BURRILLVILLE, R.I. (WPRI) — Two suspects arrested in connection with the death of a missing man faced murder charges in court on Monday.
Steven Pietrowicz, Jr., 39, lived in the home on Douglas Pike where 60-year-old Domingo Ortiz was found buried underneath concrete and a newly-built deck on Friday. Investigators discovered the victim’s remains weeks after he was reported missing by his family.
Both Pietrowicz and Michelle Morin were arraigned Monday on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and obstruction of police. They’re due back in court for bail hearings June 15.
Morin, 40, was arrested Sunday in Worcester and appeared in court there on a fugitive from justice charge. She waived extradition and was returned to Rhode Island on Monday.
During a news conference Monday, Burrillville Police Chief Col. Steven Lynch said Pietrowicz and Morin are accused of beating Ortiz with their hands and a club, and at times it appeared Ortiz’s legs were bound.
“A body was located in a four to five foot hole, which was covered in fill, large boulders, a layer of cement, and a newly constructed deck,” said Lynch of the Burrillville Police Dept.
The exact cause of Ortiz’s death has not been revealed. The medical examiner performed an autopsy on Ortiz Monday.
“It is a brutal crime. Where someone was beaten repeatedly and then the body disposed of under a cement slab — I think that shows an indication of the animosity, if you will, or the heinousness of this crime,” said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin.
Police believe the violence stemmed from an altercation during a night of drinking on May 5. Lynch said Ortiz had been last seen that day, getting into a car with the suspects in Worcester.
Investigators executed their first search warrant at the Douglas Pike home May 21, during which they found evidence of a fight, including broken furniture, blood evidence, and evidence of cleaning with a strong bleach product. Police could not discuss possible motives at this point in the investigation.
Pietrowicz and Morin confirmed the altercation, but told police Ortiz left the property on his own May 6, according to Lynch. Police believe Ortiz perished early that morning.
During that interview, the pair indicated that another couple was staying at the home while Ortiz was there, saying the man served time with Pietrowicz at a Pennsylvania prison. Investigators traveled to Pennsylvania last week to interview the couple, and obtained information which allowed them to secure a second search warrant of the Douglas Pike home.
Col. Lynch said the Pennsylvania couple are currently being treated as witnesses in the case. Additional charges in the case will be reviewed by a grand jury.
Morin also told police that she was beaten by Pietrowicz and showed them bruises. Police arrested him in Worcester May 27 on domestic violence charges, and he was held as a bail violator stemming from another domestic violence case involving a different victim.
Both Pietrowicz and Morin are schedule to appear for bail hearings on June 15.
There has not been a murder in Burrillville since 2007.