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Published: Saturday, 12/22/2001

Salerno's transfer to Michigan due in days

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Dennis Michael Salerno will be sent to a jail near Lansing, Mich., to await trial in the alleged slaying of his estranged wife, Michelle Rizzi Salerno from Swanton. In April, he led investigators to her body. Dennis Michael Salerno will be sent to a jail near Lansing, Mich., to await trial in the alleged slaying of his estranged wife, Michelle Rizzi Salerno from Swanton. In April, he led investigators to her body.
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EAST LANSING, Mich. - A convicted murderer who led authorities to a missing Swanton woman's grave will be brought to Michigan next week to face murder charges here.

Ingham County sheriff's deputies will move Dennis Michael Salerno, 31, from the Lebanon Correctional Institution to the Ingham County jail in Mason, Mich. on Thursday, said Sam Smith, assistant county prosecutor. Salerno is expected to be arraigned later that day on an open murder charge for the strangulation of his estranged wife, Michelle Rizzi Salerno, in June, 2000. He was charged in connection with her murder in August but only recently agreed to be extradited.

Mr. Smith could not say for sure whether the case will go to trial. “We do not have a plea agreement in place, and it may merit some discussion,” he said.

Salerno led investigators to his estranged wife's body in April, 10 months after she disappeared from her East Lansing apartment. She had been strangled and buried in a construction landfill on the Bowling Green State University campus.

At the time, Salerno was in the Wood County jail, awaiting trial for the murder of Dennis McClanahan, 50, of Moscow, Ohio. McClanahan, a truck driver, had been in prison with Salerno in 1991. Salerno, who has contended McClanahan killed Ms. Salerno, fatally stabbed him in a shower stall at the Petro Stopping Center in Lake Township July 3, 2000.

For his cooperation in finding Ms. Salerno's remains, Salerno was spared the death penalty and sentenced in Wood County Common Pleas Court to life in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 2022.

Investigators have not said precisely when and where they believe Ms. Salerno was killed. A graduate student at Michigan State University, she was reported missing July 5, 2000, by her parents, Mario and Patricia Rizzi of Swanton, after she failed to show up for her grandfather's Fourth of July party in Indiana. She had not been seen since June 30.



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