Shiawassee County man pleads guilty in bizarre 2019 murder of man from Flint area

CORUNNA − A Bennington Township man accused of killing a man and eating part of his body more than two years ago in Shiawassee County pleaded guilty Thursday to two criminal charges, including open murder.

Mark Latunski, then 50, was charged after the body of 25-year-old Kevin Bacon, of Swartz Creek, was found hanging in the basement of Latunski's home on West Tyrrell Road on Dec. 28, 2019, authorities said.

Bacon had been reported missing three days earlier.

Court records show Latunski pleaded guilty to charges of open murder and mutilation and disinterment of a body on Thursday.

Defense attorney Mary Chartier said Latunski "made the difficult decision to plead guilty" in connection with Bacon's death and indicated he did so against the advice of his lawyers.

"The law requires that attorneys must follow the objectives of clients found to be legally competent as it relates to decisions, such as pleading guilty, even if the attorneys believe that it is not in the best interests of the client," the attorney said in an email. "We will continue to vigorously advocate for Mr. Latunski at the degree hearing and sentencing."

An open murder charge encompasses first-degree murder, second-degree murder and manslaughter. Shiawassee County Circuit Judge Matthew Stewart will determine which of those crimes were committed in a hearing Oct. 18 and Oct. 19, attorneys said. A separate sentencing hearing will follow.

Shiawassee County Prosecutor Scott Koerner said Latunski's guilty pleas bring some long-awaited closure for Bacon's family. The case had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and was set for trial Oct. 18, he said.

Koerner said he will seek a first-degree murder conviction for Latunski.

"We feel fairly confident in our case," he said on Friday. "That's why we didn't offer any plea deals."

Bacon was reported missing on Christmas Day. His car was found in Clayton Township, near Swartz Creek in western Genesee County. Police learned he was planning to meet a man he knew from the dating app Grindr, and the messages he exchanged with Latunski led them to the Bennington Township house, state police said at the time.

The messages indicated it was a consensual dating encounter, investigators said.

A Michigan State Police detective testified in a warrant hearing that Bacon was stabbed in the back and hung upside down in Latunski's basement. Latunski told investigators he stabbed the other man in the back, slit his throat and hung him from the basement ceiling, the detective testified.

Latunski also said he consumed part of Bacon's body, the detective testified.

The homicide was not the first strange incident involving Latunski, police said.

During the fall of 2019, troopers responded to a call for a partially-clothed man being chased out of Latunski's house, state police said. The man said he had consented to being at the house and ran after becoming spooked, police said.

There also was a custodial kidnapping case in 2013 in which Latunski was initially found incompetent to stand trial. Latunski was later found competent, but the charges were eventually dismissed at the request of the victim.

Latunski was found competent to stand trial in the homicide case, and Koerner said he was prepared to counter an insanity defense had it gone to trial.

First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole. Second-degree murder is a maximum life offense, while manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Contact Ken Palmer at Follow him on Twitter @KBPalm_lsj.

This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Mark Latunski pleads guilty to mutilation, killing in cannibalism case