Annie Lee and Eddie Freson probably never met. One lived in Batavia, the other in Brockport. One died in 1997, the other in 2000.
But when media coverage turns to unsolved deaths in Genesee County, Lee and Freson are inseparably linked.
Both deaths are officially listed as accidental drownings, but in both cases, Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster says he still has questions.
In both cases, somebody was obviously with them before they died. Lee did not get herself to Little Tonawanda Creek (there was no car at the scene and Brewster said she obviously didn't walk), and Lee never drove anywhere, so somebody had to take him from his home in Brockport to Buttermilk Falls.
In both cases, somebody knows something, and Brewster is eager to talk to anybody who can shed light on how Lee and Freson died.
The partially clothed body of Ann Katherine Lee, aka Ann Griffin, age 41, was spotted by a motorist in Little Tonawanda Creek, off West Bethany and Brookfield roads at 11:56 a.m., April 23, 1997.
She had not been sexually assaulted, nor was there signs of any signficant trauma to her body, according to a medical examiner.
There was no significant amount of alcohol or drugs in her blood system.
Lee drowned in only a few inches of water.
"She appears to have walked into the water under her own power," Brewster said.
Lee had a lot of friends and acquaintances around town. She was last seen near her apartment at 511 E. Main St., Batavia, around 11 p.m., April 22.
The area where Lee's body was found is a "well-known parking area," as Brewster put it.
"There was a considerable number of people who knew Ann Lee, who knew her lifestyle, who knew who she hung around with – because of that, I have no doubt that people have been talking," Brewster said. "It’s quite likely that there is somebody out there who knows at least who she was with, maybe not what happened, but who she was with."
If Brewster could find that person, he thinks he would be much closer to solving the mysterious death of Ann Lee. It might not be murder, but the case could be closed.
Like Lee, Edward Charles Freson, 42, of West Avenue, Brockport, was well known in his community. He was a member of a club in Brockport and investigators talked to a lot of people who knew him.
Freson didn't have a car, he didn't drive and he would never accept rides from strangers, but he knew Buttermilk Falls. He talked of Buttermilk Falls occasionally and mentioned trips as a kid there with his family.
Brewster thinks he found a friend to drive him to the falls on May 5, 2000.
His body was found by four boys playing in the area. Freson's corpse was partially submerged in water at the brink of the falls.
Investigator John Dehm, in what Brewster called a "brave job," climbed out on a long ladder extended over the falls and dragged Freson's body from the precipice.
When his body was examined, he was missing his glasses and jacket (his shoes were recovered downstream), and he had a black eye.
Was Freson hit by somebody, or did he hit his eye on a rock? Brewster wishes he knew.
The medical examiner ruled the death an accidental drowning.
“He could have (hit his eye on a rock)," Brewster said. "This is pretty much a quote of what the ME said. He said, ‘Cause of death accidental drowning. Now, if you can tell me that you found someone who says he hit him in the head and threw him in the water, I’ll go with that, too.'"
Out there somewhere is somebody who was with Eddie shortly before he died. He may not be a killer, but he has some idea what happened.
Investigators questioned everybody possible in Brockport in the months -- the case was worked daily for seven months -- after Freson's body was found. Brewster thinks its likely they even talked to the person who drove the victim to Buttermilk Falls, but so far, Brewster still doesn't know how Eddie Freson got there that day.
Freson was known as a nice guy, but he did drink, and on just a couple of occasions, when he got drunk, he got into fights. He could piss people off.
Maybe, Brewster speculates, Freson got a friend to drive him out to Buttermilk Falls and Freson, who had been drinking, said something to upset his friend, so his friend left, and then somehow Freson fell into the water.
"Somebody out there knows more," Brewster said. "We just haven’t found the right person to tell us yet."
And Brewster adds, “He (the person who knows) may say, 'Hey I picked the guy up. He turned into a jerk. I left him there and then I found out he was dead and I said, sure as hell, I’m going to come out and tell the cops that I gave him a ride and then they’re going to try and convict me of murder. So I’m just going to keep my mouth shut.'"
"He could be totally innocent," Brewster said. "I don’t know, but I have some questions."
Tomorrow: Kisha Sullivan and Bill Fickel