May 24 • 08:17 PM

Area convict out on early release

Prosecutor 'blindsided' by state's move

March 24, 2010
LAPEER COUNTY — James Kreger, a convicted murderer, has been released from prison as part of the state's Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative.

Although the prosecutor's office has been vigilant at following and appealing the early release of offenders through the state's program, the Lapeer office received no information on Kreger's hearing which took place last May.

Kreger, of Almont, was sentenced to spend 20-40 years in prison in 1993 on one count of second degree murder after police say he beat his stepbrother, Donald Rohrbeck, 42, to death with a four foot long pipe. Kreger was 28 years old at the time.

Kreger was convicted of killing his step-brother Donald Rohrbeck.
He was paroled on Dec. 16, 2009 and spent the next 90 days in temporary housing. Kreger was three years shy of serving his minimum 20 years.

Prosecutor Byron Konschuh was unaware of Kreger's release until just recently. It wasn't until the Oakland County prosecutor sued the Department of Corrections in June that the names of possible parolees were made public in October.

"I don't know if I would have appealed, but we feel blindsided. We got no notice of this," Konschuh said of the Kreger case.

"We've been trying to contact the victim's family. We have an obligation to the notify the victims or their families, but lately it's the victim that contacts us."

According to investigators, an altercation between the men took place outside of Rohrbeck's home on Brown City Road in Goodland Twp. in November 1992. The victim's body was found by hunters in a Wheeling Rd. ditch, north of Norman Rd. a day later. Police believe money was the cause of the assault and upon his arrest, Kreger had several of the victim's belongings in his possession.

• • • • •

Also on the list of possible parolees was 79 year-old Oliver Terpening. As a 16 year-old, Terpening gunned down four Smith siblings: 14 year-old Stanley, 16 year-old Barbara, 13 year-old Gladys and three year-old Janet on May 24, 1947 in the woods near their homes in Goodland Twp.

Terpening and Stanley Smith had been out enjoying the spring weather, shooting at cans, when Terpening shot Stanley with his .22 caliber rifle and not wanting to leave any witnesses, shot and killed the Smith sisters.

Terpening pled guilty to his crimes and was sentenced to life in June 1947. He reportedly had a parole board hearing in August 2009, but remains imprisoned at the Lakeland Correctional Facility.

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.
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