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Police: Body found in woods is missing Family Dollar clerk

9:49 AM, Jul 18, 2013   |    comments
Brenna Kathleen Machus, 20, of Romulus. Machus is missing after a shooting at a dollar store in Dearborn, Tuesday, July 16, 2013. (Courtesy: Detroit Free Press)
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DEARBORN, Mich. (Detroit Free Press) -- Authorities say a body, found in a wooded area of Dearborn, is that of a missing 20-year-old Family Dollar store employee.

Brenna Machus had been missing since Monday, when she disappeared from the story after an apparent robbery at the Family Dollar in Dearborn that left her coworker fatally shot.

A 911 call led investigators at about 8 a.m. today to a patch of woods nestled between the northbound Southfield Freeway service drive and Michigan Avenue, Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad said today.

Dearborn Police Lt. Douglas Topolski said the body was confirmed to be Machus, but said he couldn't provide specifics. Earlier today, police said they found a woman's body with clothing similar to what Machus was wearing.

An autopsy is scheduled tomorrow at the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office, a spokeswoman for the county said today.

At a news conference earlier today, Haddad said he feels "enraged that we have another homicide in Dearborn."

Joseph Orlando, 20, was found dead in the store at 22631 Newman after employees arriving for work Tuesday discovered the store in disarray. There was no sign of Machus, but her car was left parked in the store parking lot.

Orlando died from a gunshot wound to the head and his death was ruled a homicide, according to the medical examiner's office, the spokeswoman said.

Loved ones are grappling with Machus' death.

"It's more like a walking nightmare," her father, Kenneth (Jamie) Machus Jr. said, after learning that his daughter's body had been identified. "That's the best way for be to describe" the situation.

At about 1:15 p.m., he said he and members of his family were headed to the medical examiner's office.

Earlier today, Brenna Machus' brother said the hardest thing was waiting to find out whether the body was his sister. On Wednesday, he told the Free Press that his sister was smart and social. He said she aspired to become a crime scene investigator.

"Brenna is one of the sweetest, most caring people that you would be," Ryan Machus said.

Police just before 11 a.m. today issued a picture of a woman wearing a red shirt who shopped at the store Monday night. Haddad said the woman may be able to provide information and asked for the public's help identifying her. Anyone with information is asked to call 313-943-2241. Another customer there that night came forward and talked to police Wednesday, he said.

Earlier in the week, investigators also released surveillance video of a suspect in the case. Haddad said officers continue to seek information about the suspect and are vigorously investigating the case.

The video from inside of the Family Dollar shows a man, his face blocked by a hooded jacket, walk into the store. He appears to wave to someone.

The Family Dollar store remained closed today. Candles along the sidewalk in front of the store flickered at a makeshift memorial, as three dollar store balloons fluttered in the wind. The front doors were locked with no one inside, a sign with a handwritten "closed" hanging in the window.

Next door, Aco Hardware added a security guard in the store while employees are working their shifts – at least for the next month, worker Kathleen Farr, 58, of Canton said.

"I want to know how and why this happened," Farr said as she stood on the sidewalk out front today, the guard traipsing the aisles inside. "And we're not going to rest even afterwards. It's just bizarre. This doesn't happen in Dearborn. It shouldn't happen anywhere. It's so shocking."

Tears fell as Farr recalled being victimized by a robbery 20 years ago.

"It's unnerving," Farr said. "It's hard for me, personally. She's a very, very loving girl. I did not know the young man, but we knew her."

Her coworker Brad Weclowski, 27, of Allen Park said Machus was "super friendly."

"It's hard to put behind us, being so close," Weclowski said. "It's kind of hard to go about your day and not have it on your mind."

Contact Gina Damron: 313-223-4526 or gdamron@freepress.com

Detroit Free Press

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