Jean Pierre Orlewicz
18-year-old high school senior Jean Pierre Orlewicz
was arrested on November 12, 2007, and charged with the November 7
murder and decapitation of Daniel Sorensen, 26, in the Detroit suburb of
Canton, Michigan. Sorensen's torso was found on the side of a road. His
hands and feet had been burned with a blowtorch and his head was found
nearly 15 miles away. He had been stabbed 12 times.
Orlewicz was charged with premeditated murder, felony
murder, and mutilation of a corpse. Prosecutors referred to the case as
a "thrill" killing, due to its gruesomeness and the apparent lack of
Orlewicz was found guilty of all counts on April 16,
2008. Due to being charged with first-degree murder, Orlewicz faces
mandatory life imprisonment. He will be sentenced on May 12, 2008.
Orlewicz was sentenced to life in prison without the
possibility of parole and an additional 10 years for mutilation of a
corpse. Judge Annette J. Berry handed down the sentence and said to
Orlewicz: "I'm grateful you are going away for the rest of your life
because, in my view, I believe you would have killed again."
Daniel Sorensen was a registered sex offender due to
a misdemeanor criminal sexual conduct charge he received at age 17, but
police say that his past had nothing to do with his killing. He
allegedly owed Orlewicz a sum of money, and was in possession of
18-year-old Alexander Letkemann was also charged, but
plead guilty to second-degree murder to avoid a first-degree murder
conviction. In court testimony on April 9, Letkemann claimed that while
he witnessed the murder, he only helped clean up afterwards, and had no
part in the killing.
On Wednesday, April 23, 2008, Letkemann was sentenced
to 20-30 years in prison for his involvement in the murder.
Jean Pierre Orlewicz Guilty of Murder
April 25, 2008
Jean Pierre Orlewicz,
18, of Canton, Michigan, was found guilty of:
First-degree murder, Felony murder and
Mutilation of a corpse. The jury of
eight men and four women deliberated for more
than 10 hours over two days before coming to a
unanimous verdict. He will be sentenced by Judge
Annette J. Berry on May 16, 2008.
He had been charged along
with his friend,
in the killing of
26 on November, 7, 2007 in what had been called
a “Thrill Kill”.
Letkemann pleaded guilty to second-degree murder
April 1. He was sentenced to
20 to 30 years
in prison in
exchange for his testimony against
Jean Pierre Orlewicz
took the stand and
admitted that he killed Sorenson but insisted
that it was in self-defense. He admitted
stabbing Sorenson 13 times after an extortion
plan went awry and Sorenson threatened his life.
“There was not a murder,”
Orlewicz testified. During his testimony Orlewicz also admitted that
after Sorenson died, he used a hacksaw to decapitate him. He said he
threw Sorenson’s torso into a field and set it on fire. He also said he
took a blowtorch to Sorenson’s hands to cover up fingerprints.
April 16, 2008 - CNN.com
DETROIT, Michigan (CNN/In Session)
-- A jury rejected an 18-year-old's claim that he acted in self-defense,
finding him guilty of murder in
the gory stabbing, beheading and torching of a Michigan man.
The jury of eight men and four women
deliberated for more than 10 hours
over two days before finding Jean
Pierre Orlewicz guilty of first-degree
murder, felony murder and mutilation.
Jurors did not look at anyone as
they filed into the courtroom. The
defendant's family remained stoic,
but the father of victim Daniel
Sorenson broke into sobs.
During the trial, some of the most
gruesome details of Sorenson's
slaying came from the youthful-looking
defendant's own lips.
Prosecutors called Sorenson's
slaying a "thrill killing." They
alleged that Orlewicz was excited by
the prospect of killing someone and
getting away with it.
Orlewicz, of Canton, Michigan, took
the stand and admitted that he
killed Sorenson, 26, but insisted
that it was in self-defense. He
admitted stabbing Sorenson 13 times
after an extortion plan went awry
and Sorenson threatened his life.
"There was not a murder," Orlewicz
On November 7, Orlewicz said, he,
Alexander Letkemann and Sorenson
arrived at his grandfather's house
in Canton, Michigan, with the intent
of robbing Adam Duwe, who had just
inherited $40,000. But Orlewicz said
he felt "icky" about the plan and
was going to pretend Duwe couldn't
make it. That's when Sorenson's
temper flared, Orlewicz testified.
Orlewicz said Sorenson took out a
gun and threatened to kill him.
"You think this is a game?" Orlewicz
recalled Sorenson screaming. "I'm
going to drop you to your knees and
blow your frigging brains out."
Orlewicz said Sorenson began waiving
the gun around, so he grabbed a
knife from a tool bench and stabbed
him from behind.
As the two fought, Orlewicz said,
the gun dropped from Sorenson's hand.
Sorenson scrambled to find the gun,
Orlewicz said, and the two continued
to struggle. "I kept trying to stab
him and get leverage in the fight,"
Orlewicz said. "I was stabbing him
in the back."
During his testimony Orlewicz also
admitted that after Sorenson died,
he used a hacksaw to decapitate him.
Orlewicz said he threw Sorenson's
torso into a field and set it on
fire. The defendant said he took a
blowtorch to Sorenson's hands to
cover up fingerprints.
Orlewicz told the jury he feared
that Sorenson was tied to the Mafia
and that his family would come after
He said his actions after the death
were all out of panic.
Orlewicz corroborated Letkemann's
testimony that Letkemann stood by
and did nothing as Orlewicz stabbed
Letkemann, 18, pleaded guilty to
second-degree murder April 1. He
will face 20 to 30 years in prison
in exchange for his testimony
Orlewicz denied Letkemann's
assertions that after the killing,
he played with Sorenson's head like
"That's someone else's imagination,"
Prosecutors paraded several
witnesses in front of the jury who
claimed Orlewicz had said that he
wanted to kill someone and that he
owned a gun. Orlewicz denied the
claims, including one man's
testimony that he watched Orlewicz
take out the gun, put one bullet in
the chamber and play Russian
Alex Mullins, 17, told police he was
supposed to be the lookout on
November 6 when Orlewicz planned to
kill Sorenson. When the plan was
postponed until the next day,
Mullins decided he didn't want to be
involved, he testified.
Orlewicz had spoken for weeks about
wanting to kill Sorenson, Mullins
added. "He wanted to stab Dan,"
Mullins said. "He wanted to bag him
up in a tarp, hang him upside down
from a tree, burning. He said he
wanted to cut his head off."
Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor
Robert Moran told jurors in his
closing arguments that Orlewicz's
self-defense theory was bogus and
that Orlewicz's testimony about an
extortion plan was a cover-up for a
gruesome calculated murder.
"There was no plan to extort money,"
Moran said. "That was the ruse to
get the victim there."
Defense Attorney Joseph Niskar asked
the jury in his closing arguments to
consider the "fear factor" that came
into play when Sorenson, who was
twice Orlewicz's size, threatened
his client with a gun. Niskar argued
that if Orlewicz had plotted the
murder, he wouldn't have brought a "knife
to a gunfight" but instead a
stronger weapon to combat the gun he
knew Sorenson had.
Moran told the jury that the only
possible way for them to find
Orlewicz not guilty was to be
believe his testimony rather than
every single other person who took
For someone who feared for his life,
Orlewicz was fairly calm about the
gruesome actions he took against
Sorenson, Moran said.
"Where was his emotion when he
testified?" Moran asked. "Where was
his emotion when he testified that
he had to kill Mr. Sorensen? When he
had to cut off his head? He
testified like he was ordering a
pizza. A typical day. That's him.
He recounted the gory details of how Orlewicz
admitted to decapitating Sorenson and covering up the crime, saying: "We'll
never forget it."
Verdict Watch: The jury has many questions
April 15, 2008
DETROIT, Michigan –
We are on verdict watch. The jury left at 5 p.m. Tuesday after
deliberating for three hours and 40 minutes in the “thrill kill” case of
Michigan v. Jean Pierre Orlewicz. There have been several notes from the
jury, one of which is very interesting.
The jurors asked if they could learn the sentencing
differences between first-degree premeditated murder and second degree
In a polite but firm tone, the judge reminded them
they should not be concerned with the years Orlewicz might serve if
convicted. The judge expressed her concern that “some of you are
considering the penalty here…this is not appropriate.”
Orlewicz is 18 years old and common sense tells me
his young age may be on the mind of some of these jurors.
The jury also asked for the statements of
prosecution witness Adam Duwe, the teen Orlewicz said was going to be
extorted on November 7, 2007, as well as the statements of Alex
Letkemann. Duwe did not give a statement to police and only one
statement of Letkemann’s was entered into evidence. The jury has that
now. Jurors also asked for and received 10 photos, including two of the
body of Dan Sorensen.
The families have been in the courtroom waiting. The
Sorensen family seems at ease, talking with close friends. The Orlewicz
family seems on edge. Attorneys from both sides are in the well of the
‘Thrill kill’ defendant says it was self defense
April 14, 2008
DETROIT, Michigan —
Well, it finally happened like a lot of local attorneys predicted it
would: Jean Pierre Orlewicz took the stand in his own defense Monday and
testified that he feared for his life.
The way Orlewicz told it, alleged victim Daniel
Sorensen pointed a gun at former codefendant and star prosecution
witness Alex Letkemann, but said he wanted to kill Orlewicz. At one
point, Orlewicz testified, Sorensen aimed the gun at him.
It all took place in the defendant’s grandfather’s
garage on November 7, 2007. Orlewictz testified he and Daniel Sorensen
were going to try to rob another teen of some money that Wednesday.
Orlewicz said he decided to foil the plan when Sorensen appeared to be
gaining control of the situation.
Orlewicz directed a lot of his testimony toward the
jury as they listened intently to his every word. Jurors who normally
wrote notes sat with notebooks on their laps and just listened to the
18-year-old defendant. Some jurors were expressionless but the looks on
the faces of the others seemed to say, “Let’s hear what you have to say…”
On cross examination, prosecutor Robert Moran got
the defendant to admit continually stabbing Sorensen even after the gun
was out of the victim’s hand and out of Orewicz’s sight. The defendant
admitted severing Sorenson’s head, torching his fingertips and burning
the 26-year-old man’s body so he would not be able to be identified.
On cross examination, prosecutors brought in audio
tapes of jail house phone calls between the defendant and his parents.
Jurors heard Orlewicz tell his mother, “So what’s the defense here? My
attorney tells me I have no defense.” They also heard Orlewicz sternly
tell his mother: “I’m not going to do any time for this…”
These audio tapes came in because they show the
defendant’s state of mind and there is no confidential privilege between
a mother and son.
Prayer circles and horrifying details
DETROIT, Michigan — I want to take you
inside the courtroom of State of Michigan v Jean
Pierre Orlewicz, the so-called thrill-kill murder
trial. The courtroom is not that big and at various
times families of the defendant, former co-defendant
and victim have all been there together, making for
a full house.
Alex Letkemann, the former co-defendant
of Orlewicz, took the stand this week as the
prosecution’s star witness. According to Letkemann
he was with Orlewicz every step of the way as the
defendant stabbed Daniel Sorenson to death and
During his testimony,
Letkemann’s family was in the back row of the
courtroom as well as teen friends of the witness.
They all sat close together and I saw Letkemann’s
mother softly smile at him during moments when the
jury wasn’t present and when testimony was not being
Orlewicz’s parents are also
there and they too have their teen supporters, who
appear to be friends of the defendant himself. They
also sit huddled together in court.
And finally members of Daniel
Sorensen’s family steadfastly sit day after day
looking for justice. Friends of Daniel Sorensen sit
with his parents but say many cannot be there
because they have been subpoenaed as witnesses.
While Letkemann was describing the slaying of their
son and friend, their emotions were almost
I also see the families huddling
into individual prayer circles outside of the
courtroom at the beginning and end of the day. Their
faith appears to be helping to get them through what
must be one of the toughest times of their lives.
The jury is composed now of 9
men and 4 women. One juror has been removed for
cause because of a workplace association with the
defendant’s family. Although two female jurors
became visibly distraught during Letterman’s
gruesome testimony, for the most part, jurors focus
with intensity, writing notes from time to time.
Three crime scenes, one
April 9, 2008
– The forensic aspects of Michigan v. Jean Pierre Orlewicz are key to
this particularly gruesome murder case. Daniel Sorensen, 26, was stabbed
multiple times and decapitated. His torso was then set on fire.
There are three crime scenes, and each one offers
unique questions about the science of killing, decapitating and burning
The first crime scene, according to prosecutors, is
within the defendant’s grandfather’s garage. This is where they say the
stabbing death took place, as well as Sorensen’s decapitation and the
torching of his fingerprints.
The second crime scene is a cul-de-sac in a
partially developed subdivision. This is where Sorensen’s torso was
dumped and set on fire with gasoline.
The third crime scene is a river on the outskirts of
Detroit, where the victim’s head was deposited.
I visited these three crime scenes with forensic
pathologist Dr. Daniel Spitz.
Beheading and self-defense
April 8, 2008
DETROIT, Michigan –
It is hard to imagine being Daniel Sorensen’s parents. On November 8,
Jim and Kim Sorensen learned their son had been stabbed multiple times,
decapitated and burned over 80 percent of his body.
Shortly after that, their son’s friend J.P. Orlewicz
and another young man were charged with the murder. The pain must still
be so fresh with them both. I met Kim Sorensen today and told her I was
very sorry for her loss. She smiled but seemed on the verge of great
From a legal standpoint, it will be be very
interesting to watch the defense in this case. The claim is that
Orlewicz acted in lawful self defense, that the defendant honestly and
reasonably believed that he was in danger of being killed. Even if it
turned out later that he was wrong, if Orlewicz’s belief was honest and
reasonable he can be found not guilty of the crime of murder.
So far, we’ve heard from schoolmate Alex Mullins,
who testified that on November 6 he helped Orlewicz put tarps up on the
windows of his grandfather’s garage and across the floor. He told the
jury Orlewicz told him he was going to kill Sorensen because he didn’t
like him. He told the jury he wanted no part of it, and didn’t
Lisa Chen, a cashier from ACO Hardware Store,
testified that the day before Orlewicz purchased one bottle of Drano mid-afternoon,
then he came back through about an hour later and bought three more
The prosecution is trying to show through this
evidence the premeditation and planning that went into the execution of
I see where the defense will be going with regard to
the Drano. Those containers of Drano were later found in Orlewciz’s
truck after it was impounded. On cross-examination, the defense
questioned Detective William Helke: “You don’t know if those containers
were ever even opened.” But how will the defense get around the tarps?
We will all watch that together.
If you think this is a slam dunk case for the
prosecution, think again.
Do you remember the Robert Durst case in Galveston,
Texas? Morris Black, the victim, was shot to death and his body was then
mutilated just like the body of Daniel Sorensen.
The defense in that case was the same. Durst himself
took the stand and told the jury of the struggle he had with Black that
he was in fear for his life and consequently shot Black dead. Durst also
admitted he panicked after killing Black and so he cut up the body.
The jury found Durst not guilty of the murder, but
guilty for desecration of the body. He served a relatively short prison
term, which included time already served, and was released (only to go
back to prison for a parole violation).
If this case parallels Durst, then Orlewicz will
take the stand. Only time will tell, but this young defendant’s state of
mind is critical to the defense case.
Teen goes on trial in alleged thrill killing
to begin our
killing — a
his body and
put in a
in a river.
found in a
body was set
on fire, he
18, is now
say began in
of the way,
said. He was
he copped a
of a corpse.
will be a
trial. He is
in April and
20 to 30
to hear the
acted out of
that he had
fear for his
life when he
was in that
with the now-deceased
Cop: Teens Beheaded, Burned Man For Thrill
2 Detroit-Area Youths Accused Of Mutilating Adult
Acquaintance, Burning Corpse With Blowtorch
Nov. 12, 2007
Two thrill-seeking teenagers stabbed an adult
acquaintance, took a blowtorch to his corpse and threw his severed head
into a river, prosecutors said Monday as they charged the pair.
Canton High School senior Jean Pierre Orlewicz, 17,
and Alexander James Letkemann, 18, ambushed 26-year-old Daniel Sorenson
on Wednesday in a garage owned by Orlewicz's grandfather, Wayne County
Prosecutor Kym Worthy said. A tarp had been spread on the floor, she
"They lured him in the garage, where they prepared a
space to kill him," Worthy said at a news conference.
Sorenson, who had worked as a bouncer, was stabbed
multiple times in the back, his head sawed off and his body wrapped in
the tarp, authorities said. Orlewicz and Letkemann burned his hands and
feet with a blowtorch, possibly in an effort to conceal his identity,
"They made plans on how they were to clean up the
blood," she said. "They made plans on how they were going to dispose of
The teens loaded Sorenson's torso in a pickup truck,
dumped it in a cul-de-sac and set it on fire using gasoline, Worthy said.
A utility crew found it Thursday morning, police said.
Sorenson's head was found Saturday in the Rouge River.
His history as a registered sex offender in Michigan
and Illinois and the fact that he may have owed his attackers a small
amount of money appear to have had nothing to do with his death, Worthy
Sorenson was convicted in Illinois when he was 17 of
having sex with a 14-year-old girl, said Northville Township police Lt.
"We've all seen a lot. We've seen it all," Worthy
said of the Sorenson case's investigators. "Still, a crime like this
surprises us all.
"Anytime anyone kills just because they want to, and
that's what the evidence seems to suggest here, is bone-chilling. Why
anyone would want to do that, especially being 17 years old, it makes us
think and ask a lot of questions about our society."
Other people may have been involved, Worthy said.
Raymond Cassar, Letkemann's attorney, urged the
public not to rush to judgment. He said Letkemann's only other brush
with the law came a couple of years ago when he was charged with being a
minor in possession of alcohol.
James C. Thomas, Orlewicz's lawyer, declined to
Orlewicz, of Plymouth, and Letkemann, of Westland,
were arraigned Monday on one count each of first-degree premeditated
murder, felony murder and mutilation of a corpse. Not guilty pleas were
entered on their behalf, and both were ordered held without bond and are
due in court next Monday.
The murder charges carry mandatory sentences of life
in prison. Mutilating a corpse carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.