Suspect in Warren double murder to stand trial

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published January 5, 2018

 Joseph Borowiak will next appear for an arraignment in Macomb County Circuit Court on Jan. 29. He faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

Joseph Borowiak will next appear for an arraignment in Macomb County Circuit Court on Jan. 29. He faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

Photo by Brian Louwers

WARREN — An insanity plea will likely be the defense for a man accused of brutally beating his aunt and uncle to death in their home near Mound and Stephens roads last fall.

Joseph Borowiak, 37, of Warren, was back in the 37th District Court for a preliminary examination Jan. 4, where he was ultimately ordered to stand trial on first-degree murder charges.

Borowiak’s hearing had been adjourned for months and was finally rescheduled after the court received a mental health evaluation deeming him now fit to stand trial, but legally insane at the time Steven Collins and Cynthia Collins were killed in their home in the 23800 block of Panama on Sept. 1.

“That’s probably my defense,” defense attorney Steven Freers said of a potential plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, as the case now moves to Macomb County Circuit Court.

Freers declined to comment further on the specifics of the case after the hearing, or to elaborate about new evidence presented by Assistant Prosecuting Attorney William Cataldo, chief of homicide in Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith’s office. That new evidence includes a DNA analysis from the Michigan State Police Crime Lab, introduced as an exhibit by the prosecution, reportedly showing that the victims’ blood was found on a sweatshirt and glasses tied to Borowiak.

Cataldo called four witnesses to testify during the exam, including two Warren police officers and Detective Cpl. Kevin Dailey, the officer in charge of the investigation.

One of the first responders, Officer Timothy Kulhanek, told the court he was dispatched to the Collins home for a welfare check after their unleashed dog was found by a neighbor, who tried to return it but could not make contact with the couple.

Kulhanek said he and his partner entered the home at about 2:30 p.m. Sept. 1 after they found the screen door locked and the front entry door obviously damaged. The bodies were found in separate bedrooms during a search of the house, and police originally thought they suffered gunshot wounds based on their injuries and the resulting blood spatter.

Cataldo later introduced autopsy reports into evidence indicating that both Steven Collins and Cynthia Collins were murdered, and that they died of head injuries resulting from blunt-force trauma. Investigators believe they were killed sometime around 3:15 a.m. Sept. 1, based on the statements of neighbor George Marshall, who told the court he heard a loud noise that could have been a door slamming.

Warren Police Department evidence technician Donald Viars testified that he was called to photograph various items at a mobile home unit on Ready Avenue, near Nine Mile Road and Sherwood Avenue, later that evening. He said the items, allegedly belonging to Borowiak, included papers and writings, religious artifacts, and crosses.

Viars said he was later called to a vacant house on Ryan Road in Detroit to photograph evidence reportedly taken from Borowiak when he was arrested at about 9:30 p.m., after a tipster who recognized him from a news report saw him nearby at Buddy’s Pizza, at Conant and McNichols, and alerted police.

Among the items taken into evidence there were a backpack; a sweatshirt and glasses; a “hit list” bearing the names of Steven Collins, Cynthia Collins and their two children; and a map to their home on Panama overlaid with writing that included directional arrows.

Dailey said the same list was observed in a photo on Borowiak’s Facebook page, and that it included the word “exterminians” along with the names. When questioned in custody about the Collinses’ deaths, Dailey said Borowiak told him, “I didn’t kill them today.”

Borowiak quickly became a person of interest in the case after police learned that he recently lived at the address on Panama. A review of his Facebook page revealed a litany of bizarre posts, strange messages, and potential threats toward the Collinses and other family members.

The posts included photos of a coiled serpent and repeated images of the family, the Bible and money, along with references to numbers including 6 and 666. Also included were photos of the Collinses’ ranch-style home and rambling text with strange religious connotations and references to the Bible’s Book of Revelations.

Chief Judge John Chmura ruled that Borowiak should stand trial on the first-degree murder charges and ordered him to remain in custody without bond after Cataldo and Freers offered their closing arguments.

Cataldo said the timing of the murders — which he alleged were likely perpetrated while the Collinses were asleep — and the list published on social media supports premeditation in the case. He argued that the blood from both victims found on the sweatshirt and glasses puts Borowiak at the crime scene.

“They were asleep. They were helpless,” Cataldo said. “Mr. Collins never made it out of bed.”

The prosecutor added, “This was not a robbery. There wasn’t anything that was intended to happen there other than that murder.”   

Borowiak will next appear for an arraignment in Macomb County Circuit Court on Jan. 29. He faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

Freers said after the hearing that no decision had been made about a second forensic psychiatric exam ahead of a possible insanity defense.