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Grisly details emerge in Clinton Township murder hearing about mutilation


A Macomb County man charged with killing and mutilating his girlfriend last year appeared in court Thursday as details were revealed about the alleged but gruesome crime, which included leaving the victim's decomposed body in his basement bathroom for seven months.

The preliminary hearing for Matthew Gerard Lewinski featured testimony from his sister, her husband who found the decomposed body with pieces of skin sliced off the back and the Clinton Township detective who came to the scene and later interviewed Lewinski at a hospital, where he received a taped confession from the defendant about strangling his girlfriend to death.

Lewinski of Clinton Township was charged Aug. 4, 2021, with first-degree murder/homicide, disinterment and mutilation of a dead body as well as concealing the death of an individual stemming from the death of Jerri Winters, who also went by Courtney, according to statements in court.

Authorities said the body had large portions of skin removed, and Lewinski told investigators he strangled the woman in December during an argument at the condo they shared.

Debra Federico testified in front of 41B District Court Judge Sebastian Lucido that her brother was living in a condo that was also her father's and that she had concerns about him. The condo, she said, had been foreclosed on and she needed to get a ceramic Christmas tree and a Bible out of the unit.

She testified that her brother had refused to let her in when he was present but that she and her husband went to the location on July 27, 2021, because the condo association called her because lights were left on and her brother was in the hospital.

But it was her husband, Joseph Federico, who went into the basement of the home while his wife waited outside. His son, Michael and a family friend were also there at the home when he went downstairs and smelled odors.

"I saw something on the floor and I didn't know what it was," Joseph Federico said. "Something like a body, I wasn't sure." The condo, he said, "just smelled musty, moldy." There was something on the body, but he didn't know what it was.

When a Macomb County prosecutor showed Joseph Federico a picture of the body, he winced. The family members called 911 to report that there was a body in the house, he said.

On cross examination, Joseph Federico said he and his brother-in-law got along and had never met any of his significant others, including the woman who was murdered. They shopped together, he said.

Detective Micheal Chirco testified that he went to the scene after the 911 call and found an unkempt home with a heavy odor and dishes piled up. He went into the basement to find the remains.

"It was a nude body laying face down, arms apart. The head was turned off to one side," Chirco said. "A large portion of the flesh of the back from the base of the neck across the shoulders and around the torso all the way down to just above the buttocks area had been removed. And you could see the internal organs ... the tissues of the body and the skeleton."

Chirco said the skin was "very, very dark and discolored and decomposed," and the body appeared to be a female and a "Black person." Bugs also appeared to be on the body, he said, as well as what appeared to be a paper disk on the cut flesh of the back. There was a Yoda-Star Wars tattoo on her body along with lettering that helped identify her remains, he said.

Chirco also testified that he found heavy duty dish gloves and bottles of bleach. And he discovered a blue-handled knife on a shelf in the bathroom. At the base of the stairs, Chirco said he saw blood stains on the concrete and on a rug. Heading back up the stairs, he said he spotted what appeared to be flesh on the steps. Winters' Illinois driver's license and wallet were found in the living room, he said.

Chirco said he and another detective went to see Lewinski at Henry Ford Hospital in Macomb County for an interview. The day before, Chirco said, Lewinski was seen wandering in the parking lot in his underwear.

"He appeared calm," Chirco said. "He appeared free to give any type of explanation he wanted. He did not sound to be under the influence or confused."

Lewinski told the detectives he was in a dating relationship with Winters and that it ended in November 2020 but she returned just before Christmas. Lewinski said he thought she might be pregnant but had an abortion.

Lewinski said an argument ensued, he was slapped over something she found on his phone and then he slapped her back and then choked her for about five minutes "and that she eventually stopped moving," Chirco said. Lewinski then moved her body to the bathtub of the main floor bathroom, the detective testified.

Lewinski told the detectives he researched on the internet how to dispose of a body and to control the odor with bleach. He also told detectives he used the blue knife on the body, Chirco said.

The judge set another hearing for June 2 at 9:30 a.m. to review the videotaped hospital interview with Lewinksi.

lfleming@detroitnews.com

Twitter:@leonardnfleming