old Brynn Bills and 31-year-old Abby Hill – during separate searches in Alpena Township.
Separately, Alpena County District Attorney Cynthia Muszynski charged two men — Brad Srebnik, 35, and Joshua Wirgau, 34 — with multiple felonies for an alleged armed hijacking of a tow truck driver this fall, also in the canton of Alpena. Both men pleaded guilty to weapons charges in the case on February 23 and face at least two years in prison.
Muszynski and police have said both men may be involved in the deaths, but no one has yet been charged.
On December 22, police handed their investigation over to Muszynski for consideration of possible charges, but would not say who might be charged or with what.
Muszynski has not made any decision so far.
Here is an overview of the people involved in the case:
Friends and family called Bills, from Alpena, a smart, caring and outgoing lover of the outdoors and music.
She was last seen alive in early August. She would have turned 18 on August 12.
Police and the teenager’s father, Duane Bills, of Fairview, have asked for the public’s help in locating the girl from August 27. Duane Bills has offered a reward of up to $20,000 for information leading to a break in the case.
Acting on a tip, police searched a wooded area behind Wirgau’s house on Naylor Road on September 28 and found Bills’ body, which they identified through tattoo marks.
Check out this interactive timeline of the police investigation into the deaths of Brynn Bills and Abby Hill. The story continues below the timeline.
On October 5, police said Hill was missing and may be in danger.
On October 16, police said they found Hill’s body following a search in a wooded area in Alpena Township the day before. They said it appears Hill died by homicide.
Police said Hill participated in the alleged hijacking with Srebnik and Wirgau on September 21. Hill had been wanted on felony warrants related to the alleged hijacking.
Police had arrested Hill on September 15 – six days before the alleged hijacking – on a warrant not to appear in court. They released her the next day, as is typical in such cases.
Hill was Facebook friends with Bills.
Wirgau worked in the repair shop of the same towing company where his alleged victim in the hijacking case worked.
In 2009, a judge sentenced Wirgau to 43 months in prison for sexually assaulting a girl between the ages of 13 and 15, when Wirgau was 20.
A year prior, Wirgau had pleaded guilty to third-degree retail fraud and an unrelated drunk driving charge.
In addition to the weapons charges he pleaded guilty to, Srebnik also pleaded guilty to obstructing a police officer in Osceola County and was sentenced to 211 days in jail and faces domestic violence charges in Alpena County.
Prior to that, Srebnik pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges of conducting a criminal enterprise and receiving stolen property.
Several years later, he admitted to being an accomplice in two break and enters and thefts of firearms and drugs in 2012 in Montmorency County.
He also previously pleaded guilty to delivering marijuana.
According to court testimony from the alleged victim, Wirgau on September 21 called his colleague from the towing company at his home in Naylor Road for a ride.
When the driver arrived, the alleged victim said, Wirgau got into the passenger seat of the tow truck while Hill and Srebnik jumped onto the bed of the truck. Wirgau had a handgun, while Hill and Srebnik each had an assault rifle, the man said. The driver had worked with Srebnik for a long time and had known Hill since high school, the driver told the court.
In addition to the guns, Hill and Srebnik allegedly carried a large black bag on the tow truck.
Wirgau allegedly pointed the handgun at the driver for a few seconds, asked the driver to take them to the intersection of Lacomb and Haken roads, then put the gun in his lap.
Wirgau appeared temperamental and paranoid and began sobbing during the ride.
All three got out of the truck when it reached its destination. Wirgau then handed the driver a bag which the driver said contained cocaine, then Srebnik handed the driver a $100 bill through the passenger side window and told him to tell an acquaintance he loved her and asked the driver to leave.
On October 6, police searched the area near the Lacomb-Haken intersection with a police dog and helicopter, but police have not confirmed whether the search was related to the alleged hijacking or Bills’ death.
Police arrested Wirgau on September 27 and Srebnik three days later. In February, both pleaded guilty to weapons charges in exchange for Muszynski dropping the charges of unlawful imprisonment.
Two assistant attorneys general appeared by videoconference during the plea hearing, but neither they nor Muszynski said why they were there.
Here’s how the people involved in the case are connected to each other:
* Brynn Bills, 17, of Alpena, was last seen alive in early August. Police found her body on September 28 at a property on Naylor Road in Alpena Township. She was Facebook friends with Abby Hill and was found buried in Joshua Wirgau’s backyard.
* Abby Hill, 31, was Facebook friends with Bills and police say was involved in an alleged hijacking on September 21 with Wirgau, owner of the Naylor Road property where police found Bills’ body. Police reported Hill missing on October 5, and on October 15 he found Hill’s body in a wooded area in Alpena Township.
* Joshua Wirgau, 34, owns the Naylor Road property where police found Bills’ body. He is also believed to have participated in the September 21 hijacking along with Hill and Srebnik.
* Brad Srebnik, 35 years old. It’s unclear whether Srebnik is connected to Bills beyond the fact that police and the prosecutor accuse him of participating in the alleged Sept. 21 hijacking with Wirgau and Hill.
Timeline of major events in the inquest into Bills’ death:
* Early August: Bills disappears. The exact date is unclear. Her father said she was last seen alive on August 1, although police said it may have been August 3.
* August 27: Police report Bills missing for the first time and ask for the public’s help in locating her.
* September 21: Wirgau allegedly held a man at gunpoint demanding a ride from Naylor Road to near the intersection of Lacomb and Haken roads. Hill and Srebnik, also armed, are also in the vehicle.
* September 27: Police arrest Wirgau on charges related to the alleged hijacking.
* September 28: Police find Bills’ body buried on Wirgau’s Naylor Road property.
* September 30: The police arrest Srebnik.
* October 5: Police report Hill missing.
* October 6: Police search the area near the Lacomb-Haken intersection.
* October 15: Police find Hill’s body in a wooded area in Alpena Township.
* November 19: In a court filing, Alpena County District Attorney Cynthia Muszynski says Srebnik is a suspect in Hill’s and Bills’ deaths, which she calls homicides. Police decline to comment.
* December 22: Police turn their investigation over to Muszynski to review for possible charges.
* February 23: Wirgau and Srebnik plead guilty to weapons charges in the hijacking case in exchange for the dropping of unlawful imprisonment charges. Both men face two years in prison for these charges. Two assistant attorneys general appear by videoconference during the plea hearing, but neither they nor Muszynski will say why they are there.