Family Dollar murders: Suspect in custody

Family Dollar murders: A former Family Dollar employee is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in Dearborn, Mich. Lavere Bryant said he was innocent of the murders.

(AP Photo/Ed White)
Janet Post leaves flowers and lights a candle outside the Family Dollar store in Dearborn, Mich., on, July 17, 2013, after two people were killed there.

 A former employee of a discount store in Michigan was arraigned Wednesday in the fatal shootings of two other workers.

Lavere Bryant declared his innocence following an afternoon hearing in Dearborn District Court. He is accused of killing two employees of a Dearborn Family Dollar store.

"I did not murder" the victims, Bryant said as he left the courtroom.

The 34-year-old Dearborn man is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of felony murder as well as armed robbery, unlawful imprisonment, felon In possession of a firearm and felony firearm charges.

Police and prosecutors say he's responsible for the deaths last week of Brenna Machus and Joseph Orlando, both 20. Machus disappeared on July 15, the same night Orlando was fatally shot in the store. Her body later was discovered in a wooded area less than 2 miles away.

Bryant, who was ordered held without bond, requested a court-appointed attorney. A preliminary examination is scheduled for July 31.

Family Dollar spokeswoman Bryn Winburn told the Detroit Free Press that Bryant was terminated from the company in the spring. She said she couldn't comment on other details surrounding his employment but that the company was working closely with police on the case.

"We are saddened by the loss of Joseph and Brenna and our hearts go out to their families and friends," Winburn said. "We have a strong, tight-knit team in Detroit, and our focus is on taking care of them right now as we all work to understand what happened."

Authorities have not disclosed a motive in the killings.

The Dearborn Press and Guide also reported: "Wayne County Circuit Court records indicate a warrant request for five counts of failure to register his address as a sex offender the day he was arrested. As of Thursday morning, Bryant was listed as an absconder on the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry, which is run by the state police. The last verification date was Jan. 11, 2001, and he was listed as “incarcerated-address unknown.”

The Family Dollar is in a busy retail area on the west side of Dearborn, sandwiched between a Middle Eastern restaurant and a hardware store.

The store's surveillance video captured images of a suspect who waved as he walked into the store the night of July 15. Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad credited the community's response with Bryant's arrest.

"We got a slew of good tips that led to this arrest," Haddad said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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