A neighbor of a Sanilac County home where a fatal early-morning shoot-out occurred Sunday – leaving two alleged intruders dead – said a resident of the house said he grows medical marijuana on the property.
The neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said a man living in the home, Paul Dybilas, has told neighbors that he grows medical marijuana behind a wooden fenced-in area outside the house along Holbrook Road about 11 miles northeast of Cass City.
Two of four men who are suspects in the home break-in reported at 5:08 a.m. Sunday were shot dead, while the two other suspects were caught later that morning by police, according to Sanilac County Sheriff Garry Biniecki.
Two Flint men – 48-year-old Stephen Shimmel and 30-year-old Preston Jack – were charged with 11 crimes each Tuesday afternoon in Sanilac County District Court, including two felony counts each of assault with intent to murder.
Tuesday evening, Shimmel hung himself in a Sanilac County Jail cell, according to a press release from Biniecki. He was pronounced dead at approximately 10 p.m. According to Biniecki, Shimmel was processed from the holding cell area after arraignment and placed in a single occupant cell in the upper level of the jail. The majority of the cell is viewable by security camera and cell checks are conducted on a regular basis. Less than 15 minutes passed from the last time Shimmel was was seen moving on camera to the cell check in which he was found, according to Biniecki. Shimmel was found hanging in the corner of the cell, outside the view of the camera. Corrections deputies freed him and began life-saving efforts, before turning him over to EMS personnel who tried but failed to revive him, according to police.
The other two deceased suspects, also both from Flint, were identified by police as Quantize Bruce, 20, and Keith Saunders, 26. A press release from Biniecki’s office states police believe that “the motive for these crimes are robbery of a medical marijuana grow operation.”
Jack is being held without bond in the Sanilac County Jail in Sandusky.
The sheriff said two men live at the home, but police haven’t identified either resident.
When asked if either of the men living in the home would be charged with a crime, Biniecki said “This will be investigated completely. … We’ve already been in conferences with the prosecutor’s office and a determination will be made.”
Biniecki said the term “homicide” as it relates to the shoot-out is “a correct term – it’s either justified or not justified.”
The sheriff said officers, assisted by Michigan State Police crime laboratory personnel, are continuing to examine what occurred at the residence, noting “that’s going to take time.”
Police said one of the deceased suspects was found dead with a gunshot injury inside a vehicle in a ditch at Holbrook and Germania roads about one-half mile from the site of the reported home break-in.
Following the shoot-out, three of the four suspects “fled on foot, got in the vehicle, left and then ran into the ditch a half-mile away,” Biniecki said.
The vehicle was reported stolen from the Flint area in October. Flint is about 77 miles from the site of Sunday’s shooting scene. Police said one suspect was found dead at the Holbrook Road residence, which is owned by Germaine M. Dybilas, according to Sanilac County records.
An online obituary shows Germaine Dybilas, mother of Paul Dybilas, passed away Jan. 19, 2015.
Several reporters came to the vicinity of the home along a dirt road in Greenleaf Township, population 800, on Monday morning. Minutes after one reporter approached the residence in a failed attempt for an interview, a man at the home cursed at the reporter and yelled for him to leave the vicinity. Two pit bulls then ran from the yard to menace the reporter as he walked toward his car parked along the road.
A man who called 911 to report the break-in early Sunday morning reported three subjects broke into his home and shot him in the leg. Police didn’t identify the caller, but Biniecki noted he was shot in the leg, treated at a hospital Sunday and later released.
A neighbor of the Holbrook Road residence said he saw Paul Dybilas limping outside the home Tuesday morning.
Why did suspects come?
Another neighbor, Jerry Cleland, 75, who lives about a quarter mile from the shooting scene, said “I’ve known Paul (Dybilas) since he was a kid, and I’ve always found him to be a really good guy.”
Dybilas family members have “been around here for a long, long, long, long time,” said Cleland, chairman of the Greenleaf Township Planning Commision.
Nevertheless, Cleland said he knew the location when he heard reports of Sunday’s double homicide in remote Greenleaf Township, known for Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park, which features rock carvings made by Native Americans that archaeologists believe could be up to 1,500 years old.
“When I heard it occurred, everybody else was thinking ‘Oh gee, I wonder where it could be,’” Cleland said. “But I knew right where it was.”
When asked why he feels that way, Cleland said “It doesn’t surprise me. I really can’t say much more.”
When asked if he believes someone residing in the home shot the intruders in self-defense, Cleland said “I think that’s probably pretty much what happened.”
Cleland, however, wonders how a gang of burglars chose a house so far from the Flint area.
“The only thing that makes me wonder – and I shouldn’t be telling you, of all people, this – is if these people were there at 4 a.m. or 3 a.m., in the dark, how did they know where the place was?” Cleland said.
“I’m just suspicious that they might have been there before, or they might have been there earlier. It’s pretty dark out here. We don’t have streetlights and stuff like that. I don’t know if he could even tell where the houses were as you’re driving through.
“I think it may be more than a coincidence that they were here.”
Greenleaf Township resident Grant Toner, 62, figures the intruders had a reason to choose their target in the Thumb area.
“They didn’t drive all the way up here from Flint to see the time of day,” Toner said.
A 2008 state law approved by voters allows medical-marijuana “caregivers” to grow up to 72 plants – 12 plants for each of six medical-marijuana cardholders – in a secure location, including a caregiver’s home.
Crimes have occurred at several caregivers’ properties in the Thumb area during the past few years.
Biniecki said the sheriff’s office does “compliance checks” on caregivers’ facilities in Sanilac County occasionally.
“We have individuals that actually call, and they will ask us to come out and inspect their operation,” Biniecki said. “We’ll do a courtesy inspection and notify them of what we think are violations and how they can correct them.
“We’ve been very successful at it. Most people do abide by what the law says, and they’ve been very good about it.”
Dogs, helicopter searched
A number of Amish families live within a mile of the site of Sunday’s shoot-out.
“Us Amish people feel uncomfortable with a situation like this in our neighborhood,” an Amish man said.
Cleland saw a helicopter “all over the place” above the area Sunday morning. He said he and his wife, Theo Cleland, and their daughter, Katha Chockley, were home on Sunday morning during the hunt for the two surviving suspects.
“We received a call from one of our neighbors telling us that we might want to lock our doors and stay inside for a while,” Cleland said. “That was at 7:30 a.m. when the police were still trying to capture a couple of people.”
Cleland said police brought tracking dogs into his yard searching for the alleged intruders.
Police caught one suspect hiding in the woods several hundred yards from the ditched car, Biniecki said.
“The other one made it several miles away,” Biniecki said. “We actually received a citizen’s tip and responded and found him.”
It took time to identify all four suspects, according to the sheriff.
“A couple of them had no ID, and we’re trying to get in contact with family to make positive identification,” Biniecki said on Monday afternoon.
Cleland, who said he was born in Greenleaf Township 75 years ago, said he can’t recall a homicide there in his lifetime.
“I was talking to some people Sunday night and I said, ‘The last crime that we had in this township, the last murder, goes way back into the logging days, maybe in the 1870s,’” Cleland said. “One man came home from logging in the woods up north and discovered another man living with his wife, and he killed him. Other than that, it’s been 125 or 150 years since we’ve had anything here.”
Biniecki, who began working for the sheriff’s office as a deputy in 1976, said he doesn’t recall a homicide in Greenleaf Township in his 41-year career with the sheriff’s office.