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Howard B. Owens's blog

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Mobile phone surcharge not funding emergency dispatch as intended, Sheriff says

post by Howard B. Owens in Emergency Dispatch, Gary Maha, Sheriff's Office

If you have a mobile phone in New York, each month you pay a $1.20 surcharge for "New York State Public Safety" that you might think goes to pay for emergency dispatch.

If you think that, you're mistaken, according to Sheriff Gary Maha.

Last year, the surcharge generated $210 million in revenue, of which about $9 million was allocated to dispatch centers.

The balance of the fund, Maha said, goes straight into the state's General Fund for any number of non-law-enforcement related purposes.

Last year, Genesee County -- which spends $2 million each year to operate its dispatch center -- received just $38,000 from this fund.

“We need to keep the pressure on the state that this money should be used for what it’s intended for and not used to pay for general fund expenses," Maha told the County's Public Safety Committee today.

The committee passed a draft resolution to send to the State Legislature asking them to use the money according to its intended purposes.

The fund used to be called the 9-1-1 Surcharge, but even with the "public safety" label, the revenue is rarely being used to pay for public safety expenses, Maha said.

There is also a county-collected 35-cent surcharge on landlines for the dispatch center. But increasingly, people are abandoning landlines in favor of mobile phones, cutting down significantly on the amount of revenue this fund generates, Maha said.

Governor Paterson has proposed that $50 million from the surcharge monies, or about 21 percent, be made available to county 9-1-1 centers, Maha said.

The proposal has met with stiff opposition in the State Legislature.

The State Assembly proposes that only $8 million above last year's $9.3 million funding be provided to county 9-1-1 centers. Many think that the Legislature will take all of these monies to help fill the approximately $9 billion budget deficit facing the state, Maha said.

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Police: Abduction story fabricated

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, schools

A 14-year-old girl who earlier today reportedly told Batavia School Superintendent Margaret Puzio that she had been abducted as she walked to school, made the whole thing up.

Batavia Police just announced that based on an extensive investigation, including assistance from the Child Advocacy Center and the Batavia City School District, they have concluded the girl fabricated the abduction story in order to alter facts regarding her whereabouts.

The investigation continues regarding the girl's actual whereabouts and her activities during that time.


Monday, May 17, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Whether girl was actually abducted remains in question

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime


(Updated 7:09 p.m.)

The investigation is still in its preliminary stages, but a Batavia Police spokesman today acknowledged that police have yet to verify the story of a 14-year-old girl who says she was abducted as she walked to school on Washington Avenue this morning.

"We're trying to ascertain if this actually did occur, if there was something along the lines that she made this up for some reason," said Officer Eric Hill. "We don’t know for certain, which is why we have detectives out there (conducting interviews)."

The girl first reported the abduction to Batavia Schools' Superintendent Margaret Puzio.

Puzio said she believes the girl.

marge_puzio.jpgThe girl wandered into Puzio's office about 10:45 a.m. saying that she had been abducted by a black man, 20 to 30 years old, wearing a black, long-sleeve shirt and blue jeans. She said the abduction occurred about 7:45 a.m. or 8 a.m. in the area of State Street and Washington Avenue.

Puzio contacted Batavia Police at 10:56 a.m.

The story the girl told Puzio, she said, is consistent with the story the girl told to police.

Why the girl wandered into the Washington Avenue location of the board of education, Puzio said she didn't know. She said she assumed the girl had walked by the building many times and knew what office it was.

“I assume she decided that was a safe place,” Puzio said.

Even though the location of the alleged intersection is a busy place that time of the morning -- it's part of the route many people might take to Batavia High School -- there are apparently no witnesses to the alleged abduction.

Investigators have been canvassing the area looking for more information, Hill said.

Hill said investigators have yet to determine how the alleged abductor got the girl into his minivan.

"That's not known at this point," Hill said. "That's a question for us at this point. We don't know what happened."

It's also unclear how the girl got away from her abductor. Hill said the detectives may have information he is not aware of, but said, "she reported to us that she got away. That's all we know, or, that's all I know."

Parents were notified of the alleged abduction some time before 2 p.m. through an automated call of a recorded message from Puzio.

Parents contacting The Batavian say the message did not contain information on the status of the girl or if her parents had been notified, causing them to panic about the safety of their own children.

Puzio said the message was well thought out and she consulted with the Batavia Police Department before deciding to send out a message through the automated call system.

"We always try to err on the side of giving as much information as we possibly can," Puzio said "We certainly deliberated over whether to say anything or not. What we decided to say is what we felt comfortable with."

Asked if she was concerned that fear from this incident would wind up encouraging parents to keep the children home from school tomorrow, Puzio said, "I hope not, but it’s always good to be reminded that students, your kids, are precious and sometimes we take for granted that they know not to go near cars with strangers in them, but sometimes it’s good to have something like this to reinforce that message."

Officer Hill said that if he had kids, he would consider driving them to school tomorrow, at least until this matter is resolved.

Hill said in his five years on the force, there have been no similar incidents in Batavia. He called this alleged abduction an "isolated incident."

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Allegedly abducted girl safe, but police looking for suspect

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

A 14-year-old girl allegedly abducted as she walked to school on Washington Avenue in Batavia this morning  was found by police today, but investigators are looking for a suspect.

The abductor is described as a black male, 20 to 30 years old, wearing a black, long-sleeve shirt, blue jeans and sneakers. He was reportedly driving a black minivan.

The girl was picked up and placed in the van, according to police, about 7:45 a.m. or 8 a.m.

The girl was evaluated at UMMC.

The investigation is in its preliminary stages and no further information is available, police said.

(Initial Report)

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Scott Doll defense brings in own bloodstain-pattern expert

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

BATAVIA, NY -- Blood spatter on the coveralls worn by Scott F. Doll the night Joseph Benaquist was killed suggest that Doll was not the one who bludgeoned Benaquist to death, said an expert witness brought in by the defense.

It's nearly impossible, said Herbert MacDonell, of Corning, that the spatter on the coveralls and the spatter on a Ford Windstar, which Doll seems to have been driving that night came, from the same impact event in a source of blood.

In fact, MacDonell said, the spatter on the coveralls is more consistent with expirated blood (such as if Benaquist coughed it up while talking with Doll).

MacDonell postulated that if the person who killed Benaquist was holding him down with his left hand, kneeling over him, beating him using a blunt object in his right hand, then the left sleeve of the coveralls should be covered with a lot more blood than it is.

Further, MacDonell said, the back swings of the assislant would cause spatter on the back shoulder and the back leg of the coveralls, and there is only one spatter spot on the back leg of the coveralls.

The inconsistancy with MacDonell's testimony -- which was not clearly drawn out by either the prosecution or the defense -- is that there has been no evidence introduced thus far (and the prosecution has rested its case) that the murderer was kneeling and holding Benaquist down at the time of the attack.

In fact, Cambria has pursued a line of questions with other witnesses that suggests Benaquist fought for his life, causing blood transfer on two nearby vehicles, including the underside of a Nissan Altima.

It's unclear, based on today's testimony, where MacDonell came up with the assumption that Benaquist's killer was kneeling and holding him down with his left hand.

Based on his examination this morning of the blood spatter on the coveralls, MacDonell concluded that the spatter was from a blood source that had already started to clot.

Fresh blood, he said, would immediately soak into the fabric, but in this case, MacDonell said, the blood drops landed on the coveralls and didn't penetrate the cloth, sitting there, he said, "like a fried egg."

This would suggest, he said, that the person wearing the coveralls came in contact with a source of blood spatter some time after the initial attack. 

He also said the spatter on the Windstar was consistent with a stronger-force impact into a source of blood than that of the spatter on the coveralls.

Assistant District Attorney Will Zickl asked a series of questions related to possibly faulty assumptions and how a different assumption might change MacDonell's conclusions. But he never asked just why MacDonell thought the killer was holding Benaquist with his left arm.

Autopsy photos show that Benaquist received blows to the sides, front and back of his head, not just one side.

Zickl did try to impeach MacDonell's testimony by drawing out of him that he did not produce a written report for the trial.

MacDonell at first said he didn't need to produce a written report because the conclusions were obvious. He then said that in the months leading up to the trial, he only had photographic evidence to review. He said that if he had received the coveralls to examine, he would have produced a written report. Yet, MacDonell never asked to examine the coveralls and did not do so until about an hour before this morning's testimony.

Zickl also wanted to pursue a line of questioning about peer review, noting that the prosecution's bloodstain-pattern expert wrote a report and put it through technical "peer" review with a colleague of MacDonell's. But after a discussion with the jury out of the room, Judge Robert Noonan ruled that a discussion of the peer review would mean the use of hearsay.

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 3:18 pm

South Main house struck by truck being demolished today

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, South Main Street


A house on South Main that was knocked off its foundation when it was hit by an allegedly speeding pickup truck in early March is just about gone.

Workers started demolishing the house this morning and say by tomorrow there will be a level, gravel-covered vacant lot where the duplex once stood.

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Reports coming in of child abduction in Batavia School District

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, schools

More than a dozen parents have contacted The Batavian in the past 15 minutes saying they've received calls from Margaret Puzio, superintendent of the Batavia School District, informing them that a student in the district was abducted this morning.

Det. Rich Schauf is currently investigating the case and is not available for an interview at this time and all media calls about the case are being referred to Schauf.

At this time, no further information is available about this case.

UPDATE 2:22 p.m.: WBTA's Geoff Redick reached Puzio by phone and Puzio told Redick that "the child is with police." She refused further comment. The child, according to the pre-recorded message automatically phoned to parents this afternoon from Puzio, said the child was abducted this morning while headed to school.

UPDATE 2:40 p.m.: WBTA spoke with Det. Todd Crossett who said a girl was picked up and placed in a car on Washington Avenue this morning. Police found the girl this afternoon and she is now with police, according to Crossett.

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Le Roy school super resigns unexpectedly

post by Howard B. Owens in education, Le Roy, schools

Cindy Herzog, superintendent of the Le Roy Central School District, announced her resignation on Friday, effective immediately.

School district staff learned of Herzog's abrupt departure in a memo from Donald Holbart, board of education president.

Hobart thanked Herzog for "all of her many contributions" to the LeRoy School District.

Herzog has been superintendent for three years.

David DeLoria, Ph.D, will serve as interim superintendent.

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 10:29 am

Scott Doll trial resumes with defense presenting its case

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

BATAVIA, NY -- The prosecution rested its case -- meaning District Attorney Lawrence Friedman has presented all of his evidence -- on Thursday, and Monday morning opened with defense attorney Paul Cambria calling his first witnesses on behalf of Scott F. Doll.

Doll is accused of killing Joseph Benaquist on Feb. 16, 2009, in Pembroke.

During last week's testimony, Friedman presented evidence that showed the blood of Benaquist was found spattered on Doll's coveralls and the Ford Windstar he was reportedly driving that night.

The defense does not dispute that it was Benaquist's blood at the crime scene and on Doll, but Cambria does dispute how the blood got there.

In his opening remarks, Cambria said Doll arrived at the murder scene after Benaquist was attacked and heard his dying words, "The boy. The boy." Those final words haunted Doll, Cambria said, who wondered if his son Josh might have beaten Benaquist to death.

In his opening remarks, Friedman said he would ask the jurors to "connect the dots." 

Those dots include a flat tire on a Pontiac G6 that Friedman says was at the heart of a dispute between Benaquist and Doll, and a broke jack next to a Nissan Altima that had a blood smear on the undercarriage.

In cross examination of a blood-pattern expert last week, Cambria suggested that maybe that blood got there as Benaquist fought for his life, not as a stain transfer from a bloody glove of Scott Doll.

Doll was found that night walking on North Lake Road toward the murder scene carrying a jack, a lug wrench and a screwdriver.

Included in the prosecution's case were records of phone calls made to and from Doll's mobile phone, including one to the Adesa auto auction and five incoming calls from Josh Doll. 

Cambria said it will take "a couple of days" to present his case.

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 8:29 am

Police Beat: Le Roy man accused of possessing stolen parking signs

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, corfu, crime, Darien, Le Roy

Daniel C. Healy, 19, of Le Roy, is charged with criminal mischief, 4th, and possession of stolen property. Le Roy Police originally responded to a disturbance call on North Street. Upon arrival, they found that Healy allegedly damaged a door inside the residence. While investigating that incident, Patrolman Robert Tygart found Healy allegedly in possession of several parking signs removed from various locations in Le Roy and Avon.

Cheryl Ann Szdlowski, 50, of Main St, Strykersville, is charged with two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of marijuana. Szdlowski was reportedly a passenger in a car that was stopped for an alleged traffic violation on Route 77 in Darien. During a search following her arrest for alleged possession of marijuana, she was allegedly found in possession of two different kinds of controlled substances.

Brandon Cody McCoy, 19, of Angling Road, Corfu, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, possession/consumption of alcohol in a vehicle. McCoy was stopped for an alleged traffic violation at 2:15 a.m., Saturday, on Angling Road, Corfu, by Deputy Patrick Reeves.

Eric Lynn Skeet, 21, of Cohocton Road, Corfu, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of marijuana, and possession of a controlled substance not in its original container. Skeet was stopped by Deputy Patrick Reeves for an alleged traffic violation shortly after midnight, Saturday, on Cohocton Road. Upon a search after Skeet was found allegedly in possession of marijuana, Skeet was allegedly found in possession of hydrocodone hidden in his footwear.

Craig Alan Tiberio-Shepherd, 20, of Lathrup Road, Le Roy, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, criminal possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of marijuana, and speeding (80 mph in a 55 mph zone). Tiberio-Shepherd was stopped at 1:15 a.m., Saturday, by Deputy Frank Bordornaro on Route 5 in Le Roy, for allegedly speeding. A passenger in the car, Jourdain J. Holly, 20, of Le Roy, was also charged with an open container violation.

William Karl Vaughn, 26, of West Bergen Road, Le Roy, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, improper right turn, driving left of pavement markings, uninspected motor vehicle. Vaughn was stopped at 2:11 a.m., Sunday, by Deputy John Weis on Route 19, Le Roy.

Monday, May 17, 2010 at 7:29 am

Former Muckdog says amphetamine suspension stems from misunderstanding

post by Howard B. Owens in baseball, Batavia Muckdogs, sports

In an article about set backs to his career, Alan Ahmady, one of the Batavia Muckdog's most impressive young players last year, says that his current suspension for amphetamine stems from him taking some old prescription pills.

Ahmady was still in Fresno in mid-May because of yet another mistake. This one, though, he says, was a "misunderstanding of the rules." At the end of last season in Batavia, he was drug tested in mid-August and then notified in October that he had taken a performance-enhancing drug and was suspended 50 games.

"They said it was amphetamine," he says. "I was like, 'What's an amphetamine?' "

He says the test result was caused by Adderall, a drug he was once prescribed for attention-deficit disorder. While at Batavia, he'd started taking it again to help him focus on learning a new position: catcher. He contacted Bud Selig's office to appeal the decision, but because the pills were left over from an old prescription, he had no case.

In 67 games for Batavia in 2009, Ahmady hit .297 with a .407 OBP, 3 HR, 46 runs scored, and 32 RBI.

He's expected to join the Quad City RIver Bandits on May 31.

Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Grand Jury Report: Le Roy man accused of passing fake $10 bill

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Le Roy

Recent Genesee County Grand Jury indictments:

Christopher J. Elmore, indicted on a charge of criminal possession of a forged instrument. Elmore is accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $10 bill on Sept. 22, 2009. (Previous report on Christopher J. Elmore).

Paul D. Berggren, indicted on a charge of rape, 3rd. Berggren is accused of being older than 21 and engaging in sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old female on or about Aug. 30, 2009.

Kyle D. Faron, indicted on a charge of DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Faron is accused of driving drunk on Akron Road in the Town of Pembroke on Jan. 23, 2010.

Wesley A. Ground, indicted on a charge of DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Ground is accused of driving drunk on Akron Road, Pembroke on Feb. 4, 2010.

Adam D. Pattridge, indicted on a charge of DWI driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Pattridge is accused of driving drunk on Route 19 in the Town of Le Roy on March 24, 2010.

Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Photo: Barn on Bethany Center Road, Route 63

post by Howard B. Owens in BARNS, Bethany, photos


I've passed this barn many times thinking I need to get a picture.  Today, I did.  It's at the junction of Route 63 and Bethany Center Road -- either in Bethany or Batavia, not sure which town.

Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Photo: Trees in Genesee County Park

post by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Park, photos


Today, Pachuco went for a walk in Genesee County Park -- great place to walk with a dog and a camera.

Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Photos: Mini golf at Lei-Ti

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Lei-Ti Campground, photos


I happened to be out to Lei-Ti Campground (on Francis Road, Batavia) this morning and while there strolled over to the miniature golf course and snapped these two pictures.


Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 10:22 am

Pavilion Fire responding to a tree fire in Covington

post by Howard B. Owens in fire, Pavilion

A tree on fire in the Town of Covington, which is the Pavilion Fire District, has been reported at 709 Wyoming Road.

It's unclear how the tree caught on fire.

It's not threatening any structures.

Pavilion Fire is responding.

View Larger Map

Friday, May 14, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Photo: Barn on Westbrook Road, Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in BARNS, photos


The location I found to get a shot of the State Police on the Thruway was at the end of Westbrook Road, which is where I also found this small, but nice old barn.

Friday, May 14, 2010 at 3:24 pm

State Police have four people in custody on Thruway

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, thruway


State Police have four people on the ground and in handcuffs on the Thruway just east of the Route 33 overpass.

A witness said he saw multiple law enforcement vehicles heading to the scene at an exceptionally high rate of speed. He also said the State Police helicopter was flying low over the Thruway toward the scene.

When we arrived, there were 11 law enforcement vehicles on scene, with six of them being unmarked. A flatbed truck was hooking up a black sedan that had its trunk open.  

Eastbound traffic in the area slowed quite a bit, though was not significantly backing up.

UPDATE (Billie Owens): I heard the scanner when this call came in. The dispatcher said a black sedan (I forget the make/model) with four asian males was eastbound on the thruway after allegedly driving away from a home-invasion robbery in the Town of Amherst. Either a victim or witness followed the vehicle and alerted law enforcement.

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