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Published: Saturday, 6/30/2007

2 suspects charged in Monroe stabbing

BY BENJAMIN
ALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - Two Monroe men were charged Thursday with the two-year-old murder of the owner of a former taxi cab company, authorities said yesterday.

Scott E. Hensley, 27, and Kurtis J. Martell, 30, are in prison on unrelated charges.

An arraignment date has not been set on the charge of open murder, said Jack Simms, a Monroe County assistant prosecutor.

The body of •William Gilbreath, 78, was found June 24, 2005, in his home in the 200 block of Winchester Street.

A friend of Mr. Gilbreath's found the body and called police about 9:50 p.m. He had been stabbed 76 times on his face, head, neck, and chest; police said robbery was the motive.

"It was a robbery that went very wrong," said Sgt. Edward Chakmakian of the Monroe Police Department.

He said three men entered Mr. Gilbreath's house, but only two participated in the robbery.

"He let one of the group in and the others followed shortly thereafter," the sergeant said.

Mr. Gilbreath knew all three men, but "the other two men weren't necessarily welcome," Sergeant Chakmakian said.

Based on their investigation, police believe the killers were looking for drugs and money, but then something angered one of them who sat on Mr. Gilbreath's stomach and began to stab him repeatedly.

The sergeant said Mr. Gilbreath had defensive wounds and cuts on both his front and back, indicating a struggle occurred.

While only one of the accused men did the stabbing, both of them participated in the robbery, police said.

Sergeant Chakmakian would not say which of the men did the stabbing.

The third man, who police did not identify, has not been charged and could be called to testify as a witness, the sergeant said.

At the time, the brutality of Mr. Gilbreath's slaying caused concern in Monroe, which averages one homicide a year.

"This is not a typical case," Deputy Police Chief Tom Moore said at the time. "It was gruesome."

Police have been working on the case and information continued to trickle in to the department, and prosecutors said felt they had a strong enough case to move forward on Thursday.

"Those who we have charged now were known to us that night, but these last two years have allowed us to develop a case against them," Sergeant Chakmakian said.

"As time goes by, people tend to talk a little bit more," he added.

Mr. Gilbreath and his late wife, Pearl, once operated a company called Pearl's Cab in Monroe, but it closed many years before the stabbing.

The charge of open murder allows the jury to determine the specific charge.

It leaves open the possibility of first-degree murder - a mandatory life sentence - and second-degree murder - a prison term that is more variable, Mr. Simms said.

He said both men face similar charges despite the fact that police believe only one of them committed the stabbing.

In Michigan, aiding and abetting is tantamount to committing the act itself.

Hensley is in the Monroe County jail in lieu of an $100,000 bond on the unrelated charges of home invasion and malicious destruction of a building.

He has a jury trial scheduled for July 9 in Circuit Court Judge Joseph A. Costello, Jr.'s courtroom.

If convicted of the home invasion charge, Hensley could face up to 20 years in state prison.

He was released from prison in 2003 after serving about two years for domestic violence and destruction of property.

Martell is serving a sentence in the Newberry Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula for home invasion and two counts of delivery/manfucturing controlled substances.

He was sentenced in September and he could be released on Oct. 20, 2013, or as late as 2035, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch at:

babloch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.



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