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Jean Pierre ORLEWICZ





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Juvenile (17) - "Thrill Killing" - Dismemberment
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 7, 2007
Date of arrest: 5 days after
Date of birth: March 14, 1990
Victim profile: Daniel Sorensen, 26 (registered sex offender)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and an additional 10 years for mutilation of a corpse on May 12, 2008

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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 serious motive.


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."

The Victim

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 Orlewicz's gun.


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, Alexander Letkemann, in the killing of Daniel Sorensen, 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 Orlewicz.

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.


Teen guilty of 'thrill kill' murder, beheading

April 16, 2008 -

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 testified.

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 him.

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 Sorenson.

Letkemann, 18, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder April 1. He will face 20 to 30 years in prison in exchange for his testimony against Orlewicz.

Orlewicz denied Letkemann's assertions that after the killing, he played with Sorenson's head like a puppet.

"That's someone else's imagination," he said.

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 roulette.

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 the stand.

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. That's cold."

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 murder.

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 courtroom conversing.


‘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

April 11, 2008

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 beheaded him.

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 taken.

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 overwhelming.

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 gruesome slaying

April 9, 2008

DETROIT, Michigan – 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 a body.

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 emotion.

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 participate.

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 bottles.

The prosecution is trying to show through this evidence the premeditation and planning that went into the execution of this crime.

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

April 7, 2008

DETROIT, Michigan – We’re ready to begin our next live trial, and it’s a murder case you won’t soon forget because of the alleged circumstances of the victim’s death. Detroit’s District Attorney Kym Worthy has labeled this killing a thrill killing — a murder with no apparent motive.

Daniel Sorensen, 26, was repeatedly stabbed and slashed on November 7, 2007. His head was severed from his body and put in a plastic container, and later found dumped in a river. Sorensen’s torso was found in a field; his body was set on fire, he hands and feet were charred.

Jean Pierre Orlewicz, 18, is now facing life in prison for masterminding and carrying out the killing, which prosecutors say began in his grandfather’s garage.

Alex Letkemann, also 18, helped Orlewicz every step of the way, prosecutors said. He was a co-defendant until last week, when he copped a plea deal. He has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder as well as disinterment and mutilation of a corpse.

Letkemann will be a star witness Orlewicz’s trial. He is scheduled to be sentenced in April and prosecutors are recommending 20 to 30 years.

I’m eager to hear the testimony, especially the defense, which asserts Orlewicz acted out of self-defense, that he had a realistic and actual fear for his life when he was in that garage last November with the now-deceased Daniel Sorensen.


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 said.

"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, Worthy said.

"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 body."

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 said.

Sorenson was convicted in Illinois when he was 17 of having sex with a 14-year-old girl, said Northville Township police Lt. Greg Rhodes.

"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 comment.

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.



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