Sean Moreland appeared in Albany County court Thursday, Sept. 8. Ali Hibbs/Spotlight
ALBANY — Michael Chmielewski and Sean Moreland, the two men involved in the 2015 murder of Colonie hairstylist Jacquelyn Porreca, both pled guilty last week, Chmielewski to first-degree murder and Moreland to hindering prosecution.
Chmielewski, who was accused of entering Recycled Hair Salon in Colonie to steal money to feed his heroin addiction, killed Porreca during the robbery with a knife to the neck. Chmielewski then fled the scene to a car that Moreland, 33, was in and the two drove away. Chmielewski is projected to receive 22 years at his sentencing.
Moreland pled guilty last Thursday to one count of first-degree hindering the prosecution as part of a plea deal that dropped three other felony charges—second-degree murder, second-degree burglary and first-degree robbery.
In court on Thursday, standing beside his lawyer, Paul DerOhannesian, Moreland admitted before state Supreme Court Justice Thomas Breslin that he drove the getaway car with knowledge of Chmielewski’s crime and said that he was on heroin at the time.
“He told you that he just murdered somebody, correct?” Breslin asked in court.
“Yes,” responded Moreland.
After satisfying himself that Moreland understood all of his options, Breslin accepted the plea of guilty and set the sentencing for Wednesday, Nov. 9, almost a year to the day after the men were arrested following a three month investigation by the Colonie Police Department.
Both Chmielewski and Moreland and will be sentenced on the same day, said Breslin, so that the victim’s family will not have to return to court any more than necessary. Moreland, who will already be serving eight years for an unrelated burglary conviction, will be sentenced to between two and six years—to be served concurrently. If the second-degree murder charge had stood, Moreland could have faced up to 25 years to life in prison.
While the case against Chmielewski was always strong, the case against Moreland was weakened when Breslin threw out allegedly incriminating statements made by Moreland in connection with Porecca’s murder due to the claim that police disregarded his attempts to speak to an attorney, and continued to question him last year during an unrelated burglary investigation.
Police, however, contest the claim that Moreland’s request to have an attorney was ignored.
“Each time he physically asked for an attorney, we stopped interviewing him,” Colonie Police Lieutenant Robert Winn told Spotlight News.
According to Winn, police were able to arrest Moreland and Chmielewski on Nov. 10 in connection with Porecca’s murder after the two separately made statements in a wired informant’s car that indicated they were involved with the crime. However, because of Moreland’s claim that police ignored his request for an attorney, Breslin banned the evidence, even though, Winn said, Moreland’s attorney for the burglary case made clear to the District Attorney that he was not representing his client for the homicide.
At the end of the day, Winn said, he stands by the investigating done in the Porecca case.
“I don’t think that there was anything different we could have done in this investigation,” Winn said, noting that there was barely any physical evidence to go on. “We took something in three months that was a ‘who done it’ and we were able to it piece together through hard work and dedication.”
He said the most important factor to focus on is that Chmielewski, the man responsible for killing Porecca, has taken responsibility for her murder and will now face justice, and that Moreland will now have to face justice as well, even though police would have liked to see him receive more time in prison.
“There’s no reason in the world why Jacquelyn Porreca should be dead,” Winn said. “There’s no way to wrap your head around that.”
While DerOhannesian has said previously that Moreland always wanted to express his sympathies to Porecca’s family, he couldn’t say what would happen next, and didn’t know when or if Moreland would be taking those steps. Regardless, he mentioned that the District Attorney’s office worked very hard to keep the families involved with the case, particularly in regards to what a plea deal would entail. DerOhannesian said he couldn’t speak to what aspects of the police investigation he thought might have been conducted better, saying that he has relied on the statements of Breslin on the matter.
“I think it’s been a very difficult road for many people,” DerOhannesian said.
Spotlight News Reporter Ali Hibbs also contributed to this story.