Getaway car driver pleads guilty in double slaying

By Matt Gryta - News Staff Reporter
BUFFALO NEWS Updated: 12/19/07 12:12 PM

A man who drove the getaway car following a double homicide earlier this year in front of an East Delavan Avenue market pleaded guilty today to a reduced count of first-degree manslaughter.

Johnny Ray McDuffie, 22, of Inter Park , pleaded guilty before State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia to the reduced charge, admitting he was the driver of the car involved in the slayings of Devonte Murray, 15, and Alen Stepney, 16. He refused to identify his associates in the killings.

Prosecutor James F. Bargnesi told the judge the families of the teenaged murder victims agreed to the plea deal. Buscaglia told McDuffie, jailed since Sept. 13, that he faces a prison term of 15 years when he is sentenced Feb. 26.

During the mid-morning plea proceeding Paul S. Piotrowski, McDuffie's attorney, confirmed that his jailed client drove the getaway car.

Gas station worker cut by man stealing beer

BUFFALO NEWS Updated: 12/19/07 10:24 AM

A gas station worker was cut Tuesday night when he tried to stop a man from leaving with a stolen beer, police said.

The victim, who works at the Alero gas station at 1225 Broadway, suffered a cut on his forearm at about 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, according to Ferry-Fillmore District police. It was unclear if he received medical attention.

Police reported that the man stole a beer, but when the worker tried to stop him from leaving the store, the man retaliated by cutting him so that he could escape.

The fleeing man entered a gray car, which had been waiting outside the gas station with a woman sitting in the driver's seat. The man and woman then drove away.  

Two men unhurt as shots hit West Side home

BUFFALO NEWS Updated: 12/19/07 9:56 AM

Two Buffalo men escaped injury early this morning when a gunshot was fired into a 14th Street home on the city's West Side , police reported.

The shooter fired a shot through the north side wall of an upper apartment in the 400 block of 14th Street at about 12:05 a.m. , according to Central District police.

A 33-year-old man, who lives in the upper apartment, and a 19-year-old man, who was visiting, were inside the house during the shooting.

West Seneca police seek crew of thieves

BUFFALO NEWS Updated: 12/19/07 8:35 AM

West Seneca police are looking for a crew of thieves who apparently have staged similar well planned larcenies at two Radio Shack stores in West Seneca and Buffalo .

The most recent incident occurred last Wednesday, when a heavyset man accompanied by four apparent juveniles stole several digital cameras from the Radio Shack store in the Southgate Plaza . The group spread out inside the store to distract employees before stealing the items, police said.

The same band of thieves is believed responsible for a similar larceny at a Radio Shack in Buffalo .

West Seneca police described the leader of the group as a black man in his 30s or 40s, roughly 6 foot 4 and 250 pounds. The thieves fled in what was described as a late 1990s dark green or gray Chevrolet Ventura minivan.

Police say city homicide victim was targeted

BUFFALO NEWS Updated: 12/18/07 2:24 PM

A 28-year-old man was likely targeted when two armed home invaders shot and killed him in his Bailey-Delavan area home early today, Buffalo police reported.

Kevin J. Carter was taken to Erie County Medical Center, where he died at 1:01 a.m., about half an hour after the shooting. Police said the two men forcibly entered the home on Navel Avenue and demanded money, at about 12:30 a.m. Following the shooting, they made off with an unknown amount of money, fleeing in a four-door, gray 2000 Chrysler 300, with the license plate EDC-8798.

Other people were in the house at the time, but no one else was injured.

"We believe he was targeted," said Buffalo Police spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge. "The fact that he is known to police, leads us to believe that he may have been targetted."

Records show that Kevin Carter has at least 18 convictions in Buffalo City Court for crimes including harassment, disorderly conduct and driving without a license.

He also was convicted of felony attempted criminal sale of a controlled substance in 1997, according to those records.

Anyone with information on the homicide is asked to call the Buffalo Police confidential tip line at 847-2255, or tips can be sent by e-mail by visiting and clicking on "Report a Tip."

Intruders shoot pair after pistol-whipping one

BUFFALO NEWS Updated: 12/17/07 10:33 AM

A man and woman were shot early this morning during an apparent robbery attempt inside a Krupp Avenue home on the city's East Side , police reported.

DeWayne Gray, 23, suffered a gunshot wound to his arm and thigh and was also pistol-whipped. He was treated in the emergency room at Erie County Medical Center and released.

April Moore, 23, of Elmer Avenue , was undergoing surgery this morning in ECMC for a gunshot wound to her left upper thigh. Her condition is unknown.

The double shooting occurred at about 3:15 a.m. inside Gray's upper apartment at 115 Krupp while Moore was visiting. Three men wearing masks entered the apartment, displayed a chrome handgun and demanded money, according to Ferry-Fillmore District police.

The assailants used duct tape to tie up Moore , pistol-whipped Gray in his head, and shot them both, police reported. It was unclear if anything was stolen during the incident.

According to police reports, Gray also was shot last year. He was shot in the left hip by an unknown gunman at Gibson and Peckham streets about 4 p.m. on April 16, 2006 .

Man 'critical' following shooting after house party

BUFFALO NEWS Updated: 12/16/07 3:24 PM

A Winspear Avenue man was listed in critical condition after he was shot early this morning in his home in the city's University District, police said.

Andrew J. Contrera, 23, suffered a gunshot wound to his stomach. He was being treated today in the trauma intensive care unit of Erie County Medical Center .

Buffalo police said Contrera, who came here from Rochester , was shot following a house party at his home at 160 Winspear just after midnight .

Contrera was involved in a fight with an unknown man inside the home when the man opened fire, according to Northeast District police.

A Rural/Metro Medical Services ambulance transported Contrera to ECMC.

The gunman is being sought on an attempted murder charge. No arrest has been made.

Name released of man killed while sitting in car

BUFFALO NEWS Updated: 12/14/07 9:16 AM

Buffalo police today identified the young man who was shot to death while sitting in a vehicle on Rogers Avenue near Genesee Street on Thursday evening.

George Hardy, 19, of Crossman Avenue was pronounced dead at the scene, after being shot several times while sitting in the vehicle. Police learned of the shooting at about 6:25 p.m.

Detectives say they're not sure whether the killer fled on foot or in a vehicle. Anyone with any information is asked to call the police department's confidential tip line at 847-2255.

Teen shot trying to stop attack on boy
Updated: BUFFALO NEWS 12/08/07 12:04 PM

An 18-year-old Niagara Street man and a male youth were shot early Saturday near the intersection of Breckenridge and Herkimer streets, police said.

At about 1:15 a.m., a group of four males attacked the youth, pistol-whipping him to the ground. Justin August, 18, tried to stop the assault when someone opened fire, shooting both August and the boy. August was shot twice in the back and was taken by ambulance to Erie County Medical Center where he was treated and released. The boy, who was struck in the lower left leg, was taken to Women and Children's Hospital. His condition was not available.

Fay Street man charged with robbery
Updated: BUFFALO NEWS 12/08/07 11:54 AM

A Fay Street man was charged with first-degree robbery overnight Friday after he forced a man to strip and took cash from him late Wednesday, police said.

The victim told Ferry-Fillmore District police that he was at a house on Warren Street when Edwin Garner, 26, and a second unidentified man who was armed with a handgun forced him into a room. There, the victim was told to remove his clothes.

The men took cash from the victim and made him lie on the ground for hours, threatening to shoot him if he moved.

Man shot 3 times at bus stop, survives
BUFFALO NEWS 12/08/07 11:52 AM

A 27-year-old Stockbridge Street man was shot three times late Friday while standing at a bus stop at 60 Grider Street, police said.

Lamier Wilson, who was treated at and released from Erie County Medical Center Saturday, told Northeast District police that he was at the bus stop at about 11:30 p.m. when a man running on Scajaquda Street toward Grider opened fire, striking him n in the upper left shoulder blade, upper left biceps and left buttock.

Wilson was taken to ECMC. Police said his injuries were not considered life-threatening.

Six teens charged with robbery, may be tied to rash of burglaries

Updated: 12/08/07 11:47 AM

Buffalo police, with the help of a Canisius College officer, arrested six teenagers early Saturday morning after thieves tried to break into a Crescent Avenue house and confronted the owner.

Investigators with the Northwest District are trying to determine whether the six teens are connected to a rash of burglaries and at least one home invasion in the Parkside area last week.

At about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, thieves broke a back window of a house on the 400 block of Crescent Avenue. When the owner came outside, the thieves displayed what turned out to be a toy rifle at the man and demanded money. The thieves then fled.

As officers from a special burglary detail arrived, a neighbor told them he had seen a group of youths jump into a convertible that had been parked on Summit Avenue . Police discovered that someone had smashed a rear window at a house on Summit that night as well.

A Canisius College officer, Lt. John Hach, who was patrolling near by spotted the car and followed them until Buffalo police officers surrounded the car and apprehended the suspects.

Arrested were Melvin J. Young, 16; Phillip Q. Armistead, 18; Brandon C. Williams, 17; Richard C. Young, 17; and two juveniles.

They have been charged with first-degree attempted robbery and fourth-degree criminal mischief.

Officer Robert Yeates, Lt. Michael March, Officer Darwin Jones, Officer Kenneth Barney, Detective Magarate Dragone and Detective Patricia Wrest.

Officer Down: 2007 Deadly Year for Police

170 Law Enforcement Officers Died in 2007 in Line of Duty

Nov. 26, 2007

The year 2007 is turning out to be an especially deadly year for police.

To date, 170 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty -- that's nearly a third more than at the same point last year. It's also 17 percent higher than in all of 2006, and there is more than a month remaining in the year.

In fact, this year is on pace to be the worst year for police in decades. And many of the deaths involve cold-blooded murder.

Caught on Camera

On May 11 in Franconia , N.H. , Officer Bruce McKay was in hot pursuit of a suspect fleeing a routine traffic stop. With his squad car camera capturing the drama, McKay cornered the suspect and maced him.

But then the unexpected happens. The suspect opened fire, fatally wounding McKay, before running him over with his car.

In another incident in March, New York Police Department volunteer police Nicholas Pekearo and Eugene Marshalik trail a suspect who has just gunned down a bartender. A surveillance camera tape rolls as the suspect turns, then chases down and executes in cold blood one officer, and then the other.

Increase in Fatal Shootings

In 2007, police officers are dying at an alarming rate. There has been a 38 percent increase in the fatal shootings of police this year. There has also been a 15 percent jump in fatal car crashes as police pursue suspects or race to get to emergencies.

"Other than the year of 9/11, we haven't seen numbers this high since 1978, 30 years ago," said Craig Floyd, chairman and CEO for National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Police say the spike in fatalities mirrors the surge in crime many communities across the nation are facing -- much of it spurred by heavily armed gangs and repeat offenders.

What concerns police most is that they are encountering on routine patrols violent criminals who shoot to kill -- often without provocation.

"There's definitely a more brazen cold-blooded criminal on the streets of America today," Floyd said.

Teenage Killers

Sometimes the killers are just teenagers.

Last June in Floyd County, Ind., officers Frank Denzinger and Joel White went to a house to investigate a domestic dispute between a 15-year-old boy and his mother. Then, without warning, shots rang out.

'Officers Down'

"Shots fired! Officers down, officers down!" White said on the radio dispatch call, obtained by ABC News. "I'm down, I can't move, other officer is down. I'm not sure of his status," White said on the radio dispatch. "Subject's in the house with a rifle, use caution on approach, he shot us both, he shot us both from inside the house. He might be coming back to finish us off."

White didn't know it but Denzinger was lying nearby, unconscious and dying. "My leg is, uh, destroyed. I can't move ... I'm losing consciousness, I'm not sure I'll be able to stay conscious to, uh, defend our position here," White said on the radio dispatch. "Stay with us, we do have help on the way," said the dispatcher.

Denzinger died. The teenager later committed suicide.

White survived but recently had to have hip replacement surgery. Rehabilitation is difficult, but White wants to return to the force. "I love the job and it means a lot to me," White said.

Despite the increasing risks to their lives, many officers say they remain committed to their jobs.

"It's my way to serve the community and that's why I got into it in the first place," White said.

Article E-Mailed By Detective Raymond Cullinan (retired)

Buffalo Police Search for Gunman

WIVB NEWS 4(Buffalo, NY, December 7, 2007) - - A deadly shooting in Buffalo has police searching for a gunman tonight.

Detectives say someone shot a 31-year-old man on Bailey Avenue around 4:30 this afternoon. The victim later died at ECMC. His name is not being released. No word on what triggered the attack.

15 Year Old Boy Shot In Buffalo Today

WIVB NEWS 4 (Buffalo, NY, December 7, 2007) - - A 15-year-old boy shot in Buffalo this afternoon underwent surgery at ECMC tonight.

Police say a gunman opened fire on the victim in front of a store at Rodney and Fillmore around 3:45 p.m. this afternoon. The victim's name is not being released. No word on any arrests.

One suspect caught in West Side home invasion

Updated: BUFFALO NEWS 12/07/07 11:48 AM

Buffalo police officers arrested one fleeing burglary suspect early today, after a group of probably four people staged a West Side home invasion at gunpoint that sent one victim to the hospital.

The robbers, armed with a 9‚mm weapon, entered the Potomac Avenue home, near West Avenue, at about 2 a.m. They fled with about $90 cash and fired two rounds as they got into an SUV.

"As they jumped into the vehicle, that's when our officers caught up to them," Buffalo police spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said.

As Officer Obed Casillas pulled up, the thieves fled on foot. Officers caught Kevin S. Garner, 41, of Chelsea Place and charged him with burglary, robbery, criminal use of a firearm and other charges.

Three other thieves remained at large late this morning.

A woman, one of at least three people in the home, was taken to Millard Fillmore Hospital, where she was treated for unspecified injuries and released. Police said they had no indication that she or any of the other people in the home was shot.

As detectives began investigating today's home invasion, police officials said they knew of no connection to another home invasion earlier this week in another part of the city, on Parkside Avenue near Tillinghast Place in North Buffalo.

Man, woman not hurt as shots are fired at their car

Updated: BUFFALO NEWS 12/06/07 1:11 PM

A man and woman sitting in a car escaped injury early this morning when about four shots struck their vehicle on Riley Street , police said.

Central District police said the woman was in the driver's seat and the man was sitting in the front passenger seat at about 12:30 a.m. when a shooter fired at least eight shots at their car.

The shooter ran north through yards towards Laurel Street .

Acquaintances pummel man in South Buffalo

Updated: BUFFALO NEWS 12/05/07 12:07 PM

Three men jumped another man early this morning, splitting his lip and loosening his teeth, during a robbery in South Buffalo , police reported.

Shawn Gombos also suffered pain and swelling.

Gombos was at Hopkins and Pembina streets at about 2:50 a.m. when he was jumped by three men that he knows, South District police said.

The men punched him in the face and knocked him on the ground, where they continued to punch him in the face and head, police said.

One of the attackers stole the victim's black Yankees baseball hat.

Suspect is Shot by Buffalo Police

Updated: WIVB TV NEWS 4 Dec 4, 2007 10:06 PM CST

( Buffalo , NY , December 4, 2007 ) - - We begin with a wild chain of events surrounding a suspect who was shot by Buffalo Police earlier today. A shooting the department claims was justified. News 4's Michele McClintick reports from Buffalo Police Headquarters with our big story tonight.

The suspect was being transported to the holding center tonight after he was questioned, when he escaped from police custody with handcuffs, but not for long, the once wanted parole violator is locked up once again. Police officers from "C" district responded to a call of a fight on the city's east side this morning; authorities say shortly after they answered that call, the two suspects tried to get away and ended up crashing into the officers car.  Officers say the suspects fled once again until abandoning their car and running away on foot, and ended up on Reed Street where a Buffalo Police Officer pulled out his weapon.

Tom Burton, PBA Attorney, "The individual took off and in the course of making an arrest the individual spun on the officer, ignored commands to put his hands up , the officer thought he saw a gun fired one shot and hit the individual in the ankle."

Both the department and the officers attorney say his actions were justified.

Tom Burton, PBA Attorney, "As a general rule what the officer proceeds to be a threat, and in this instance, the indivual pulled up his sweatshirt, spun towards the officer and the officer fired when he thought the person had a gun right at his waistline."

That police officers faces a review by the pba, as well as the district attorney, but is expected to return to work soon.

Two years later, wife charged in killing

Says rifle accidentally was fired in bedas husband slept in Riverside home

12/01/07 7:59 AM

Robin Kalinowski claimed two years ago to police that the lights already were out when she climbed into bed with her sleeping husband at 1 a.m. on Nov. 10, 2005 , in their Riverside home.

She said that as she got into the bed, she picked up “an unknown object.”

It turned out to be a .22-caliber hunting rifle. A loaded one. And it suddenly went off, firing a shot into the back of her husband’s head.

A grand jury convened to review the evidence in the case didn’t buy her story.

Friday, Robin Kalinowski, now 42, wept profusely as she was led away from court in handcuffs.

She pleaded innocent to one count of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Kevin M. Kalinowski, 41, her husband of 15 years and the father of her two sons.

Kevin Kalinowski was an avid hunter, fisherman and youth baseball coach who ran a commercial contracting business with relatives and was a partner in Drinkwell Products, a home brewing supply company, and Teed-Off Miniature Golf, which constructed portable mini-golf courses leased or donated for local charity events.

Robin Kalinowski, who had not been charged in the death until now, had continued to live in the Rosedale Street home where her husband died.

Prosecutor Thomas M. Finnerty described in court how a new investigation by the Erie County district attorney’s office and Buffalo police uncovered a pattern of inconsistencies in the accounts Kalinowski gave to her friends and family about what happened that night in their bedroom.

Forensic experts recently determined that a videotaped reenactment of how Robin Kalinowski told police the “accidental” shooting took place did not jibe with the trauma to Kevin Kalinowski’s head, Finnerty said.

He added that at the time of Kevin Kalinowski’s death, Robin Kalinowski allegedly was having an extramarital affair.

In seeking to have her held without bail, Finnerty told State Supreme Court Justice John L. Michalski that she had been convicted of embezzling more than $20,000 from a former employer about six years ago.

The judge instead imposed bail of $350,000.

After the arraignment, Finnerty confirmed that Robin Kalinowski in mid-November turned down an offer by the district attorney’s office to appear before the grand jury that was considering the case, provided she waived the standard immunity from prosecution grand jury witnesses get.

Buffalo may get a big role in new movie

Producer, director scout locations for John Cusack film

12/01/07 9:54 AM

Buffalo could be back in the Hollywood lens as soon as January with a serial killer-themed movie starring actor John Cusack.

“The Factory,” which is set in Buffalo , is a psychological thriller about a police detective working a serial killer case. The detective, who will be played by Cusack, becomes obsessed with finding the suspect after his own daughter disappears.

Buffalo Niagara Film Commission chief Tim Clark confirmed Friday the film’s executive producer and director were in Buffalo this week to personally scout locations and meet with Buffalo Police Department officials.

“The production’s most senior people were here to get a feel for the city and form first-hand impressions,” Clark said. “They spent time at Buffalo Police Headquarters with Commissioner [H. McCarthy] Gipson and [Chief of Detectives] Dennis Richards.”

Clark also drove the film executives around Buffalo , showing off local landmarks and neighborhoods.

“They left with a very favorable view of Buffalo , its architecture and the cooperation of city officials. They felt welcome here,” he said. A final decision on whether the film will shoot here is expected in the next two weeks.

Word of the Cusack movie’s interest in Buffalo comes as “The Savages,” which includes scenes shot in Buffalo in 2006 and stars Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, debuts in theaters this weekend.

Buffalo ’s other recent film credits include “Bruce Almighty,” in which numerous background shots of the city filled the screen although actors Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston never set foot here.

Clark said if Buffalo gets the nod, the camera lens will capture a lot more than background shots. Cusack and company will be here to shoot key scenes in January.

“This wouldn’t be plate shots or Bunit photography. They would come here with cast and crew,” he said.

While the bulk of the movie will be filmed on location in Canada , crews could be here for several days of shooting.

Cusack, whose film credits run the gamut from 1980s teen flick “Sixteen Candles” to the 2005 romantic comedy “Must Love Dogs,” also stars in the soon-to-be-released “Grace is Gone,” an Iraq-themed movie that won the Audience Award for Drama at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

The movie’s executive producer is Don Carmody, whose production credits include the film version of the Broadway musical “Chicago,” as well as hit comedies “Porky’s” and “Meatballs.” Morgan O’Neill, winner of the Australian version of the “Project Greenlight” reality show, will direct from a script he co-wrote.

“The Factory” will be produced by Warner Bros. subsidiary Dark Castle Entertainment.

Since its creation in 2002, the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission has lured a variety of film, television and advertising projects to Western New York . Estimates of the contribution of those projects to the area economy run as high as $20 million.

Friday the County Legislature ’s Finance and Budget Committee voted to cut its entire $150,000 budget allocation for next year.

Initially operated under the auspices of Erie County government, the oneman film office briefly faded to black as a victim of the 2005 county budget crisis. The office is now funded through the Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In addition to “The Savages” and “Bruce Almighty,” the commission’s other credits include: “Poultrygeist,” a horror-musical due out this year, and MTV’s “Sorority Life” and “Fraternity Life” series.

The office also oversaw filming of a key background scene at Niagara Falls for “Pirates of the Caribbean : At World’s End,” which came out this year.

Just this week, it assisted a national auto parts seller in two days of filming in southern Erie County for upcoming television commercials.

Lynn DeJac freed from jail after judge grants new trial

Buffalo News Updated: 11/28/07 3:04 PM

Lynn M. DeJac was released from jail today, hours after a judge granted her a new trial in the killing of her 13-year-old daughter, Crystallynn Girard.

She was freed this afternoon after District Attorney Frank Clark said he does not oppose her being released on her own recognizance.

Erie County Senior Judge Michael L. D'Amico granted the new trial in a decision released this morning. D'Amico, who presided over the original trial, also recused himself from a new trial.

The result of new DNA testing was cited in the decision to grant a new trial.

"This court must conclude that if the newly discovered forensic evidence was available at the time of trial, there exists a reasonable probability that the verdict in the defendant's trial would have been more favorable to the defendant," the judge's decision stated.

"Accordingly, defendant's motion to vacate the judgment is here by granted and a new trial hereby ordered."

DeJac was tried on two second-degree murder charges in 1994. She was acquitted of intentional murder and convicted of depraved-indifference murder.

Because the state's highest court has restricted the use of the depraved-indifference charge, prosecutors have suggested they will consider trying DeJac on a reduced charge of second-degree manslaughter.

Clark now will have to decide whether to appeal today's ruling.

New DNA evidence found in Crystallynn’s bedroom after her killing strongly suggests that DeJac's former boyfriend, Dennis P. Donahue, was in the room. DeJac’s supporters believe that Donahue, not she, committed the killing.

Andrew C. LoTempio, DeJac's defense attorney, said earlier this month: “The ‘21st century fingerprint’ has Dennis Donahue’s prints on this girl’s dead, naked body. Isn’t it a stretch to say somebody else sexually abused [and killed] her?”

LoTempio has letters from two polygraph experts questioning the validity of the lie-detector test Donahue passed a few days after Crystallynn’s 1993 killing.

“It’s a fraud,” LoTempio said of such a test. “That’s why it’s not admissible in court. Sociopaths can pass lie-detector tests, because they don’t have emotional responses when they lie.”

In the polygraph, Donahue contended that he didn’t kill the girl, he wasn’t at the murder scene, and he didn’t know who killed her, sources have said.

The results of that test help explain why prosecutors allowed Donahue to testify before the grand jury — providing him with immunity from prosecution in her killing.

CASE UP-DATE 11-17-2007

DeJac Retrial Case Becomes Battleground For Justice

11/17/07 7:41 AM

A war of words broke out Friday over the possible innocence of convicted killer Lynn M. DeJac, but this time the combatants were public officials who usually work together — police detectives and prosecutors.

Three detectives from the Buffalo police Cold Case Squad told reporters they believe DeJac deserves a new trial, and one of them went further.

“In our opinion, after investigating this case and looking at all the available evidence, Lynn DeJac could not have killed her daughter,” Detective Dennis Delano said.

“Any person on the street could read the facts available to us and tell that Lynn DeJac could not possibly have killed her daughter,” Delano added. “In my mind, she’s 100 percent innocent.”

Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark also met with reporters Friday, after filing his motion opposing a new trial for DeJac. She was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1993 strangling of her 13-year-old daughter, Crystallynn Girard.

“They can’t refute one single, solitary fact that the jury relied on to convict her,” Clark said.

Granting DeJac a new trial might be the popular thing to do, and it might be a feel-good story, Clark said, but he thinks the contention that DeJac didn’t kill her daughter is based on speculation, not fact.

After having to rebut fellow members of the law-enforcement community, Clark lashed out at the police detectives for going public with their opinions.

“It’s absolutely inappropriate for them to express an opinion on the question of guilt or innocence, when a matter is still under litigation,” he said. “They’re now the Delphic oracles in deciding who’s guilty or innocent?”

Detectives Delano , Mary Gugliuzza and Charles Aronica said that they based their conclusions largely on two points: that DeJac didn’t have the time — or the strength — to subdue and kill her daughter, and that the new evidence points to DeJac’s former boyfriend, Dennis Donahue, as the killer.

Recent tests have shown that Donahue’s DNA was found after the killing in three spots in Crystallynn’s room: in blood spots on her bed and on the wall behind her, and on a vaginal swab taken from her body.

The three experienced homicide detectives claim the evidence shows that DeJac would have had to kill her daughter during an 11-minute window, from 11:44 to 11:55 p.m. on the night of Feb. 13, 1993 .

So DeJac and her daughter, who had been allies during a previous 911 phone call that evening, would have had to engage in a violent struggle. Then DeJac would have had to strangle her daughter, which would have taken at least five minutes, before stripping her, washing her body down and going to a nearby bar. All in 11 minutes.

“It just doesn’t ring true,” Delano said.

DeJac lacked the strength and body size to subdue her daughter for the five-plus minutes it would have taken to strangle her, Delano said. The mother also had long fingernails at the time, and no such scratches were found on her daughter’s body.

The three detectives also seemed swayed heavily by the presence of Donahue’s DNA in Crystallynn’s room.

“How do you account for Crystallynn’s blood mixed in with his DNA on the wall?” Aronica asked. “There’s no legitimate reason why he would be in her bedroom, or in her body.”

The detectives also discounted the notion that Donahue’s DNA could have been in the girl’s bedroom for days.

“The blood had to get there during the struggle with Crystallynn,” Gugliuzza said. “It’s on the wall, and some of it was on her leg. If it had happened the day before, don’t you think she would have washed it off?”

Clark , though, emphasized repeatedly that he’s looking for facts and hard evidence, not speculative theories.

The district attorney referred specifically to the new DNA evidence.

“How is that evidence that he [Donahue] killed her?” he asked. “You’ve got to show me that he was there when she was killed.”

There’s no question in Clark ’s mind that the new evidence, which wasn’t available in DeJac’s 1994 trial, raises legitimate issues in the case.

“The bottom line is, in light of the other facts, does it create a probability that the verdict would be different?” he asked. “They [DeJac’s defenders] have not demonstrated to my satisfaction that the newly discovered evidence would create a probability that the verdict would be more favorable to her.”

Clark added that everybody seems to want to forget about all the evidence and testimony that led to DeJac’s conviction.

Specifically, he mentioned the one- to two-hour time lag between DeJac finding her daughter’s body and her call to police. He also wonders why people are so quick to dismiss the barroom confession DeJac supposedly made to an acquaintance, containing information that wasn’t known to the public.

Clark believes the three detectives are getting carried away with the emotional pull of the Anthony J. Capozzi case, following his exoneration on rapes actually committed by bikepath killer Altemio C. Sanchez.

“They saw all the human pathos that surrounded the Capozzi case, and now they want to transpose that to this and other cases,” he said. “But they’re not the same. You can’t do it because it’s a feel-good thing.

“You have to base it on the facts.”  


12 former housing officers named to city’s force

11/20/07 3:46 PM

Twelve former housing police officers were appointed to the Buffalo Police Department on Monday.

The former Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority officers, who were laid off in June 2005 because of budget cuts, plus two police report technicians, are now the city’s newest police officers.

These 14 new police officers are part of Mayor Byron W. Brown’s plan to add 100 officers to the city’s force by lobbying state officials for $10.5 million.

Buffalo Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson made the new appointments Monday afternoon during a promotion ceremony in Police Headquarters.

The promotions also included Gipson’s first major Cabinet shuffle since he was named police commissioner in February 2006.

Lt. Brian S. Strobele was appointed chief of the South Police District, succeeding Lt. James P. Shea, who is stepping down so he can be promoted to captain — a contingent permanent position that is the department’s second-highest civil service rank.

Shea said he is also departing his role as chief so that he can be with his wife, who is having surgery.

Strobele, 43, is a 22-year veteran of the force and a lifelong Buffalo resident who lives in the Lovejoy section.

“I’m excited for the opportunity, and I’m going to try to follow his lead,” Strobele said of Shea.

Capt. Fred D. Young, who is one of a handful of African- American command officers, was appointed acting chief of the Northeast Police District.

Gipson said Young is acting as a temporary fill-in for Chief Arturo Salas, who was injured on duty.

Under the city’s plan, former Housing Authority officers were the first to be hired as Buffalo police officers if they passed the police exam, which was offered in January.

About 25 Housing Authority officers had been laid off. Twenty- four of them took that test, and 12 of those test-takers accepted a position with the city’s force, police officials said.

Gipson said those officers are taking a three-week refresher course and are scheduled to be on street patrol by January.

Among those Housing Authority officers is Thomas G. Zak, who spent a year working as a Cattaraugus County sheriff's deputy and then as a Dunkirk police officer after he was laid off. Zak said he took a pay cut when he joined the Buffalo force after resigning from the Dunkirk police.

"I was born and raised in Buffalo , and I'm a lifelong Buffalo resident," Zak said during an interview after the ceremony. "This is home. And when you're doing what you love, in a city that you love, it really doesn't get any better than that."

Brown commended the officers for their commitment to working in the city.

"I believe firmly that the Buffalo Police Department is one of the finest police departments in the nation," he said. "In the face of a lot of frustration and adversity, they do a tremendous job day in and day out, and I'm sure they will rise to the occasion."

In addition to the appointments of Strobele and Shea, the promotions included: Officer George W. Morlock, who was promoted to lieutenant, and four officers promoted to detective: Deborah Buyers, Marlin L. Hall, Christopher F. Sterlace and Patricia N. Wrest.

The two former report technicians who took the police test and became officers are Sherry A. Ebert and Amy J. Frankel.

The 11 new officers from the Housing Authority are: Thomas G. Zak, Bart A. Adams, Brian J. Britzzalaro, Ann W. Devaney, Robert E. Eloff, Thomas P. Feeney, Dennis R. Gilbert, Daniel B. Kurdziel, Craig J. Leone, Richard P. Manley, Adam E. Oshei and Judith M. Walker.

Harris gets 30 years to life for shooting two police officers

By Michael Beebe - News Staff Reporter
Updated: 11/19/07 10:54 AM

Varner Harris Jr. was sentenced to spend 30 years to life in state prison today for trying to kill two Buffalo police officers in December 2006.

Harris, 19, who was on probation for attempted robbery at the time, pleaded guilty in September to two counts of attempted murder for shooting Officers Patricia A. Parete and Carl E. Andolina.

"It is the expectation of the court, the recommendation of the court, that the defendant will never be released from prison," said State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang.

Parete, 42, remains paralyzed from the shooting after one of Harris' bullets severed her spine. Andolina was shot three times as he subdued Harris.

Harris, whose attorney, Paul Gordon Dell, said is border-line mentally retarded, apologized to both officers in a brief statement to the court.

"I can't take that day back, but I'd like to say I am sorry for what I've done," said Harris, dressed in a short-sleeve shirt and blue jeans.

Millie Ramos, a friend of Parete's, said the officer is thankful for all the support she's received since the shooting. Parete recently returned to Buffalo from a rehabilitation facility in West Orange, N.J., and is living with her partner, Maryellen Opalinski.

"She's taking it one day at a time," said Ramos, adding, "with a smile."

Andolina is out of the country did not attend today's sentencing.

Parete and Andolina, who was on a special detail the night of the shooting, responded to a call of a fight at a gas station at West Chippewa Street and Elmwood Avenue.

As they approached the station, they saw Harris run away from them. When they pursued him, Harris turned and pulled a gun, shooting Parete twice and Andolina three times.

Bank robbery suspect arrested in California

11/15/07 6:47 AM

The suit-wearing man who claimed to be a federal agent when he robbed the M&T Bank downtown last month was apprehended in San Francisco last week after committing another bank robbery in a similar style there, The Buffalo News has learned.

Christopher B. Reynolds, 51, was just released in July from federal prison after serving 10 years on another bank robbery charge.

Reynolds, whose exact address is unknown, was briefly staying with an acquaintance in Western New York when he allegedly committed the Oct. 10 bank robbery at M&T’s main branch downtown, law enforcement authorities said.

Reynolds entered the bank about 2 p.m. that day and flashed a badge to a customer service attendant. He identified himself as a federal agent and asked to see a manager. Reynolds stayed at the bank about an hour and met with two bank managers during that time. He allegedly displayed a gun, claimed to have placed a bomb in the bank’s lobby and demanded $100,000.

Shortly after the robbery in Buffalo , law enforcement authorities believe he fled west en route to San Francisco .

Then, about 11 a.m. , Nov. 6, Reynolds resurfaced again, wearing a suit, at the Wells Fargo Bank on Union Street in San Francisco . According to a report Wednesday in the San Francisco Chronicle, Reynolds used a badge and identified himself as an agent with the Department of Justice and asked to speak to a bank manager privately.

He claimed to have set an explosive device in the bank and produced a gun. He apologized to the bank manager and fled with more than $9,000. He was apprehended minutes later after police tracked down a taxicab in which he fled. Reynolds later admitted to authorities in California , he committed robbery there to “survive and gamble,” the Chronicle report said.

FBI agents in Buffalo were still communicating with their counterparts in California . They wouldn’t confirm late Wednesday Reynolds’ apparent link to the Buffalo heist.

FBI joins search for bank robber who claimed to be a federal agent

10/31/07 6:47 AM

The FBI is joining Buffalo police in the hunt for a welldressed robbery suspect who identified himself as a federal agent in an Oct. 10 heist at the main branch of M&T Bank downtown.

The agencies released bank photos Tuesday of the afternoon holdup in an effort to solicit the public’s help in locating the robbery suspect.

The white male in his 50s wore a black suit, white dress shirt, dark tie and black dress shoes when he entered the bank and approached a customer service associate shortly after 2 p.m.

“It got our attention because it’s so far out of the norm [for bank robberies],” said Paul M. Moskal, FBI special agent. “The methodology was very well thought-out in that he actually stayed in the bank almost an hour.”

The suspect initially identified himself as a federal agent at the customer service desk and asked to speak to a bank manager. Bank officials told police that the man even went outside briefly to smoke a cigarette while waiting for the manager.

The manager went outside to meet the man, at which time he identified himself as a federal agent “conducting an investigation,” according to FBI officials. He presented a gold badge and an identification card. The two men then went to the manager’s office.  

There, the suspect showed the manager a black handgun inside his suit coat and demanded $100,000 in $100 bills, according to reports. He provided a black folder-type portfolio. The robber told the bank manager he had placed a bomb in the bank’s lobby.

The two then left the office and went to a second manager’s desk, where the robber again identified himself as a federal agent and showed a badge and identification card while repeating his demand for money.

The second bank manager then took the robber’s portfolio to teller stations where she retrieved an undetermined amount of cash in various denominations and brought it back to the robber in the portfolio.

He took the portfolio and instructed both managers to return with him to a manager’s office. Once inside the office, the robber told the two managers to wait for five minutes. He then closed the office door and left the bank through the Washington Street doors at 2:46 p.m. He fled east on foot.

The robber was described as a white male in his 50s, 5 feet, 10 inches to 6 feet tall, weighing 175 to 200 pounds. He had reddish- brown slicked-back hair and a graying beard.  

Alert issued after impersonators target older women

11/13/07 6:49 AM

A man posing as a cable television employee tried to sexually assault an elderly woman last week after she let him into her Lovejoy home and refused to give him the money he demanded.

Then, Monday evening, a man claiming to be a gas company worker attempted to set up a meeting with an elderly woman in Kaisertown. She called the gas company, learned he was not an employee and contacted police.

Buffalo police were not sure whether the two cases involve the same man, but they were advising wariness of anything that seems out of the ordinary involving anyone claiming to be a utility or cable company employee.

“Make sure you know who you are letting into your house,” said Lt. James Curtain of the South District. “Make sure they have the proper credentials, and if you have any questions, call your utility.”

In the Lovejoy case, a man claiming to be a cable television installer tricked the Regent Street woman with fake identification, then tried to extort money from her. When she refused, he tried to attack her but fled when she screamed, Curtain said.

Monday, the Kaisertown woman received a call at home from a man claiming to be from the gas company and asking her to meet him at an apartment building she owned so he could “read the gas meter.”

“She realized it sounded fishy,” Curtain said.

He said police were still looking at similarities in the two situations. Both occurred after 6 p.m. — after dark — and involved elderly women approached by men posing as someone else.

“We’ve had people preying on the elderly,” Curtain said. “That’s disturbing for everyone, especially the police.”

Residents should look for official company identification and marked equipment whenever anyone seeks access to their property.

Also, utility employees — such as meter readers — almost always work during the daytime, according to police.

Anyone with information about the two cases should contact Buffalo police via the confidential tip line: 847-2255.

Motive unclear in fatal shooting on Walden Avenue

By T.J. Pignataro - News Staff Reporter
11/14/07 9:05 AM

A Wex Avenue man whose brother was murdered in Georgia earlier this year was identified as the city’s 48th homicide victim — shot Monday evening near a Walden Avenue ice cream stand, police said.

Corey D. Green, 21, was riding his bicycle at about 7:45 p.m. on Walden near Academy Road when another man drove up in a four-door white Ford Taurus. He got out of the car, apparently with another man, and the two approached Green, police said.

The men had a brief exchange before several gunshots rang out. Police confirmed late Tuesday that there were two shooters. Green, who was struck by the gunfire, tried to escape but collapsed in front of 20 Academy Road where he was pronounced dead, police said.

“From the limited information

we have thus far with the way the events unfolded, it would seem to indicate Mr. Green was the intended target,” said Dennis J. Richards, detective chief.

Green’s parents are employees of Wende Correctional Facility in Alden, authorities said. Family members declined to talk when reached Tuesday evening.

Police were puzzled by the slaying Tuesday. They had no motive. There was no evidence of drugs at the scene. Green had no criminal record.

Authorities also said they have no evidence linking Green’s slaying to the shooting death of his 31-year-old brother, Steven Barney, in the parking lot of an Atlanta-area Waffle House restaurant Jan. 9. Barney had recently moved to Georgia from Buffalo .

Buffalo police are still waiting to talk to law enforcement authorities in Georgia , according to Michael J. DeGeorge, Buffalo police spokesman.

Homicide detectives are pleading with the public to come forward with any information that might help solve the case.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Buffalo homicide investigators at 851-4466 or use the anonymous tip line at 847-2255.

A Buffalo Police officer today resigned
BUFFALO NEWS 11/09/07 11:41 AM

A Buffalo Police officer today resigned from the department as he pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to two misdemeanor charges for helping his brother-in-law attempt to beat drug charges and to swindle $14,000 from a drug customer.

Ronnie Funderburk, 42, a police officer since July 23, 1998 , admitted the charges in a plea before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

Funderburk was first arrested in August 2004 along with 40 other people in a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration drug bust.

He admitted to Judge Richard J. Arcara that while in uniform and driving a police cruiser, he pulled over his brother-in-law, Frederick Nolley Jr., on Grant Street in June 2004 and wrote him a ticket for unlicensed operation.

DEA agents said Nolley was on his way to deliver $14,000 worth of drugs to a customer, who watched him get pulled over and saw the car towed away.

Funderburk admitted that he and Nolley agreed beforehand to take part in the ruse. Nolley pleaded guilty Oct. 1.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Clare Kane said Funderburk will be sentenced on March 5.

Man survives his third shooting

By Vanessa Thomas
11/08/07 2:03 PM

John Hunter is apparently a survivor.

The 32-year-old Buffalo man has been shot three times. All three of these shootings happened on his street -- 14th Street on the city's West Side , yet he continues to escape death.

Hunter was outside his home Wednesday, when he was confronted by a man, who pointed a gun at him.

Hunter told police that the gunman was trying to rob him and he fought with the gunman, who opened fire. That shot punctured through his left thigh and entered into his right leg.

Hunter was treated in the Erie County Medical Center and was later released.

Just months ago, Hunter was shot in his bedroom on July 15 when the woman he was with let a gunman inside.

Police said the woman walked to the door and opened it for a man waiting outside. When Hunter tried to fight the gunman, he shot him in the left leg, just below the knee, according to police reports.

The gunman and the woman then ran out of the house. At the time, Hunter was treated in ECMC and later discharged.

Hunter was walking near 14th and Rhode Island street Jan. 6, 2006 , when he suffered a bullet wound to his right shoulder.

He was treated in Buffalo General Hospital and later released.

East Side slaying is teen's fourth felony arrest this year

By T.J. Pignataro
Updated: 11/08/07 9:17 AM

The arrest of a Gibson Street teen Tuesday in connection with a murder on the city’s East Side is his fourth felony arrest in about eight months.

Kevin D. Rogers, 19, was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of 20- year-old Derell B. Henley of Eggert Road at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at a gas station at the corner of Fillmore Avenue and Sycamore Streets. Henley was struck multiple times and later died of his injuries.

Police suspect drugs motivated the killing. Henley, who was at the gas station to pay a phone bill, had cocaine on him when he was killed, police said.

Two of Rogers’ recent arrests — involving his alleged possession of a loaded firearm on March 3 and possession of cocaine with the intent to sell on June 17 — are awaiting grand jury action, according to City Court records.

Besides those felony charges, Rogers also was arrested on felony cocaine possession with intent to sell on July 25 and misdemeanor possession of marijuana and criminal contempt on June 6.

Homicide detectives were flanked by top police brass and Mayor Byron W. Brown at a Wednesday afternoon news conference to announce Rogers’ arrest. They expressed surprise that Rogers was out on the street at the time of Henley’s murder.

“The Buffalo Police Department is doing our job in making arrests and ridding the streets of the criminal element,” said Dennis J. Richards, chief of detectives. “It is frustrating at times when the bad guy is released before the officer has finished his paperwork.”

Rogers was arraigned in City Court on Wednesday and is expected to return to court Tu esday morning.

Street Cameras To Go Citywide

Greater use of crime-fighting tool is given Council OK

10/31/07 8:07 AM

Buffalo ’s experiment with surveillance cameras as crime-busting tools will soon move from the test phase into a citywide initiative following Tuesday’s Common Council approval of a $3.1 million contract with Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls.

Lawmakers unanimously approved Mayor Byron W. Brown’s request to buy 60 electronic eyes, surveillance software, a monitoring trailer and other equipment for Buffalo ’s widely publicized security camera initiative.

The system also will be able to provide free high-speed Internet access to computer users in areas where the cameras are installed.

Brown said he is optimistic Buffalo ’s control board will approve the contract a week from today, noting that the panel already has authorized the use of state efficiency grants for the program.

Cameras should be installed in 60 locations throughout the city by February, Brown predicted. The Internet-access feature will likely be activated by the end of 2008.

For the past 12 weeks, the city has been testing seven cameras in various neighborhoods. The main purpose of the pilot project has been to gauge the effectiveness of the technology — not to nab criminals.

“The clarity is amazing,” Brown said Tuesday, noting that the cameras can provide detailed images of faces and even license plates.

They also can be programmed to recognize certain menacing activities, such as someone aiming a gun at another person.

Law enforcers currently are analyzing crime statistics and other trends as they finalize a list of sites where the cameras will be installed.

“It’s going to be data-driven,” said Brown when discussing the locations of the cameras. “We’re not going to be pulling things out of the air.”

Citizen complaint patterns also will be factored in, said First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey, who has been working closely with the Police Department on the surveillance effort.

Council President David A. Franczyk, whose Fillmore District has one of the highest crime rates in the city, said it remains to be seen whether the cameras will be effective deterrents. But he said many residents are anxious to see the devices installed. He hopes some sites will include areas around community centers and senior centers.

In other action, the Council unanimously agreed to let the incoming owner of Adam’s Mark Hotel assume existing land agreements for the downtown hotel.

Oxford Lodging Advisory & Investment Group plans to invest at least $3 million to update mechanical systems in Buffalo ’s largest hotel. The San Francisco-based company plans to finalize the purchase within the next couple of weeks.

Richard M. Tobe, the city’s economic development chief, said the good thing about the deal is that the city doesn’t have to give a single concession to a new owner that he described as “a first-rate operator.”

The Adam’s Mark is situated on property owned by the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency. It pays annual rent of $52,360 a year and has the option to purchase the land from the agency for $748,000.

A 40-year lease on the hotel garage runs through May 2023 and provides the city monthly rent of $20,440. The revenue offsets the costs of bonds used to build the garage. The lease gives the hotel owner the option of buying the ramp for $2.5 million.

Firing gun outside bar to cost man eight years
Updated: 10/27/07 7:19 AM BUFFALO NEWS

A Leroy Avenue man was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison for firing a gun outside a crowded downtown nightclub.

Darien Laing, 22, who has been jailed since a jury on Aug. 17 found him guilty on felony weapons charges for the incident outside the Town Ballroom, did not comment during the sentencing before State Supreme Court Justice Russell P. Buscaglia.

Prosecutor Brian K. Parker said Laing had been ejected from the Main Street bar about 3:30 a.m. Jan. 1 and was arguing with security guards and standing in an alley next to the nightclub when he pulled out a .22-caliber pistol and fired a single shot near the guards.

After one of the security guards fired a single warning shot and Laing angrily refused to drop his weapon, Buffalo Police Officers Joseph Gramaglia and Joseph Ruggiero arrived and quickly arrested Laing and seized his handgun, Parker said.

Police Officer Patty Parete Back in Buffalo to Continue Her Recovery

Wounded officer faces ‘great adjustment’

10/24/07 7:18 AM

Patricia A. Parete, the Buffalo police officer shot at close range last December, returned to Buffalo on Tuesday after nine months in a New Jersey rehabilitation center.

Parete, 42, who can speak clearly but has little ability to move her arms or legs, has been undergoing rehabilitation in the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange, N.J. The center confirmed Tuesday she had been discharged.

Parete suffered severe injuries to her spinal cord in the Dec. 5, 2006 , shooting at West Chippewa Street and Whitney Place . She and partner Carl Andolina, 42, were responding to a fight call at about 9 o’clock that night when they were shot by 19-year-old Varner Harris Jr., police said.

Parete was shot twice. The first bullet struck her bulletproof vest, but the second one struck her in the chin, traveling through her body and lodging in her spine.

Family members, fellow officers and friends who kept in contact with Parete were aware she might be returning home this week. However, her arrival Tuesday was apparently known to but a few.

After her arrival back in Buffalo , Parete was taken to an undisclosed location to continue her recovery.

“I think she just has a desire to kind of have some privacy as she goes through this,” said H. McCarthy Gipson, Buffalo police commissioner. “Her circumstances have changed considerably, and

that’s a great adjustment on her part.”

Gipson said Parete officially remains on injured-on-duty leave from the department. He said police brass and city officials are continuing to make arrangements to aid Parete in the continuing care that she will require now that she is home.

Reports in late summer suggested Parete was able to speak clearly, was on a regular diet and had been off of a breathing ventilator for up to 16 hours per day — using the ventilator only for sleeping through the night.

At that time, she displayed some movement in her shoulders and muscle movement in her upper arms but was still unable to move her arms or legs. She used her chin to operate a joystick on a motorized wheelchair.

Those who know Parete continue to be positive about her chances for recovery.

“She worked her way off the ventilator, which is a giant step in the right direction,” said retired Police Lt. John P. King, a friend of Parete’s who stays in touch with her. “We just keep hoping and praying for her.”

Ex-basketball star falls due to coke

Faces 25 years in federal prison

7:19 AM

A former high school basketball star who made big money selling cocaine in Buffalo will pay for his career choice with 25 years in federal prison.

Markel Curry, 36, formerly of Smith Street , was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny. Arrested by FBI agents after a sting operation in August 2003, Curry was described by police as the organizer and leader of a major cocaine ring that operated for nine years in Buffalo .

Under the terms of his guilty plea, Curry agreed to forfeit $800,000 worth of cash, real property, firearms and other assets to the federal government.

A former state and local allstar with the Turner-Carroll High School basketball team, Curry pleaded guilty in January to one of the most serious felony charges in the federal code, engaging in a continuing criminal conspiracy.

When arrested, Curry was attempting to purchase more than 60 pounds of cocaine from an undercover officer posing as a drug supplier.

FBI agents worked on the case with the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.

“This was a bright, athletic guy who had so much going for him, but chose to make his millions selling coke,” said Buffalo FBI spokesman Paul M. Moskal. “Now, he’s taking a very hard fall.”

4 suspects arrested in West Side drug bust

Police also seize weapons and cash

10/21/07 7:08 AM

Investigators on Saturday seized drugs, weapons and cash during a raid that targeted a major area drug supplier, city officials announced.

Four people were arrested at a West Side residence following a five-month probe by the Buffalo Police Narcotics Unit and the state attorney general’s office.

“Today is a bad day for the drug dealers but a good day for the residents of the West Side and the entire City of Buffalo ,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said during a news conference in Buffalo Police Headquarters.

Buffalo Police narcotics investigators and a member of the attorney general’s Organized Crime Task Force spent months investigating drug dealing on the West Side .

Police said Elliott Fuentes, known on the street as “the Godfather,” and Reinaldo Torres, who is Fuentes’ father-in-law, are major suppliers to lower-level drug dealers.

“[Fuentes] has come up in many investigations and we have been unable, until today, to make a dent in his operations,” Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson said.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday, narcotics investigators executed several search warrants at a residence in the 500 block of Plymouth Avenue .

Fuentes, who is 34; Torres, 53; Enrique Quiaras, 23; and Sandra Martinez, 55; all of whom live at the Plymouth Avenue address, were arrested.

Each is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, criminal use of drug paraphernalia and criminal possession of a weapon.

The raid turned up one kilogram of cocaine with an estimated street value of $100,000, seven ounces of heroin with a value of $50,000, $60,000 in cash, two handguns and one shotgun and six vehicles — all seized by police.

The investigators from the Narcotics Unit were: Lt. Thomas Lyon, Sgt. Thomas Vivian and Detectives Thomas Doctor, Edward Niemann, Johnnie Walker, Kevin Maloney, Joseph Cook and Sharon Acker. Investigator Michael McParlane from the Organized Crime Task Force assisted.

“The more collaborative efforts you have that are successful, the more inroads you make in combating this problem,” Steven M. Cohen, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s chief of staff, said prior to the news conference.

A 24-year-old Amherst woman apparently went unsuspecting to the North Street apartment of a registered sex offender to provide services as an escort early Saturday and was found suffocated a short time later, The Buffalo News has learned.

Jillian M. Flagg was hired by Kevin R. Baker, 39, as an escort, police sources said. She arrived at Baker’s 307 North St. apartment shortly before 1:30 a.m. and was attacked almost immediately upon entering.

Baker, who jumped out of his apartment and injured his feet trying to flee police, later confessed to Buffalo police he was high on powder cocaine when he killed her.

“It’s a rather bizarre set of circumstances,” Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark said. “She was in a room, bound and clothed, and died from having something shoved down her throat.” “He apparently shoved something down her throat in an attempt to get her to stop screaming.”

Flagg’s funeral will be held at 11:30 a.m. today in Amigone Funeral Home, 5200 Sheridan Drive , Amherst .

Baker, who is scheduled for a felony hearing in City Court this morning, was still being treated late Wednesday in the Erie County Medical Center . He was listed in fair condition.

He is charged with seconddegree murder and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Saturday’s murder in a residential neighborhood near Symphony Circle is puzzling to prosecutors and investigators because of its unusual circumstances.

According to police sources, Flagg was driven to Baker’s apartment by a man she knew, who waited in a car in the parking lot during her visit.

Clark said Flagg was fully clothed and there was no evidence of a sexual assault. Prosecutors are still awaiting autopsy results for further information.

“It appears like he accosted her the minute she came into the room,” said Clark . “The fact is, he knew that certain people knew where she was, but he accosted her anyway.”

Baker appeared to be on a mission to find a woman that night.

“I understand that [Flagg] may not have been the only person he called that night,” Clark said. “I understand he may have called other escort services that night.”

Police responded to Baker’s apartment at 1:30 a.m. Saturday after receiving a 911 call about a woman screaming.

When police knocked on his apartment door, Baker jumped out of his upper window, but officers apprehended him a short time later in a nearby yard on Richmond Avenue . Baker was taken to ECMC to treat injuries to his feet. Police reported finding a clear plastic bag of powder cocaine on him.

Flagg, who had a passion for animals, is survived by her parents, Gary and Susan, siblings, grandparents and fiance. Her father, Gary, told The Buffalo News that he was too distraught to talk about his daughter.

“We just want to heal,” he said during a brief telephone conversation. “I don’t think we want any publicity on this . . . The police didn’t tell us much about what happened . . . Right now, we’re just trying to heal and her fiance’s in shambles.”

It remains unclear whether Baker previously knew Flagg, or if he had just met her that night.

When Central District Officers Allen Gallagher and Sean Buth took Baker into custody, he had scratches on his neck and told police he tried to “hurt himself earlier.”

When police questioned him further, Baker replied: “Because I made a big mistake.” He later admitted that he “really hurt Jillian.”

Baker has a record of previous run-ins with the law.

In September 2005, Baker was visiting a Cheektowaga home where an 11-year-old girl was visiting her friend. Police say Baker knew the 11-year-old and attacked her.

“He dragged her off the couch, dragged her down the hall to a room, threw her on the bed and straddled her,” said Clark .

The girl ran to another room where she told her father and police were called.

Baker was “highly intoxicated” at the time of the attack, and Cheektowaga police charged him with attempted rape.

He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor unlawful imprisonment in February 2006 in Cheektowaga Town Court and was sentenced to one year in jail. That resulted in his being listed as a Level 2 sex offender on the state Sex Offender Registry.

Baker also has previous convictions for driving while intoxicated in Cheektowaga in 1993 and a felony conviction for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in 2000. and

Buffalo 's violent crime drops by nearly 20%; property crime up 6%

Statistics show homicides down by more than a third from ’06

By T.J. Pignataro
09/27/07 12:08 PM

Violent crime in the City of Buffalo declined by nearly 20 percent in the first half of 2007, compared with 2006, according to figures released this week by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Included is a major reduction in the number of homicides, which have dropped by more than one-third from the same period in 2006. So far this year, there have been 39 homicides in Buffalo , compared with 59 as of this date in 2006. In 2005, there were 45 homicides by today’s date.

Across the eight counties of Western New York , the statistics showed similar or even greater reductions, with the exception of two counties that showed increases.

In the City of Buffalo, besides homicide, the number of rapes has decreased by 11 percent, robberies are down by nearly 22 percent, and aggravated assault dropped by 18 percent. Property crimes, however, showed an increase of more than 6 percent.

Top brass in the Buffalo Police Department say the figures aren’t news to them.

“We weren’t surprised at all because we’ve been looking at it,” said Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson. “We’ve been monitoring the numbers. We meet every two weeks to review them.”

Violent crime declined by about 18 percent in Erie County .

According to the state’s figures, 1,630 of the 2,003 recorded violent crimes in Erie County occurred in the city.

Top police officials in Buffalo attribute the drop in violence directly to the launch of the city’s Mobile Response Unit in January. The unit specifically targets drugs, guns and gangs.

“The rank-and-file officer is doing a real good job,” Gipson said. “We’ve aggressively gone after the street-level drug dealers. We’ve obtained information to get guns off of the streets.”

The narcotics unit itself has executed more than 850 search warrants this year, more than doubling its number from a year ago, Deputy Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda said. In the three years before that, the unit conducted between 100 and 200 such searches each year.

“We are going to be more than 1,000 this year, and it seems like it’s having a dramatic effect,” Derenda said. “There’s just a more aggressive tone out there.”

Gipson said the drop in the number of homicides may be a partial readjustment.

Overall in 2006, the number of homicides soared to 74 — the highest since the record-breaking year of 92 in 1994. Gipson says the spike was believed to be the result of increased police enforcement of drug activity that led to turf wars between rival drug gangs.

In Niagara County , violent crime decreased by more than 17 percent overall, with the City of Niagara Falls showing a reduction of more than 18 percent.

Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John R. Chella recently spoke about the statefunded Operation IMPACT — Integrated Municipal Police Anti-Crime Teams — crimefighting program as the reason for the dramatic reduction in violent crime there.

“We have been proactive to make sure guns are not out there and there is an unwillingness for gang members to carry guns out in the open,” Chella said. “We’ve been very proactive in making arrests.”

Violent crime also went down in most other counties of the region, including about 39 percent in Allegany County followed by Genesee County , 24 percent; Wyoming County , 22 percent; and Cattaraugus County , 3 percent. It increased in Chautauqua and Orleans counties by nearly 12 and 8 percent, respectively, according to the state’s figures.

Statewide, crime was down by 5 percent overall for the first half of the year, led by decreases in rapes, robberies and car thefts of at least 10 percent.

Another Serial Killer in WNY?

Posted by:  Mary Friona, Reporter Posted by:  Josh Boose, Reporter  WGRZ-TV 2
9/17/2007 9:28:51 PM

It's been fourteen years since Buffalo resident Joan Giambra was found dead in her apartment.
Now, Dennis Donohue is under arrest, charged with second degree murder.

Buffalo police say they arrested Donohue at his Tonawanda apartment Monday. "Mr. Donohue was quite talkative when he was talking about everything but why he was in our presence," said Buffalo Police Detective Charles Aronica. "During questioning he was very curt with his answers. He was nervous and when confronted he didn't want to talk to us."

Investigators say they re-opened the case about one year ago. They say very recently DNA evidence was obtained and Donohue was arrested. A Giambra family member says the DNA evidence was found under Joan Giambra's fingernails. Police confirm that Donohue does have a criminal past and that he knew Giambra but would not say how.

Donohue was never on the radar as a suspect back in 1993, but his name had been mentioned in connection with two other murder investigations, and that caught the attention of investigators who have now named him a person of interest in those two murders, one unsolved and in the other someone was convicted.

In 1975 Carol Reed was found strangled to death in her
Delaware Ave. apartment. Donohue was a neighbor in the same building and was questioned at the time, but had an alibi.

February 13th, 1993 , 13-year old Crystallynn Girard was found strangled to death inside her Babcock Street home. Her mother, Lynn DeJac was convicted for the crime in 1994 and has been behind bars ever since. She has always maintained her innocence. At the time she'd been dating Dennis Donohoe and relatives even pointed the finger at him.

Investigators would not comment on those other cases, only saying that "he's a person of interest in two other cases."

Neighbors who live in the quiet
Tonawanda neighborhood where Donohue was picked up Monday by police were shocked at the news. "I can't believe it, I really can't," said Andrea Masse-Tognetti, who added that her daughter often played in the apartment complex where Donohue lived. "That's really disturbing. Remember the bike path rapist guy? Now I know how their neighbors must feel because it's something you wouldn't expect."

Investigators are not saying much, only that new DNA technology helped to crack the case.

Joan Giambra's family members were in court today. They wept when they saw Donohue and heard the charges. They say they are glad to finally see justice.

The murder happened fourteen years ago. Just last week, friends and family returned to the crime scene for a vigil.

In 1993, Joan Giambra was found dead in her apartment with her 11-year-old daughter lying on top of her. Her daughter survived, Joan didn't.

Recently, investigators found out Joan's ex-husband took his own life a few years after the murder. But officials say DNA taken from his autopsy showed he is not a suspect.

"I think it's very satisfying only because he's been out on the street for so long and thinking he got away with it, as the other cold cases we have," said Buffalo Police Detective Mary Gugliuzza.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown praised the work by the cold case and homicide units. He said they have solved more than 21 past cases since the unit was re-instituted.

Dennis Donohue is being held without bail. He's expected back in court on Friday. Grand Jury testimony in the case is also expected on Friday.


Son's arrest leads mother on a 22-year journey of faith 

BUFFALO (AP) — Mary Capozzi looks for a moment at the white kitchen door as if she is seeing once more the policemen leaving through it, with her son, Anthony.

Police had been to the house a day or two before looking for a tank top, shorts, a ski mask, a gun — the tools of a rapist who was striking victims in the city's Delaware Park.

"Go ahead and look anyplace you want," Mary Capozzi had told them. Not only was her Anthony not a rapist, he wouldn't be caught dead in the gym clothes police described. Not Anthony, with his crisp, white shirts and trousers pressed so particularly that she had to take extra care so the crease didn't fall too sharply on his shoes.

A gun?

"My son was afraid of a needle this big," the slight, feisty mother of five said, holding her thumb and index finger two inches apart. "He would never own a gun."

But now, two officers were here in her kitchen, leading away 29-year-old Anthony as she and her husband, Albert, watched, panic-stricken. It was her middle daughter, Kathy's, birthday: Sept. 13, 1985 .

"Don't worry, Mom," Anthony told her. "I'll be back."

She believed him. And waited — for technology not yet imagined, for people whose names she did not yet know — for the next 22 years.

On Feb. 5, 1987 , Mary Capozzi wept in state Supreme Court as a jury convicted her son of two of three rapes he had been accused of committing between December 1983 and July 1984. The victims had picked the dark-haired Capozzi out of lineups after a former policeman pointed investigators in his direction. Capozzi, who has schizophrenia, had been acting strangely at a coffee shop about a mile from the park, the policeman reported.

Capozzi was sentenced to 11 2/3 to 35 years in prison on two counts of first-degree rape, two counts of sexual abuse and two counts of sodomy.

"Please don't take comfort in the fact that Anthony Capozzi has been convicted of these two crimes, because he didn't do them," Capozzi's attorney, Thomas D'Agostino, told women through news cameras that converged after the verdict. "Don't feel that you can go running without company in Delaware Park ."

Hope that the legal system would save Capozzi was quickly fading.

His mother had already put her faith in something bigger.

Every day after her son's arrest, Mary Capozzi prayed inside Holy Angels Church, a 150-year-old sanctuary with two soaring steeples a block from her home. Seven days a week, there were rosaries and novenas to Our Lady of Hope, prayers for her son's freedom and for peace for her, for her Anthony.

"You have to have faith," Mary Capozzi, now 75, says. "You've got to have something to hold on to."

She would pass that faith on to Anthony during the heartbreaking prison visits that went on year after year.

"Dad, what am I still doing here? I didn't do anything. I didn't hurt anyone. I wouldn't do anything to hurt a lady," the son would say to his father, who was 59 when the visits started, 81 and white-haired now.

It was his wife's faith in her son that strengthened his own when doubt would creep into his thoughts, Albert Capozzi says. His son had shown signs of mental illness, after all, and three victims seemed so sure it was him.

"But my wife said no. My son never did that," Albert Capozzi said. "She made a better person out of me because of that."

Anthony Capozzi spent 15 years at the Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy, a taxing 400-mile roundtrip drive for his family. There were shorter stays at Wende Correctional Facility outside Buffalo and Attica , a dismal fortress closer to home.

His mother's prayers continued through them all, and through other family trials: two daughters' battles with breast cancer, another's with multiple sclerosis.

"We told Anthony, we're a big family and we've got to stay together," Mary Capozzi said, "because you stay together, you're strong. Pull apart, you break and you're nothing."

Every two years beginning in 1997, Anthony Capozzi appeared before a three-member parole board, but his family learned quickly not to get their hopes up.

To be considered for release, Capozzi would have to complete mandatory sex offender programming — something that would have required him to admit to the crimes and show remorse.

"Ant," his younger brother, Albert Jr., would say, "just say that you did it because if you say that you did it, you're going to get out."

"I can't," came the reply. "I didn't do it."

Five times, parole was denied.

A sixth parole hearing was scheduled for April 3, 2007 . This time, finally, there was reason to hope.

D'Agostino and a second lawyer, a parole expert named Norman Effman, had built what they believed was a strong case for Capozzi's release. It was based on the January arrest of a man whose DNA linked him to three murders and at least eight rapes from 1981 to 2006.

Two of the so-called "Bike Path Rapist's" crimes, in 1981 and 1986, occurred in the same park where Capozzi was accused of attacking women, and the description of the crimes was similar. In all the rapes, victims said they were surprised from behind or as the rapist ran by them, and the assailant told victims to wait 10 or 20 minutes before fleeing.

Snapshots from the 1970s and '80s of Capozzi and newly arrested Altemio Sanchez show similar dark hair and mustaches. The men are a year apart in age.

The parallels were enough to convince a half dozen detectives working the Bike Path case that Sanchez — a married factory worker who raised two sons while Capozzi was locked away — was responsible for all the park rapes.

"We thought we had a reasonable shot at parole," Effman said.

(Sanchez has pleaded not guilty to three murders. He cannot be charged with the rapes because the statute of limitations has passed.)

With the hearing approaching, there was a stunning find.

DNA evidence from Capozzi's alleged crimes — evidence no one knew existed — was located at Erie County Medical Center , the Buffalo hospital where the victims had been treated.

No one has been able to explain why law enforcement did not know of the hospital's large catalog of glass slides that had been part of victim rape kits dating from 1973. The cache came to light only after a police officer working other unsolved rapes, on a hunch, asked the hospital whether such evidence might exist.

"The DNA was not of Anthony Capozzi," Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark announced five days before the hearing. "It was Altemio Sanchez."

"I don't want anybody to take this away from me," Mary Capozzi said that day, as she reveled in the news with her family at a daughter's hair salon.

The next day, Mary Capozzi returned to Holy Angels church to set flowers before the Blessed Mother. "Just a little token for her for what she's done for me and my family and for my dear, dear son."

Within days, Erie County Judge Shirley Troutman threw out Capozzi's conviction and ordered him freed. Twenty-one years and 201 days after he was first imprisoned.

The Capozzis were reunited at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center , where Anthony Capozzi is being evaluated. He greeted his mother with hugs and kisses.

On Easter, parishioners applauded the family at Mass.

"I'm not angry at all," said Capozzi, now 50, his dark hair close cropped and graying. "I'm glad to be home ... It's all over now."

For his mother, there is sadness over time lost and memories of the empty ache of absence at so many holidays and birthdays.

But overriding are happy vows to make up for all of that — and then some.

Because his schizophrenia must be treated, Capozzi will likely live in an assisted living setting.

Throughout their neighborhood, blue vinyl ribbons rustle on trees and telephone polls. Neighbors tied them there as a welcome home for a returning son, and as thanks to the heavens for a mother's answered prayers.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redis tributed.

Newfound evidence that exonerates Capozzi stored at ECMC all along
Testing Available Since ’90s DNA from ’83, ’84 rapesmatches Sanchez, DA says
Updated: 03/29/07 6:34 AM

Albert and Mary Capozzi

“Have you ever felt pure joy in your heart?” Albert Capozzi said Wednesday, after he and his wife, Mary, learned their son may soon be free.
An innocent man who has been in prison for almost 22 years after being wrongly convicted of two Delaware Park rapes was exonerated Wednesday by DNA evidence — evidence that had been stored in a cabinet at Erie County Medical Center for as long as he has been behind bars.

“At last, he’s been vindicated,” said Thomas C. D’Agostino, the defense attorney who represented Anthony J. Capozzi during his trial and has been fighting for his release ever since.

“He’s always said he didn’t do it,” D’Agostino said.

Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark made the stunning announcement during a packed news conference Wednesday morning that not only did the newly found DNA evidence prove that Capozzi was innocent — but that it matched the DNA of the alleged Bike Path Killer.


“The DNA was not of Anthony Capozzi,” Clark said of the slides submitted under subpoena by the hospital last week. “It was Altemio Sanchez.”

Experts say the technology to analyze such DNA evidence has been available since the mid-1990s.

Sanchez, arrested in January, has been indicted in three murders and has been linked through DNA to a series of rapes of women on bike paths and other secluded spots throughout the area.

Capozzi, who is currently in prison at Marcy Correctional Facility, is expected to be granted parole when he goes before the Parole Board next week, based on the new evidence and letters of support from the district attorney and police officers who reopened his case, D’Agostino said.

Capozzi already has gone before the board five times, but his refusal to admit to the rapes has led to his being denied parole.
D’Agostino also is filing a motion to have Capozzi’s conviction vacated, and
Clark said he has agreed not to retry him. That will mean Capozzi will not only be free, but also rid of any suspicion. Capozzi could be let out of prison next week, or by the end of next month at the latest.

The path to Capozzi’s vindication began as detectives on the Bike Path Rapist Task Force, who helped catch Sanchez, came across Capozzi’s case as they pored over paperwork from old rape investigations.

The case caught their attention because the rapes Capozzi was accused of committing occurred in
Delaware Park in 1983 and 1984.

The investigators already had conclusively linked Sanchez to two other rapes in the park: in 1981 and 1986.

Detectives Dennis A. Delano and Lissa M. Redmond continued to look into the Capozzi case, even after Sanchez’s arrest, and began raising questions about whether the wrong man had gone to prison.

Simultaneously, D’Agostino was working with
Clark to try to free his client.

But time and again, the investigators, D’Agostino and Clark kept running into a wall — the shared belief that there was no physical evidence that could point to Capozzi’s innocence or guilt.

Capozzi, who resembled Sanchez at the time of the
Delaware Park attacks, had been convicted based on the testimony of the rape victims, who had picked him out of police lineups.

The best anyone hoped for Capozzi was for the Parole Board to take into consideration the developments in the bike path investigation when Capozzi came up for parole next month.

But that all changed on one snowy day shortly after Sanchez’s arrest as Evans Police Detective Lt. Samuel V. De- John drove in the Southtowns with Amherst Detective Eddie Monin. While not on the official task force, they, too, were investigating unsolved rapes with possible connections to the Bike Path Killer, including one in 1977 in Evans.

DeJohn recalled lamenting to Monin that his department had thrown out physical evidence from that investigation — leaving no chance of testing for traces of DNA that could connect it to the Bike Path Killer.

Monin had a suggestion: “Did you ever think that maybe ECMC retained some of that stuff? You never know.”

DeJohn called the hospital and learned, much to his surprise, that the hospital did, in fact, have a huge catalog of glass slides, taken as part of standard rape kits performed on victims, that dated back from 1973 and went up to 2002.

The hospital did not have a slide for the 1977 victim, DeJohn said.

But DeJohn said he decided to e-mail Deputy District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III to let him know — just in case he didn’t — that these slides existed.

It appears that no one in local law enforcement had any idea that these slides existed, although there had been rumors about the possibility of old evidence lingering at ECMC and other hospitals.

Clark said Wednesday that his office, and numerous other law enforcement agencies, had made inquiries to ECMC previously about old evidence but never got anywhere until a subpoena was served to the hospital last week. “We were chasing our tails,” Clark said.

Clark said his office made three or four attempts to obtain old evidence. D’Agostino said that it was his understanding that another lawyer, a friend of the Capozzis, also contacted ECMC.

No one got any results, according to
Clark , until his office made contact with Dr. James J. Woytash, who is both the head of pathology at ECMC and the chief medical examiner for Erie County .

“Then, it was like ‘open sesame,’ ”
Clark said.

ECMC attorney Anthony J. Colucci III said he is not aware of any law enforcement agencies having asked for slides until the hospital was sent a subpoena via e-mail March 16.

He also said he does not know of any other subpoenas for the slides or any other attempts by law enforcement officers or lawyers to obtain the evidence.

The March 16 subpoena included a long list of slides and other possible physical evidence connected with the investigations of attacks on several rape victims, including the women involved in Capozzi’s case.

The hospital was ordered to produce the evidence by March 20, Colucci said.

“We were digging around like crazy,” he said. “People came in over the weekend, even though they didn’t have to.”

The slides from the victims of the rapes for which Capozzi was convicted, along with those of other victims that police were interested in having analyzed, were submitted March 20.

D’Agostino said Capozzi and his family are not ready yet to consider whether they might pursue any kind of civil action against the county or the hospital for his wrongful incarceration.

Clark said that he does not know why law enforcement agencies were not able to access the slides until now but that he expects many inmates convicted of rape to try to have their cases reopened.

“I have no doubt that we will be deluged,” he said.

Woytash, too, said he does not understand why there was so little information available about the slides.

“All I can say is that when I was asked — and that was just a couple of weeks ago — that’s when we said, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll look for so-and-so’s slide.’ ”

Woytash, who has been at ECMC since 1999, said he cannot recall ever being asked to find the slides for investigations. He said there might have been some confusion because rape kits are now handled exclusively by the countyrun Central Police Services forensic lab.

“I don’t think its anyone’s fault,” he said of the lack of communication over the slides, but he said he is ecstatic to help exonerate an innocent man.

“Unfortunately, in my line of work, you see every sad case that’s possible,” he said. “This is one of the times when you really make a difference.”

Retired police officer dies

Hurt when car hit his motorcycle

Updated: 08/30/07 7:03 AM

Retired Buffalo Police Officer Edward L. Penkalski died Wednesday evening in Erie County Medical Center , nine months after he suffered a severe head injury when a

PO Edward L. Penkalski & PO Jeffrey Moody

driver struck him on his motorcycle on Route 16 in the Town of Holland . He was 52.

Penkalski, known as “Pinky” to his many friends, had been in a coma since he had a seizure Feb. 16, his sister Cyndee Stelmach said. He also had suffered from a severe bed sore and recently developed viral meningitis with a high fever.

“He was fighting so hard for the last few weeks,” his sister said. “His body was so tired. It just shut down.”

Penkalski spent about two weeks in a coma and four weeks in ECMC’s intensive care unit after a driver failed to yield the right of way and slammed into his bike on Nov. 28. Surgeons took out a significant portion of his skull, putting it in his abdomen to keep it alive. It was still there when he died, his sister said.

A previously arranged benefit to help cover his medical costs will be held from 2 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 16 in one of his favorite

spots, the Lafayette Tap Room, 391 Washington St .

As a police officer from 1983 to 1999, when he injured his knee jumping a fence in pursuit of a suspect, he was sometimes called “George Carlin” by his fellow officers for his relentless sense of humor and his physical resemblance to the comedian, particularly his blond ponytail.

He developed a famous and sometimes stormy partnership with another high-energy cop, Officer Jeffrey Moody. Once Penkalski drove off from a crime scene in their patrol car, leaving Moody to find his own way back to the station house. Moody died from an illness in 2000.

Motorcycles — Harley-Davidsons — were Penkalski’s passion. His mother recalled Wednesday that he once had four motorcycles in their garage, displacing the family cars.

In retirement, he traveled regularly by motorcycle to Daytona , Fla. , for auto races and bikers’ weeks. His sister said he also rode the length of Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles .

“He said it was the best thing he ever did,” she said.

Born May 8, 1955 , in Buffalo , he attended St. Joachim’s Elementary School and graduated from Bishop Turner High School . He worked for six years as a tow truck driver for the Buffalo Police Department before taking the police exam and joining the force.

Surviving are his parents, Edward A. and Roberta; two sisters, Cyndee Stelmach and Eileen; two sons, Edward J. and Thomas; a daughter, Theresa Maciejewski; and his fiancee, Debra L. Brucato.

Derek Gee/Buffalo News
Former Buffalo police Detective Joseph Biehunik, left, and Lt. Jacob Ulewski in front of a pickup that once carried 275 pounds of cocaine.

Retiring Officers are Part of Buffalo Police History

By Vanessa Thomas NEWS REPORTER
Updated: 08/05/07 5:07 AM

When two of the city’s most senior police officers recently retired, they took with them a piece of Buffalo Police history and a total of 83z years of experience

Lt. Jacob Ulewski and Detective Joseph Biehunik, who will be honoredat their retirement party Thursday, spent their careers arresting burglars, rapists, drug dealers and cold-blooded killers.

Over the past 40 years, they have done everything imaginable on the police force: assisted federal agents with the largest cocaine seizure (275 pounds) in Western New York history; participated in a 1z-year undercover sting to catch pawn shop scammers; broke up sophisticated burglary rings and embezzling schemes; and helped to recover more than 50 stolen artifacts from the Buffalo Museum of Science.

And then there was the terrifying night that Ulewski was shot in the head — but lived to tell his story.

Ulewski, 66, a great-grandfather, was the second most senior member in the police department.

Biehunik was the third most senior police officer and, at 69, the oldest officer in the city.

“They served Buffalo really well and served as role models for the younger officers,” said Lt. Thomas Masterson, a friend and colleague of Ulewski’s and Biehunik’s for more than four decades.

“They won all kinds of awards, and they’re all-around excellent policemen,” he said. “The police department and the citizens are suffering a big loss.”

Ulewski and Biehunik also are best friends, and they retired together on June 29.

If a history book on the city’s most notorious crimes could be written, Ulewski and Biehunik would author some of the more interesting chapters.

They recently took a trip down memory lane and talked about their very first police assignment: working as patrolmen at Ash and Sycamore streets.

“You really learned your trade there. . . . There were two to three shootings a day — just in our district alone,” recalled Biehunik, who joined the precinct in 1967 at age 28.

Precinct No. 4 was just one square mile — from Ellicott Street to Jefferson Avenue and from South Division Street to East North Street. Back then, Time Magazine called it the nation’s most deadly area with more murders per square foot than anywhere in the country, Ulewski recalled.

“We had a high population. It was the smallest precinct in the city, but it was the busiest house in the city,” said Ulewski, who joined the force in 1963 at age 22. “We had the big gangs — Manhattan Lovers, Mad Dogs, Pythons. . . .”

“I used to have my windows shot out and the red lights on my [police] car shot out all the time,” recalled Biehunik.

On May 7, 1984, Ulewski was struck by one of those bullets.

During a standoff at a Seneca Street building, a gunman shot Ulewski, prompting Ulewski’s fellow SWAT team member to kill the man.

That was the only time in the history of the Buffalo SWAT team that a person was shot and killed.

“When I was shot, I didn’t think anything of it,” said Ulewski, who was an officer at the time of the shooting. “I thought it was just a graze. The doctor said, ‘No. It wasn’t a graze. The bullet ricocheted off your skull. If it penetrated, you would be a vegetable.’”

“That’s when the realization hit at how lucky I was,” he said. “I owe the man upstairs one.”

Ulewski and Biehunik are perhaps best known for their work in the Burglary Task Force.

For more than a decade, they worked in the unit, using their hightech skills and technological abilities to crack sophisticated burglary rings, thefts and embezzling schemes.

Their unit also helped recover the three stained-glass windows stolen from the Allendale Theatre.

In February 1993, a U.S. Customs agent called Ulewski, requesting help to stop a pickup truck that was driving from New York City to Buffalo carrying 275 pounds of cocaine hidden inside compartments underneath the truck bed.

The Burglary Task Force crew stopped the truck near a Transit Road gas station in Lancaster, and federal agents later arrested two New York City men.

“We followed it and put a kill switch on the truck so it would stop and the engine would die,” explained Biehunik. “The whole squad took part, and we used a remote control.”

It was those technological skills that really got them noticed.

In the 1990s, they ran an 1z-year undercover operation, running a fake pawn shop with the help of three FBI agents.

They rented a storefront, built a fake pawn shop and equipped a secret back room with video surveillance equipment — all in a bid to catch thieves who were trying to sell their stolen goods.

“It was so good that a senior FBI boss said to us, ‘So, when are you going to build that secret room?’ and I told him, ‘You’re leaning on it,’ ” recalled Biehunik.

Their zest for police work is ob vious. They frequently use police jargon in their conversations, and they still get that boyish twinkle in their eyes when they talk about the job they love.

“I’ll miss the people,” said Ulewski. “The job is never the same; it’s always different.”

“I worked with a bunch of officers who took pride in doing their job,” added Biehunik. “They feel for the people, and they care about the people of this city.”

Commissioner Ralph V. Degenhart

Commissioner Ralph V. Degenhart will be celebrating his 90th birthday, born on July 19th 1917 in Buffalo, NY, attended Riverside High School, two years Pre-Law at Canisus College, three years of Business Administration at University of Buffalo worked as a mechanic at Curtiss Aero Company before joining the Buffalo Police Department. Appointed to the Buffalo Police Department on April 9th 1941, Ralph V. Degenhart rose through the ranks obtaining the highest Civil Service rank of Inspector in 1966. As Inspector he served as Chief of Detectives until his appointment of Deputy Commissioner in 1978. Ralph V. Degenhart was appointed Commissioner of Police on May 1st 1985 by then Mayor James D. Griffin.

Commissioner Degenhart retired from the Buffalo Police Department on August 1st 1992 with 51 year of service at the age of 75


Hero Cop Hurt In Motorcycle Crash
Wednesday, July 4, 2007 08:48 AM - WBEN Newsroom

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - Buffalo cop Carl Andolina, shot in the line of duty last December, has been hurt again, this time in a motorcycle crash.

Amherst police say Andolina was riding on North French near Campbell late last night when a teenage driver cut him off.  Andolina and his passenger were thrown, and Andolina suffered a serious injury to his leg.  He is in ECMC.  His passenger was admitted to the same hospital with a head wound.

The 17-year-old car driver was ticketed for driving past 9pm, and failure to yield.

Andolina was honored by the TV show "America's Most Wanted" in May in an All Star balloting competition among "hero" cops and firefighters.  He and his partner, Patty Parete, were shot late last year.  She continues her recovery in a rehab center in New Jersey.

Officer sets off on path to become a professor

05/28/07 7:17 AM

 Twenty years ago, Buffalo police Capt. Brian D. Marren scored the top mark on the police entrance exam.

Now, the 42-year-old South Buffalo native is trading in his badge to pursue another prestigious scholastic achievement: a doctorate in English history at the University of Liverpool.

That Liverpool. Over the pond. The birthplace of the Titanic and the home of the Beatles.

“I’ve always liked learning,” Marren said. “And if you want to study British history, you go to Britain.” Marren, long known by his friends and colleagues as a jokester who “kept things light around the station house,” will endeavor to write a dissertation that identifies the effect deindustriali zation had on the English working class in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

He will retreat into three years of study comparing his theories with those posited in “a seminal work” by English historian and socialist E.P. Thompson, who penned “The Making of the English Working Class” in 1963.

The books sound big and heavy. And Marren can’t wait.

“I’ve always wanted to be a professor from back when I was an undergraduate,” he said, eager to trade the murder and mayhem of the naked city for a quiet library and a corner pub. “I’ve always wanted to do it. And it’s something I can do — I’m only 42.”

Marren, who is unmarried and one of three sons born to a working- class family, was only 22 when he became a Buffalo police officer. The 1982 Bishop Timon High School graduate had spent a couple of years working at different jobs and studying at the University at Buffalo when he took the police exam.

“I needed money. I thought it might be a pretty cool career. Cops chased me around half my life, so I figured I could too,” Marren joked.

He earned the top score on the test. When work schedules began to interfere with classes, Marren left UB. He returned in 1999, finished his undergraduate degree and then stayed to earn a master’s degree.

Marren’s lifelong ambition took a two-decade detour through the Buffalo Police Department, but many of his colleagues are thankful it did.

“He became lifelong friends with the people he worked with

closely,” said Lt. Michael A. March, partner to the rookie Marren in 1987.

Added Lt. William P. Blake, another of Marren’s old Precinct 16 pals: “He’s a loyal friend. Brian was a guy that was even-tempered, gave the average guy a break, kept the station house loose and never took himself too seriously.”

The jolly, curly-haired bloke has an omnipresent smile but a self-deprecating soul. Not only was he coaxed into an interview about his retirement, but he still blushes about the August 1991 Officer of the Month award he shared with his partner, the late Norman Appleford.

“He was a legend. Norm did all the work on that one,” Marren insists, although both were credited for chasing down and apprehending a murder suspect in an East Side attic.

A Saturday send-off party is planned for Marren in South Buffalo. He departs for Liverpool June 28. He will begin research on his dissertation in early October.

“From the time I’ve known him — 20 years — he told me [being a professor] was what he was hoping to do. Now, he’s going to achieve it. He’s going to achieve his dream. I think he’s an inspiration to all of us,” March said.

“Brian’s legacy is his education — he was always going to school,” said Sgt. William J. Crawford. “Maybe call him ‘the police professor.’ ”

Added Blake: “It dispels the myth of policemen just going to the corner bar to tell their stories after they retire.”

An offer of free televisions turns out to be arresting

Police contrive a reverse sting operation to lurethose sought on warrants to convention center
By T.J. Pignataro
Updated: 05/30/07 7:28 AM
 You hear police agencies warning the public against scams offering money and free prizes all the time.

Tuesday, the Buffalo Police Department reversed the charges against alleged criminals with their own scam — better known as a “reverse sting operation.”

Area criminal warrant scofflaws wanted by Buffalo police received a blue card in the mail last week promising a “20-inch flat screen LCD TV” provided they show up in person to collect “their winning prize” at the Buffalo Convention Center.

Eight suspects wanted on more than a dozen warrants — most of them felony charges — fell for “The Blue Moon Giveaway” and were arrested and taken into custody.

“They come to us instead of us going out to get them,” said Dennis J. Richards, chief of detectives. “As far as the Buffalo Police Department, this is the first-ever reverse sting we’ve run at the convention center.”

Besides the promise of winning a television set, the cards that were mailed out to the warrant suspects also made them “eligible for a $5,000 Cash Grand Prize Drawing.” The event was promoted on the convention center’s Web site and a sign outside the convention center Tuesday welcomed “Blue Moon Winners.”

The apparent winners — or, warrant fugitives — were greeted inside the atrium of the convention center by a staff of undercover police officials who obtained their post card, proper identification and, unbeknownst to the alleged perpetrators, confirmed their wanted status by computer in the arrest warrant system.

The ecstatic “winners” were then escorted upstairs where their excitement was quickly soured when they were greeted by Buffalo police officers and realized there was no television set to be won.

“When they came in they believed they were getting a TV,” said Michael J. DeGeorge, special assistant to Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson. “But, when they got upstairs, they realized they’d be going to jail.”

The idea was the brainchild of Deputy Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda. While the idea may sound sneaky, police officials said they diligently confirmed that their actions were legally sound under state and federal law before engaging in the operation. The reverse sting does not constitute entrapment because it does not induce the fugitive to commit any crime. Rather, it lures them into police custody by promising free prizes.

Some of those apprehended Tuesday were upset over the police trickery, but Richards said police are just doing their jobs.

“It’s unfortunate we have to be put in that position [of chasing down criminal warrant suspects],” Richards said. “We’re always looking at innovative and creative ways of combating crime in the city of Buffalo.”

Police called the operation “mildly successful” but pointed out they did catch suspects wanted for a variety of crimes including felony criminal mischief, criminal contempt and endangering the welfare of a child.

One woman was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia after she was found to be carrying a crack pipe when arriving to claim her prize.

Police officers who served in Vietnam to be honored

05/27/07 7:25 AM

When Marine Cpl. David Sugg returned home after a one-year tour of duty in the Vietnam War, he remembers seeing anti-war protesters spitting on soldiers.

The Buffalo native was shocked at that harsh reception he witnessed in California , his first stop after Vietnam .

“Back then, they’d spit on you and call you a baby killer because no one wanted the war,” recalled Sugg, who returned from the war in 1970 at the age of 20.

“I’ll never forget how this country treated us when we came back. We didn’t ask to go. We were sent there by the U.S. government . . . I wouldn’t even wear my uniform because it wasn’t worth the hassle.”

Today, Sugg is a detective with the Buffalo Police Department’s Narcotics and Vice Squad.

He is one of dozens of Buffalo police officers who served in the Vietnam War. They will be honored with a new plaque in the lobby of Police Headquarters by the end of this year.

The Vietnam Memorial Plaque will include the names of all police officers — retired, deceased or currently working — who served in Vietnam .

With Memorial Day on Monday, organizers believe the plaque is a fitting tribute for these unsung heroes.

“This is long overdue,” said Detective James Lema, who, along with Lt. Kenneth Bienko, is organizing the plaque tribute. “They risked their lives for this country, and then they came back to risk their lives as policemen. They put their lives on the line twice for this country.”

Lema and Bienko, who are both assigned to the city’s Homicide Unit, have spent the past year compiling a list of officers whose names will be inscribed on the plaque. So far, 40 have been collected.

They urge any officer who served in Vietnam , or anyone who knows someone who did, to contact them at 851-4466.

“We know there has to be more names out there,” Bienko said. “Some of them may have been over there and just didn’t publicize it.”

Bienko joined the Navy in 1969 but did not see service in the war.

Sugg joined the Marines at age 18, just after graduating from Burgard Vocational High School in 1968.

“Back then it was a dangerous time, and a lot of guys lost their lives,” Sugg said. “I remember when I came home and reconnected with friends who didn’t go in. We were the same age, but it felt different. I felt hardened. . . . We grew up quicker and faster.”

Sugg joined the Police Department in 1971, after receiving an honorable discharge from the Marines in 1970.

The 36-year-veteran of the force serves as commander of the Hostage Negotiation Team.

“It’s great to see this country do a complete turnaround and really honor these veterans and stand behind these guys,” Sugg said. “[Bienko and Lema] are doing a fantastic job getting all these names and finally giving the Buffalo police veterans the recognition they deserve.”

Brown, Gipson laud anti-crime unit

Buffalo News 
Updated: 04/21/07 6:55 AM

 The city’s newest anti-crime unit is making inroads in reducing violent crime, Mayor Byron W. Brown and Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson said Friday.

During a news conference in the former Kmart parking lot on Broadway, the mayor and police commissioner released the firstquarter results of the Mobile Response Unit formed three months ago. The special police department unit was designed to target and eliminate gangs and trafficking in illegal drugs and guns.

“As a result of that, the overall crime in the City of Buffalo has also shown a decrease,” Gipson said.

Through March 31, Gipson said, the unit has been responsible for 569 arrests, impounding 58 vehicles, issuing 31 search warrants, seizing $44,771 in cash and confiscating 36 illegal guns from alleged criminals.

“It’s a more sustained form of policing that is focused on intelligent policing, that is focused on crime analysis and data,” said Brown.

The information released Friday does not compare it with arrest data, search warrants and seizures performed during the same period last year. Gipson, however, said that there were five fewer homicides so far this year compared to the same period last year — from 20 in 2006 to 15 so far this year.

Brown said Friday that the crime data resulting from the efforts of the Mobile Response Unit will be reported quarterly from now on.

“We’re going to continue to report out the statistics of this unit so the members of our community can judge for themselves how successful the unit has been,” he said.

The Mobile Response Unit, which began operations on Jan. 14, replaces the department’s Flex Unit and the old Operation Strike Force.

“The biggest difference between this and previous operations of the Flex Unit and the Strike Force is we have detectives assigned to the Mobile Response Unit who debrief every arrest that is made by our patrol officers and gather intelligence and other information and use that information to obtain search warrants and further investigations,” Gipson said.

Through the unit, the police department is also developing information on local gangs, which recently led to the arrest of a member of a national gang who was visiting the area from California .

Gipson, top brass hit the streets in support of rank-and-file officers
Buffalo News Staff Reporter

When Buffalo Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson and top police brass left their Franklin Street headquarters late Friday afternoon they weren't going home for the weekend.

Gipson was busy fastening a bulletproof vest over his starched white police uniform and heading out onto city streets for a regular 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift.

"We're not bound to the ivory tower," Gipson said. "We're not afraid to get out there and be on the street."

The commissioner, along with his two deputy commissioners, six chiefs and on-duty inspectors, hit the street Friday afternoon in the debut of Gipson's initiative designed to be more responsive to residents and rank-and-file police officers.

The commissioner and other top police administrators answered a couple of "hot calls" and made a few traffic stops. They also visited each of the city's five districts, talked with officers to get feedback about day-to-day issues and met with residents to answer questions and hear their concerns.

"This is to show the officers we're supportive of what they're doing. . . . We're still police officers and we're concerned about what goes on on the street," Gipson said.

"We're here to support the rank-and-file and let the citizens know we're concerned with the proper delivery of service to them."

The commissioner says the initiative is expected to be duplicated each month.

"I'm excited and I feel good about it," he said. "Most of the citizens we've talked to have been surprised [to see top officials out on the street]. They think it's a good idea."

Dennis J. Richards, chief of detectives, said the administration wants to make sure police services and support given to rank-and-file officers meet expectations.

"It keeps us in touch not only with the community but with the first level of responders," Richards said.

The night tour was interrupted for Richards and South District Chief James P. Shea. The two were responding to a shooting call at Kensington and Bailey avenues when a pickup truck collided with their unmarked car at Bailey Avenue and William Street about 5:15 p.m. The car had its lights and sirens activated at the time of the crash, Gipson said.

No one was seriously injured. Richards and Shea were evaluated in Erie County Medical Center and returned to work just after 10 p.m.