In Small-Town Murders, a Big-Time Mystery Emerges

'One man shall die so that the other may live' was one suspect's cryptic statement
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 7, 2015 11:44 AM CST
Updated Dec 12, 2015 8:30 AM CST
In Small-Town Murders, a Big-Time Mystery Emerges
A burned-out car like this one was where the murder victims were found.   (Shutterstock)

A Michigan town so small it doesn't have a McDonald's or a Walmart is the setting for a dark triple-murder mystery involving drugs, love-fueled jealousy, and a burned-out car, all outlined in the Detroit Free Press. The brutal killings of Heather Aldrich, her sister Carrie Nelson, and Nelson's boyfriend Jody Hutchinson—all of whom were reportedly asphyxiated—and the discovery of their bodies in a burned-out SUV in the woods was linked back to Aldrich's relationship with Kenneth Brunke, who police and locals say was a gun-happy Manistique drug dealer, and his friend Garry Cordell, who tried to tell Brunke that Aldrich, the object of Brunke's affections, was using him for drugs. And Aldrich did steal a cocaine stash from Brunke's yard, which was followed by a text from Brunke ostensibly meant to lure Aldrich to come over for some free morphine. Aldrich headed to Brunke's house, along with Nelson and Hutchinson, which is where the story takes a weird turn.

At first Cordell and his girlfriend, Marietta Carlson, confessed they and Brunke had killed the victims, though the stories kept changing; Brunke denied participating. But then, despite what looked to be certain convictions for all three, Carlson died while in custody, and Cordell suddenly dropped a bombshell: He and Carlson had committed all the murders themselves and Brunke hadn't been present (though he says Brunke did help set the car on fire with the victims' bodies in it). What some believe: Brunke may have paid off Cordell, an unemployed drifter, or promised to take care of Cordell's elderly mother if he took the blame. The cryptic statement Cordell offered in court when asked about a money exchange only fueled that suspicion: "One man shall die so that the other may live." Cordell was sentenced to life in prison, per WLUC; Brunke will likely get five years or less for obstructing justice and lying to a cop when he's sentenced Jan. 21. (Read all about the fascinating case, including why locals are angry at the county prosecutor, in the Detroit Free Press.)

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