A Michigan man who was arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of two relatives in Warren this week had a troubled past and thought he was Jesus, according to the family's neighbor.
Greg Birch of Warren lives across the street from the Panama Avenue home where police found the bodies of married couple Cindy and Steven Collins, ages 66 and 67, on Friday morning.
Cindy Collins was the aunt of the alleged shooter, 37-year-old Joseph Borowiak, Birch said.
The Collinses gained temporary guardianship of Borowiak in 1986 and co-guardianship of him in 1998, according to Macomb County Circuit Court online records.
The Collinses were mentioned in a hit list that was photographed and posted to a Facebook account with the name Joseph Lawrence Borowiak.
Birch, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1972, described his neighbors of about 30 years as “down-to-earth family people” and said they took Borowiak in and raised him “as their own.”
Steven was always watching baseball, and Cindy liked working on jigsaw puzzles and sharing handwritten Polish recipes for dishes like kapusta, Polish sauerkraut. Now, he said, those recipes will all become mementos.
Birch learned of the news Friday afternoon after a Warren police officer knocked on his door asking where Borowiak lived and another officer returned later that day to inform him of the Collinses’ death.
A day later, on Saturday, Birch was still in shock, and said that he didn’t think Borowiak was capable of something like that.
“Something clicked in his head where he just blamed Steve and Cindy for all of his problems,” Birch said.
Borowiak was arrested at 9 p.m. on Friday after Warren police released his name and photo and someone who had seen the photo recognized the suspect at a Buddy's Pizzeria in Detroit and called authorities, said Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer.
The case began to unfold around 2:45 p.m., when a neighbor called 911 after noticing that the door on the couple's home was ajar, Dwyer said. No one answered the door and the family dog was loose, police said. Officers found the couple's bodies.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family," Dwyer said, before the suspect was arrested. "We believe this is not a random act, with the victims being targeted. Neighbors can feel secure that this terrible loss is isolated.”
Friday was not Borowiak’s first run-in with the law.
In May 2012, Borowiak was sentenced for a February 2011 offense involving an assault with intent to rob and assaulting a police officer, according to online records from the Michigan Department of Corrections. He was discharged in January, according to the Department of Corrections site.
Birch, who met Borowiak when he was in his 20s, said he tried helping Borowiak out by giving him odd jobs like painting the garage door, fixing up the garden and cleaning out gutters.
“I really was hoping that the kid was gonna, you know, turn his life around. I really was,” Birch said.
Birch said that he thought religion and the church might help Borowiak, who had a collection of Bibles, religious figurines and an altar in the basement at one point.
A bevy of public posts published on the Facebook page for Joseph Lawrence Borowiak contain numerous references to Jesus, Lucifer and Catholic imagery, such as a Catholic edition of the Bible, crucifixes and the catechism.
Borowiak, Birch said, “literally thought that he had died and came back for our sins.”
“Joe’s opinion was that he could walk into a store, take anything he wanted, with ‘Hey, I died for your sins. I should be able to get a pack of cigarettes.”
Borowiak behaved bizarrely in front of staff and parishioners at St. Mark Parish in Warren beginning about six months ago, Father Stanley Obloj said today in an interview after mass.
Borowiak would preach to others before services, saying he heard voices from God. "He acted as if he had private revelations. Apparently he said he was a god, he was a savior," Obloj said.
But his behavior went from eccentric to concerning about six months ago. There was an incident in which Borowiak began tearing up prayer books after he saw 666 in a pamphlet's bar code, Obloj said. The church called Warren police and Borowiak was told not to come back.
About a week ago, Obloj said Borowiak approached him and asked to rejoin the congregation. Obloj said Borowiak appeared unkempt and possibly drunk. He told Borowiak he could not come back, and he walked away. "Had he chosen otherwise, we would've called police again," Obloj said.
Obloj said the church is praying for Borowiak and the victims. "We did our best from our perspective ... you could see anger, frustration."
Borowiak had moved to a mobile home park in Center Line just off of Lawrence Avenue about five or six months ago, Birch said. There are two mobile home parks side-by-side on the street — the Motor City Mobile Home Community and the Woodview Mobile Village — but it was not clear in which community Borowiak lived.
Andre Bennett of the Woodview Mobile Village told the Free Press that Borowiak seemed to be a “quiet guy.”
Bennett, a father of four, said that he saw about 12 police cars in the area Friday evening and that the news “hit so close to home.”
“My way of thinking is, you got to get to know your neighbors but at the same time, you know, you don’t know what hidden secrets they have. It kind of makes it kind of eerie in a sense,” Bennett said.