Two Colonie men were charged with murder Tuesday in connection to the Aug. 21 death of hair stylist Jacquelyn Porreca at a Sand Creek Road salon.
Michael Chmielewski, 23, identified as the killer, was charged with first-degree murder, felony murder and first-degree burglary. Sean Moreland, 32, was charged with felony murder and first-degree burglary.
Colonie police said the pair were looking for money to “fuel their heroin habit,” when they attacked and killed Porreca at Recycled Salon, stabbing her to death.
Lead detective Bob Winn said police estimated the alleged killers escaped from the salon burglary with between $500 and $800 during a press conference Tuesday evening at the Town of Colonie Police Station.
“It was a horrific and tragic event for a small amount of money,” Winn said.
Moreland drove his car to the salon, and Chmielewski wielded a knife as he entered and left the salon, police allege. Police said they believe Chmielewski was the killer. Police suspected the knife had been ditched in a lake at Washington Park in Albany and had a dive team out searching for it Tuesday afternoon.
While police identified Chmielewski, who they said matched a witness sketch description, and Moreland as possibly involved early on in their two-and-a-half-month investigation, the case against them came together this weekend based on a witness tip.
The witness told police that the two provided information that suggested they were involved, Winn said. Police put Moreland and Chmielewski under surveillance and arrested them separately Tuesday.
Winn said he felt the police had developed a strong case of “overwhelming evidence” against the alleged murderers, collecting surveillance footage, license plate data, cellphone records and witness interviews.
Winn said there was no evidence that either of them knew Porreca personally, but Chmielewski lived near the salon and was familiar with the area.
“Nothing will bring Jackie back, but at least you will have some closure,” Winn told Porreca’s family during the press conference.
The two men appeared before Colonie Judge Andrew Sommers on Tuesday night, accompanied by private attorneys who entered not guilty pleas on behalf of their clients. Porreca’s family sat in the front row of the courtroom during the quick arraignment hearing.
Albany County prosecutors said they would pursue grand jury indictments on Friday, and Sommers scheduled preliminary hearings for Monday morning. No bail was set.