Hazel Park man pleads no contest to murder of girlfriend

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published August 16, 2019

 Benjamin Wozniak

Benjamin Wozniak

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HAZEL PARK — A man from Hazel Park has been convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 30-90 years in prison after pleading no contest to the charges.

Benjamin Forrest Wozniak, 36, of Hazel Park, was sentenced in Oakland County Circuit Court before Judge Cheryl Matthews on Aug. 7, closing a case that began when Wozniak’s girlfriend — Natalie Urso-Dudash, 37 — was found dead in her home in the 23000 block of Hughes Avenue Jan. 10, the body discovered by police responding to a welfare check. The victim had two young children, who were unharmed.  

Urso-Dudash had been stabbed to death, and the alleged suspect weapon was recovered not far from the scene of the crime. The victim had been in a domestic relationship with the suspect, and they had been living together at the home in Hazel Park. However, Wozniak had reportedly been dating a woman in Center Line.

Earlier, the new girlfriend had contacted police in that city, saying that Wozniak was acting suspicious after visiting his old home — the victim’s residence — in Hazel Park. The new girlfriend had driven him to the victim’s home for a period of time.

Police arrested Wozniak in Center Line and detained him until Hazel Park police arrived to take him into custody. Hazel Park police were assisted at the crime scene by the crime lab from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. Wozniak was arraigned Jan. 12 by Magistrate James Paterson in Hazel Park 43rd District Court, originally charged with first-degree murder.

In Oakland County Circuit Court, Wozniak was represented by attorney Steven P. Lynch.

“I feel he got a fair trial,” Lynch said of Wozniak. “To his credit, he took responsibility and showed remorse. He did not want to put the (victim’s) family through anything further, and that meant agreeing to a rather substantial sentence. He was very sorry, and he indicated that he doesn’t expect to be forgiven, and that he won’t forgive himself. With me, he was always very remorseful and took accountability for his actions; he was never trying to get out of anything. It was a horrible situation, and if he could go back in time and change things, he would. But that’s not possible.”

Hazel Park Police Chief Brian Buchholz commended his officers while also expressing his condolences to the loved ones the victim left behind.

“The Hazel Park police, from top to bottom, did a great job in this investigation — all the way around from responding to the scene, to collecting evidence and interviews to put a solid case together to secure a warrant and conviction,” Buchholz said. “But I cannot begin to know what it’s like to be the family and friends of Natalie. I hope this conviction, without having to go through a long trial, offers the next step in the healing process. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them for strength.”

In her obituary on molnarfu neralhome.com, Urso-Dudash was remembered for her vibrant personality and gentle soul.

“Natalie was so much more than a loving mother, daughter, sister, relative, girlfriend and friend — she was a creative, passionate and strong-willed firecracker of a woman who left a lasting impression on everyone she encountered. She was thoughtful; she was kind; she was supportive. She wanted nothing more than the best for her children and family, and anyone that knew her would agree,” the obit reads. “Many of her loved ones will remember her for her quick wit and sense of humor. She had the ability to walk into a room and have everyone laughing within minutes. She always found ways to relate to others and make anyone feel comfortable. There was always something to talk about with Natalie. She was genuinely interested in getting to know about others and their journeys.

“Perhaps Natalie’s most admirable quality was her resilience,” the obit continues. “Her ability to find strength despite difficult circumstances was second to none. She faced more adversity than most people will experience during their lifetime, but always found the willpower to move forward with grace. She was so proud of this, as were we. There are too many things about Natalie that we will miss, but most of all, our family will miss her unapologetic sense of humor, her effortless positivity and her creative spirit. We love you so much, and miss you forever, Nat.”

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