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Howard B. Owens's blog

Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Bergen woman accused of stealing $35,000 from elderly woman's bank accounts

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

NOTE: This case was dimissed in July or August of 2010.

A Bergen woman is under investigation by State Police for allegedly fraudulently gaining access to an elderly woman's bank accounts and stealing thousands of dollars.

Michele Case, 45, of 7100 N. Bergen Road, has already been indicted on two counts of grand larceny by a Genesee County grand jury and faces a grand jury hearing in Orleans County.

Investigator Leo Hunter of the New York State Police said Case allegedly stole more than $35,000 from Alfreda May, a former Rochester resident who moved to Holley before her death.

Hunter said the case started when the mother of Case's boyfriend was found late one night wandering a residential street in Rochester in nothing but her nightgown looking through trash cans.

May was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with dementia, a diagnosis later confirmed by her personal physician.

Case then took May to her attorney -- "not Alfreda May's attorney, not the family's attorney," Hunter said -- and had herself made power of attorney for Alfreda May.

After becoming power of attorney, Hunter said, Case broke up with her boyfriend and began allegedly accessing May's bank accounts for her personal use.

On Dec. 6, in Genesee County, Case was indicted on two counts of grand larceny, 3rd.

The indictment alleged that between July 2004 and September 2005, Case wrote checks and made e-check withdrawals from the woman's account for a total of $10,799.

The second count alleges that while in the City of Batavia, on the same dates, Case made ATM withdrawals from May's account for $3,697.20.

Hunter is unsure when the case will be submitted to the Orleans County grand jury.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Condition improves for hunter accidentally shot

post by Howard B. Owens in hunting, Oakfield, outdoors

Scott Hartman, the Oakfield man accidently shot by his father while turkey hunting, is out of the intensive care unit at Strong Memorial Hospital.

His condition is now listed as "satisfactory."

The 46-year-old Lockport Road resident was struck in the face by shotgun pellets Monday morning after his father apparently mistook him for a turkey.

Hartman was able call 9-1-1 and walk out of the woods on his own, but was listed in "guarded" condition at Strong for a couple of days following the accident.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 11:16 am

Attorney suggests Benaquist may have been killed by Scott Doll's son

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, pembroke

BATAVIA, NY -- Joseph Benaquist's dying words, according to Scott Doll's attorney, were, "The boy. The boy."

Doll is accused of murdering Benaquist -- beating him to death and leaving his body in a pool of blood in his own driveway in Pembroke on Feb. 16, 2009.

But Paul Cambria, Doll's attorney, said this morning in opening arguments of Doll's murder trial that it wasn't Doll who killed Benaquist.

But if not Doll, then, who? 

Cambria said it crossed the mind of Scott Doll within minutes of hearing Benaquist utter, "The Boy. The Boy" just before he died in Doll's arms, that it was his own son, Joshua Doll.

Joshua Doll was the one who was supposed to meet Benaquist earlier that night and drive with him to the car auction in Adesa, and Joshua Doll who regularly dealt with Benaquist on auto transactions.

Scott Doll only went to Benaquist's home after the former corrections officer failed to show for an appointment at the Adesa auction. He arrived while his longtime business partner and friend was struggling for his life, Cambria said.

There was blood everywhere -- on the ground and splattered and smeared on nearby cars, and Doll was shocked at what he found and what he heard, Cambria said.

"Mr. Benaquist weighed 220 pounds," Cambria said. "The evidence will show he struggled and fought for his life. Yet, there's not one injury on my client, because he did not have a fight with Mr. Benaquist."

Equally adamant on the other side that Scott Doll is the murderer is District Attorney Lawrence Friedman.

"When this trial is over," Friedman said, "when you connect the dots you will find beyond a reasonable doubt that this defendant is responsible for the murder of Joseph Benaquist and is guilty as charged of murder in the second degree."

Friedman opened his statement by outlining the facts of the case -- that Benaquist was found dead in a pool of his own blood, the victim of multiple blows to the head, outside his Pembroke home on a cold Monday night. That Doll was found returning to the scene with his clothes and face covered in the victim's blood, and that the van Doll was driving had blood on the outside and the interior.

Friedman also said that during the course of the trial he will present evidence related to auto transactions that went wrong and that Doll was having increasing financial trouble.

While the prosecution is not required to provide proof of a motive for the murder of Benaquist, Friedman said the evidence will show that Doll and Benaquist were in conflict over some auto deals.

Doll and Benaquist cooperated in a used car business that was licensed to Doll. Benaquist also apparently used Doll's registration at the Adesa auto auction house to purchase vehicles for his own use.

Besides suggesting that Josh Doll may have killed Benaquist, Cambria also noted that despite extensive efforts by local law enforcement to find a murder weapon, none was ever located.

He suggested that if juror's apply common sense, they will conclude that Doll had no opportunity to dispose of the murder weapon.

He also said that any statements Doll made where intended to just buy him time, while he tried to figure out where his son was and whether he was involved. Doll's repeated requests to consult with an attorney were "ignored," according to Cambria, and also intended to buy time to find out if his son was involved.

He called the Sheriff's Office arrest of Doll a "rush to judgment."

The first witness called was James Waff, a second assistant chief in the Pembroke Fire Department. Waff first called emergency dispatch after spotting a suspicious person at the gas station on the corner of Main Road and Lake Road in Pembroke. Waff was returning from the Fire Hall at the time.

He described seeing Doll in a winter camouflage jumpsuit with his face covered with a firefighter's hood -- Doll was also a volunteer firefighter -- and then going to a friend's house nearby to see if he had also seen the person at the gas station.

When they returned, Doll was walking on Lake Road and they observed him until deputies arrived to question him.

The Batavian will have additional coverage of today's proceedings late in the afternoon.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 9:44 am

Annual crime statistics show mixed picture for Genesee County

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, genesee county

While the crime rate in New York went down from 2000 to 2009, both for violent and for property crime, in Genesee County, the crime data is more of a mixed bag.

In Genesee County, from 2000 to 2009, the crime rate dropped 8.4 percent, with 1,634 crimes reported in 2000 and 1,496 reported in 2009.

But violent crime increased during the same period, going from 85 violent crimes in 2000 to 92 in 2009, an 8.2-percent increase. All of the increase is in the category of rape, which jumped from 9 reported rapes in 2000 to 17 in 2009.

Property crimes dropped from 1,549 reported crimes in 2000 to 1,404 in 2009, a 9.4-percent decrease. Motor vehicle thefts saw the biggest drop, going from 51 to 37, a 27.5-percent drop.

From 2008 to 2009, crime in Genesee County increased 3.7 percent, with total reported crimes increasing from 1,443 to 1,496. 

Violent crime, year-over-year, however, was down 18.6 percent, with 92 reported crimes in 2009 compared to 113 in 2008.

Property crime in Genesee County rose 5.6 percent last year, over the 1,330 crimes reported in 2008.

Statewide, from 2000 to 2009, violent crime dropped 30 percent and property crime fell 24 percent.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 9:20 am

Couple allegedly found in restroom with drugs

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

When a man and a woman entered a restroom together at a West Main Street Restaurant about 9:30 p.m., Thursday, it made employees suspicious, so they asked the couple to leave.

They refused.

Batavia Police were called.

When police arrived, they found the couple locked in a stall together.

After being taken out the stall, they were interviewed by police and found in alleged possession of hypodermic instruments and drugs.

Arrested where Jason R. Anderson, 28, 6742 Oak Orchard Road, Elba, and Sophie A. Jeschke, 20, of 10203 Goodman Road, Alexander.

Anderson was charged with trespass, possession of a hypodermic instrument, two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance not in its original container.

Jeschke was charged with trespass, possession of a hypodermic instrument and criminal possession of a controlled instrument.

They were jailed on $1,000 bail each.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 8:13 am

UPDATED: Man who came to Batavia to meet boy convicted on porn charges

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

A Livingston County man who thought he met a 15-year-old boy in an online chat room and agreed to meet him in Batavia for sexual activity was convicted in a Federal Court today of online enticement of a minor, receipt of child porn and possession of child porn.

Dalton Wilke, 45, of Conesus, was arrested in Batavia in August, 2008 based in a large part on the work of Police Det. Todd Crossett. Crossett had posed as the 15-year-old boy in the online chat room.

Crossett said today that he was notified that Wilke was convicted of all counts and taken into custody. He will be sentenced at a later date.

Wilke faces a minimum of 10 years in prison, with a life sentence possible. Each count is also punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 each.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Craig R. Gestring and Marisa J. Miller who tried the case, stated that the defendant engaged in a series of sexually explicit online chats with a person he believed to be a 15 year old boy.

Over a period of 5 months, Wilke repeatedly attempted to induce, persuade, and entice the child to meet for sex. A meeting was finally arranged in August of 2008 at a park in Batavia.

When Wilke arrived at the park he was met not by a 15-year-old boy, but by FBI agents and Batavia Police officers.

Following his arrest, FBI Agents seized the defendant's computers from his home in Consesus.

A forensic analysis of these computers, performed at the Regional Computer Forensic Lab, linked them to the online enticement, and also recovered a 48 minute long video depicting two young boys engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

In addition to finding the defendant guilty on all counts, the jury also determined that the 2004 GMC Sierra pickup truck which the defendant drove to the meeting location was subject to forfeiture.

Sentencing is scheduled for August 6, 2010, in Rochester

A year ago, Crossett was recognized by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for his work on the case.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 7:59 pm

House struck by lightning on North Pembroke Road

post by Howard B. Owens in Noth Pembroke Road, pembroke

A caller reports a house struck by lightning at 7914 North Pembroke Road, but no smoke or flames.

A first responder reports nothing showing but a hint of smoke in the air. He's requesting a thermal camera.

East Pembroke Fire is responding.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Jury selection resumes at 2 o'clock in Scott Doll trial

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, pembroke, scott doll

A morning that started off with the hope of  finishing jury selection for the Scott Doll murder trial didn't quite work out that way.

Only one alternate was selected in the morning, with the prospective jury review process to resume at 2 p.m.

Court observers are uncertain whether opening arguments will, in fact, begin today, or more likely now, the trial will begin Thursday.

UPDATE 4:39 p.m.: Jury selection is complete. Opening arguments are scheduled for 9:30 a.m., Thursday.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 10:10 am

Police Beat: Man accused of stealing candy

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

Tellesa Levon Evans, 19, of Rochester, is charged with petit larceny. Evans is accused of stealing candy from the Arrow Mart store on Clinton Street. He was located by deputies a short distance from the store, walking back toward College Village.

Corina M. Gallo, 19, of Batavia, is charged with possession of a controlled substance for sale and criminal possession of a controlled substance. Gallo was arrested by State Police at 10:25 p.m., Monday. No further information was released.

Accidents from the State Police blotter:

5:40 p.m., May 3, Exit 47, Thruway, Town of Batavia, one vehicle: Driver 1: Wade M. Blood, 53, of Lockport. No injuries reported.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 9:39 am

Scott Doll murder trial could start as soon as this afternoon

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, pembroke, scott doll

BATAVIA, NY -- With the primary panel of 12 jurors and only the alternatives to pick this morning, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman expects opening arguments in the Scott Doll murder trial to be heard as early as this afternoon.

Friedman said there is even a chance the first testimony could begin before the end of the day.

Doll, of Corfu, is accused of killing his business partner, Pembroke resident Joseph Benaquist.

Today, attorneys and Judge Robert Noonan will interview more prospective jurors in search for the right three to six alternates.

Alternate jurors are required to attend the entire trial and pay attention just as if they were one of the 12 jurors in the case. Alternates are necessary in case one of the regular jurors is unable to complete the trial.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 7:56 am

Batavia man involved in accident in Morristown

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident

A Batavia man pulling a boat on a trailer through Morristown was involved in an accident that sent the other driver to the hospital with a minor injury.

Douglas C. Houseknecht, 35, of 3472 South Main St., stopped at an intersection in Morristown, according to a report on NorthCountryNow.com, and then proceeded while another car was about to enter the intersection.

A car driven by Joy M. Buckingham, 29, of 178 Clinton St., Gouverneur, struck Houseknecht's trailer and boat.

Buckingham needed to be extricated from her car and was taken by ambulance to an area hospital for treatment of pain in her arm and hip.

Houseknecht was cited for allegedly failing to yield the right-of-way. Buckingham was cited for allegedly driving with a suspended registration.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 7:39 am

Today's Deals: Delavan's, Center St., Margarita's, Settler's and more

post by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day

Delavan's Restaurant and Tavern, 107 Evans St., Batavia, NY: To me, Delavan's is one of those restaurants where you want to eat frequently until you try everything on the menu. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

The Enchanted Florist, 202 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Mother's Day is just around the corner! We have a $20 gift certificate for $9.50.

Center Street Smoke House, 20 Center St., Batavia, NY: Authentic Southern BBQ, from ribs to brisket with all the fixin's. We have a $25 gift card for $12.50.

T.F. Brown's, at 214 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: T.F. Brown's is a great place for a good meal, good friends and to catch up on what's going on in the sports world. "If it happens in sports, it happens at Brown's." We have a $20 gift card for $10.

Sallome's Italian Deli, 40 Oak St., Batavia, NY: Wraps, subs, paninis and pasta as well as pizzas -- Sallome's offers a tasty variety of Italian deli items for eat-in or take-out. We have $10 gift certificates for $5 each.

Margarita's Mexican Restaurant, 15 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: When you're looking for an authentic Mexican meal, Margarita's is the place to go. The food and atmosphere are perfect and the service is always outstanding. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

Alex's Place, 8322 Park Road, Batavia, NY: People come from all over the region for a fine dining experience at Alex's. It's best known for its ribs, of course, but Alex's seafood is also a favorite of the restaurant's diners. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Settler's Restaurant, 353 W. Main St., Batavia, NY: Settler's has a 25-year history of serving great, affordable breakfasts, lunches and dinners to Batavians. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

Oliver's Candies, 211 W. Main St., Batavia, NY. Oliver's, a Batavia landmark, offers the finest chocolate and confections in the area. We have a $20 gift card for $10.

NOTE: If you've never bought Deal of the Day before, or are otherwise unfamiliar with the rules and process, click here.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Fight reported in Le Roy McDonald's

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy

Two women are reported fighting inside the McDonald's on Main Street in Le Roy.

Law enforcement is responding.

UPDATE 9:22 p.m.: Le Roy Police on scene with situation under control. The Sheriff's deputies responding told to disregard.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 6:12 pm

No arrests likely following Saturday's fight at carnival

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, carnival, crime, downtown

Uncooperative witnesses and a victim who doesn't want to press charges means there will likely be no arrests stemming from a fight at the downtown carnival Saturday night, according to Sgt. John Peck of the Batavia Police Department.

The 19-year-old victim is a GCC student from Utica.

When police arrived on scene at 9:59 p.m., there was a group of 10 or 12 people piled onto the victim, who was having a seizure, Peck said. Some of the people involved in the melee were trying to help the victim, other people where trying to pull them off. The first concern, he said, was to deal with his seizure.

"It was pretty chaotic," Peck said.

The victim, a black male, was taken by ambulance to Strong Memorial Hospital as a precautionary measure, but it turns out he was not seriously injured, Peck said.

"It probably looked worse than it was," he said, describing the injuries as just a couple of bumps and bruises.

All of the suspects are black males, Peck said.

On Saturday night, several witnesses promised to show up at the police station on Sunday to give statements, but none of them showed up.

That night there were also white youths seen running from the carnival down Ellicott Street. Police pursued them, but were unable to apprehend them. One of the youths dropped a knife.

But, Peck said, it appears none of those youths were involved in the carnival fight and police don't know why they fled the scene.

There was a report of a second fight by the big slide, but when State Police arrived to check out the report, no fight was in progress.

The cause of the fight appears to be something someone said to another guy's girlfriend, Peck said.

In all, five Batavia patrol units, two Sheriff's units and two State Police units responded to the reported fights.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Tractor fire reported on State Street Road

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, State Street Road

A tractor fire has been reported at Scalia's Landscape, 8106 State Street Road, Batavia.

The bobcat is not near any structures.

Town of Batavia Fire is responding.

View Larger Map
Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 3:40 pm

State Street burglary suspect back in court on new criminal charge

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, State Street, Wood Street

One of the four men accused of breaking into a State Street residence last September while the elderly woman who lived there slept, was back in court today, but not on the alleged burglary charge.

Twenty-five-year-old Quentin L. Gibson faces a new charge of criminal mischief as well as two traffic citations.

While his three co-defendants in the State Street case have either pled guilty or were convicted of the crime, Gibson's case is still wending through the legal system.

While the case proceeds, Gibson has been out of jail under the supervision of Genesee Justice.

But Gibson appeared in City Court today to answer the new charges stemming from an alleged incident May 1 on Wood Street. Justice Robert Balbick adjourned the proceedings for a few minutes while Assistant District Attorney Robert Zickl consulted with Genesee Justice on Gibson's conduct since he's been out of jail.

After getting a report that Gibson has been doing well, and learning that Gibson has paid partial restitution on the alleged property damage that led to the criminal mischief charge, Zickl recommended that Gibson's release under supervision continue. Balbick agreed.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman was in court for the Scott Doll jury selection and was not available for an update on Gibson's status in the State Street case.

Also in court today facing charges for the alleged May 1 incident on Wood Street was Thomas Culver, also facing a criminal mischief charge.

The Batavia Police department has not yet released information on the two criminal mischief arrests, so no further information on the alleged incident is available.

UPDATE: Gibson and Culver were arrested at 10:35 p.m., Saturday, for allegedly intentionally breaking the door of a friend.

Gibson resides at 27 Richmond Ave., and 31-year-old Culver's address is 13 Wood St.

Reginald Wilson was convicted April 1 of burglary and possession of stolen property following a jury trial. The other defendants in the case, Dillon Brito and Joseph Dash have both pled guilty to charges related to the State Street break-in.

In an unrelated case in City Court today: Summer Ogden, 31, appeared on an endangering the welfare of a child charge. She is in jail on $500 bail. The charge stems from an alleged April 30 incident wherein she broke a temporary, plastic window in a car while her child was in the car.

The child was not injured, according to Zickl. Ogden was arrested in March for allegedly assaulting and biting her boyfriend and also faces a DWI charge. Her case was adjourned until Thursday for review for possible referral to either mental health or drug court.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Juror selection in Doll case slow going so far

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, pembroke, scott doll

BATAVIA,  NY -- A day and a half into the jury selection process for the Scott Doll murder trial, and only three jurors have been seated.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman noted that at the current rate, it would take four days and eight panels of potential jurors just to get to 12 men and women to decide the case. That doesn't include the four- to six-alternate jurors needed for the anticipated three-week trial.

The prosecution has used 12 of its 20 peremptory challenges, and the defense 14 of 20.

While either side can request more peremptory challenges, it will be up to Judge Robert C. Noonan whether to grant such an extension.

Once the peremptory challenges are gone, the prosecution and defense will be left to accept any juror that can't be dismissed for cause.

A prospective juror dismissed for cause is somebody who has a clear conflict of interest and probably can't judge the case impartially. A peremptory challenge is one in which the prosecution or defense deems a particular juror just isn't suitable for the case, for any reason.

"It's a combination of everything, what they know, what you hear -- it's just a gut reaction in the end," Friedman said, adding that "Both sides are being very careful about who goes on this jury."

Doll, a Corfu resident, is accused of murdering Joseph Benaquist of Pembroke in February, 2009. Doll and Benaquist were apparently in business together selling used cars.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Local landlord calls in police to investigate damage to apartment following eviction

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, landlords


Willard and Duane Preston didn't like what they found this morning when they entered an apartment Willard owns at 122 Summit Street, Batavia, so they called police.

Three doors had been pulled from the hinges, they said, three windows busted out, trash and debris littered the attic and the garage and there were numerous large holes in the walls.

They blamed the tenants they just evicted, and spurred by a recent article on The Batavian, they decided maybe they could get the police to pursue a criminal case against their former tenants.

"What is the city doing to help landlords?" Willard said. "The city can tell the landlords what to do, but the landlords can't tell the city what to do.That's my point. Damage is done? Fine. Get them in court. Put them in jail. If they're on social services, then cut it. Get them out of here. Send them back to Rochester or Buffalo."

Officer Ed Mileham confirmed he's conducting an investigation, but said he preferred not to discuss the case further. 

Police Chief Randy Baker said last week that while it's possible to look at tenant damage as a criminal matter, gathering sufficient evidence to make an arrest can be difficult.

"We have a level of proof to meet before it’s a criminal matter," Baker said. "One is, was it intentionally done or recklessly done? Then it’s a matter of identifying who did the damage. We can’t always meet all those criteria, so sometimes we can’t file the criminal charges."

Mileham said he did have a case about a year ago where a woman trashed an apartment owned by James Pontillo, and in that case, Mileham said, he did make a felony arrest.

In the case of the former tenants at 122 State, a woman was originally living there with a boyfriend who had "a good job in Rochester," Willard said. She was drawing social services benefits and had a job, too.

After breaking up with her boyfriend, apparently, she asked permission to have another man move in with her, to help her pay the rent.

"Why not?" Duane said. "It helps her and it helps us. What are we going to do, say no?"

But it wasn't long, Duane said, before the couple stopped paying rent, so they started eviction proceedings. It was during the eviction period, Duane said, that he believes they did most of the damage to the apartment.

"When she moved in, the apartment was clean and recently painted," Duane said. "It was beautiful."

Pointing to an abandoned couch, Willard said that it would cost $10 to have it removed, and $10 for each of the busted TVs left behind, plus $35 for a broken smoke detector, and all of the debris left in the attic and the garage.

"The small stuff like this ads up into thousands of dollars, at least $2,000," Willard said.

And it's hard to collect from tenants like those who just moved out, Duane said, because she's on DSS and the boyfriend -- whom he said claimed to be the son of a local contractor -- worked for various roofers, contractors and property owners around the city, always getting paid allegedly under the table, so there's no way to garnish the wages of either tenant.

While both of these former tenants have longtime roots in Batavia, both Duane and Willard pointed to transplants from Rochester and Buffalo as a cause for deteriorating neighborhoods.

"Batavia used to be pretty rosy," Duane said. "I've been in this business for 20 years. The streets used to be beautifully lined and the houses were all kept up. Now -- well, I'm glad we have an enforcement officer who says, 'let's get things cleaned up.' That's great because I'd like to protect my investments."


Top photo, Duane Preston points to debris in the attic. Bottom photo, Duane and Willard hold broken hinges, which Willard said showed no sign of wear or rust, but were just sheared off.

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