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Howard B. Owens's blog

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Two car accident with injuries reported in Bergen

post by Howard B. Owens in accident

A two-car accident with injuries has been reported at the intersection of Route 33 and Route 19, Bergen.

It is not blocking.

Bergen Fire and Mercy EMS responding.

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Jury selection begins in prison contraband trial for Scott F. Doll

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

mug_scott_doll.jpgScott F. Doll is back in Batavia this afternoon, dressed in tan slacks and a new, white, unironed shirt, listening to attorneys question prospective jurors in his newest criminal case.

Doll allegedly tried to smuggle a white powdery substance into the Genesee County Jail on May 20, the day he was convicted by a jury of murdering 66-year-old Joseph Benaquist in February 2009.

It turned out the substance, reportedly stashed in a purple balloon concealed on his body, was nothing more than aspirin.

But even aspirin can't be brought into a jail without permission.

Currently, Doll is living in Fallsburg at the Sullivan Correctional Facility.

Sullivan is an all male, maximum-security prison just north of New York City.

Doll is serving a 15-years-to-life sentence.

Dan Killelea, part of Doll's legal team for the murder trial, is representing Doll in the alleged "promoting prison contraband" case.

More than 30 prospective jurors crowded into Batavia City Court at 1 p.m.

A jury for a misdemeanor allegation in city court is comprised of six people with only one or two alternatives. The number of challenges each attorney can make is reduced to three, so jury selection shouldn't last past this afternoon.

The trial is on the docket for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Girl reported missing is back with her family

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia

A 15-year-old girl reported missing by Batavia Police on Friday has been found and reunited with her family.

Det. Rich Schauf said no criminal activity is suspected in her disappearance but did not release further details.

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Former corrections officer sentenced on workers comp fraud charges

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

mug-james-gibbs.jpgA former corrections officer who admitted to workers compensation fraud will spend a couple of more months in jail before serving five months of probation, but the stiffest penalty he may face is paying back the nearly $38,000 he still owes the state.

James S. Gibbs has completed two months in county jail and will serve another two months before being released on probation, Judge Robert C. Noonan ruled today.

In May, Gibbs admitted to charges of grand larceny and attempted workers compensation fraud. He also agreed to more than $40,000 in restitution, with $20,000 payable before his sentencing.

Since then he's allegedly violated the terms of his presentencing release by getting arrested in Monroe County on a possession of a controlled substance charge, and he's been through a divorce in which the couple lost their home.

Rather than a $20,000 payment, Gibbs has paid only $3,003.13.

Over the five years of his probation, his attorney Thomas Burns noted, paying back nearly $38,000 would work out to more than $600 per month, which Burns said seemed like a steep amount to expect Gibbs to pay back (among other expenses, Gibbs must pay child support). He asked for payments of $175 per month.

Even District Attorney Lawrence Friedman acknowledged that asking Gibbs to pay back the full amount in five years was a tall order.

"We ask that you set whatever maximum amount you deem appropriate," Friedman said.

Noonan noted that Gibbs was a good wage earner before his arrest, even in his side job -- driveway paving. He set the monthly payment at $200 per month and ordered that restitution be reviewed next summer.

For previous coverage, click here.

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Wendt sentenced on DWI manslaughter charge

post by Howard B. Owens in alexander, crime, Darien, Ronald J. Wendt

Ronald J. Wendt, the 25-year-old Alexander man convicted of drunken driving and taking the life of a Dansville girl, will spend at least another 15 months in prison and could end up serving a total of seven-and-a-half years behind bars.

Wendt was sentenced in Genesee County Court today on his 11 convictions stemming from the fatal accident in Darien Center on Aug. 14, 2009.

Katie Stanley, 18, died in the crash that also injured three other people, and two of them say they continue to have medical problems.

The top count of Wendt's charges was aggravated vehicular manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years.

Judge Robert C. Noonan sentenced Wendt to two and a half to seven and a half years on that count, and Wendt has already been in Genesee County Jail for 13 months, leaving a minimum of 15 months to serve.

On the other 10 counts, Wendt received concurrent sentences ranging from one year to two-to-six years. (For a list of the counts the sentencing options available to Noonan, click here.)

Noonan called the case a tragedy and noted, as did Friedman, that the underlying DWI charge was no more serious than what hundreds of people in Genesee County face every year. If there had been no accident, Noonan said, and Wendt was still arrested, he probably would have faced a misdemeanor DWI case, have it reduced to a violation and have served no jail time.

"You wouldn’t be standing here and you wouldn’t be facing a prison sentence, but unfortunately your conduct did lead to some serious consequences and I intend to impose a serious prison sentence," Noonan said.

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 9:46 am

Police Beat: One-car accident on Oak Street leads to DWI arrest

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

Darrell Smith, 43, of Queens Drive, West Seneca, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, aggravated unlicensed operation and improper stopping on a highway in the Town of Alexander. Smith was arrested following a report of a one-car accident at 3:32 a.m. on Oak Street in the City of Batavia. Smith allegedly fled the scene of the accident in his car. Smith also faces charges in the city for allegedly leaving the scene of a property damage accident, moving from lane unsafely and aggravated unlicensed operation.

A 17-year-old from Attica Road, Attica, is charged with criminal possession of stolen property, 5th. The youth was allegedly found in possession of a stolen a black Diamond Back BMX-style bicycle. The bicycle had been reported stolen from a person in the Village of Attica on July 3.

Peter J. Gravante Jr., 21, of Townline Road, Byron, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, aggravated unlicensed operation, 3rd, no license plate lamp and operating without brake lights. Gravante was stopped at 4:08 a.m., Friday, on Route 5, Town of Batavia, by Deputy Kevin McCarthy.

Alexander Kae Zorich, 18, of Batavia-Stafford Townline Road, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Zorich is accused of shoplifting from Kmart.

A 16-year-old from Route 20, Alexander, is charged with criminal possession of stolen property. The youth was arrested following an investigation into car break-ins in the Village of Alexander during the night hours of Aug. 6-7. A younger defendant was also arrested, and considered the prime suspect. That case was handed over to family court.

Wesley Herrick Marean, 20, of Bronson Avenue, Avon, is charged with petit larceny. Marean is accused of shoplifting from Kmart.

Tiffany Monea Gaulden, 19, of Taft Avenue, Rochester, is charged with criminal trespass. Gaulden was allegedly found in a controlled access building at College Village. Gaulden was reportedly barred from the property. On Nov. 4, Gaulden was also arrested for alleged trespass and issued an appearance ticket. For the alleged trespass on Friday, Gaulden was jailed on $500 bail.

Gina Lee Schmidt, 21, of Elm Street, Le Roy, is charged with petit larceny. Schmidt is accused of using a fraudulent check at Walmart.

Peter S. Brigzna, 21, of Townline Road, Bergen, is charged with felony DWI and stopping on a highway. Brigzna was arrested following a report of a car stopped in the middle of the road on Bank Street Road, Batavia, at 6:52 p.m., Friday. Brigzna was allegedly found passed out in the car with the car running and the lights on. He was jailed on $1,500 bail.

Travis J. Schultz, 22, of 3620 Maltby Road, Oakfield, is charged with criminal mischief, 4th. Schultz is accused of recklessly damaging the entry door of Sport of Kings restaurant during a fight with another person.

Clinton A. Anderson, 25, of 8 Walden Creek Drive, Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Anderson was allegedly involved in a domestic incident with a woman he was ordered to stay away from. He was jailed on $2,500 bail.

Brandon T.C. Johnson, 20, of Culver Road, Rochester, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and uninspected motor vehicle. Johnson was stopped at 5:14 p.m., Nov. 3, on Main Road, Corfu, by Deputy Patrick Reeves.

Monday, November 15, 2010 at 9:05 am

Today's Deals: Present Tense, Carlson's Studio, Pudgie's, Main St., and more

post by Howard B. Owens in Deal of the Day

Present Tense Books and Gifts, 101 Washington Ave., Batavia, NY: Whether your taste runs to local authors, the finest in fiction or nonfiction or you're looking for a unique and special gift, this charming store in a cozy Victorian house on the edge of downtown is a great place to stop and shop. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Carlson's Studio, 39 Jackson St., Batavia, NY: Christmas is coming! Now is the time to get your holiday portraits. We have a $150 gift card for $75 (+$2 PayPal Service fee).

Pudgie's Lawn and Garden Center, 3646 W. Main St. Road, Batavia, NY: Fall decorations are in as well as a big selection of spring bulbs. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Adam Miller Toy & Bicycles, 8 Center St., Batavia, NY: Feel like a kid in a toy store again, or treat your kids to the greatest toy store they will ever see. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Main St. Pizza Company, 206 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Pizza, wings, subs and even hamburgers and hot dogs, Main St. Pizza makes everything deliciously. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

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.

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.

Red Osier, Route 5, Stafford, NY: Truly, one of the landmark restaurants of the area. Red Osier features prime rib carved table side. We have $25 gift certificates for $12.50.

Stafford Trading Post, 6173 Main Road, Stafford, NY: Lunch or dinner, Stafford Trading Post offers a variety of fresh, homemade meals, as well as snacks and drinks. Now in a new, expanded location. We have a $25 gift card for $12.50.

South Main Country Gifts, 3356 Main St. Road, Batavia, NY: Handcrafted items, gifts with a regional flair, candles,teas and spices -- South Main has a wide selection to please most any interest. Decorate your home or office for Fall or start your Christmas shopping. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

The Enchanted Florist, 202 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Fall colors. Fall flowers. Brighten your home or office. We have a $20 gift certificate for $9.50.

Blue Pearl Yoga, 200 E. Main St., Batavia, NY: Exercise your soul as well as your body in a friendly and relaxing atmosphere. We have a gift certificate for three weeks of yoga, 13 classes, a $36 value, for $18.

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.

Oliver's Candies


The Enchanted Florist

Clor's Meat Market


Stafford Trading Post


Settler's Restaurant


Red Osier


Pudgie's Lawn and Garden


Adam Miller Toy & Bicycles


Blue Pearl Yoga

Carlson's Studio



Present Tense Books


South Main Country Gifts


Main St. Pizza Company


Monday, November 15, 2010 at 1:15 am

Stove fire reported at home on Drake Street Road

post by Howard B. Owens in elba, fire

A stove fire is being reported at 4325 Drake St. Road, Elba.

Elba and Town of Batavia fire departments are  being dispatched.

UPDATE 12:18 a.m.: Smoke in the residence. Fire was in a self-cleaning oven and it appears to be out. Town of Batavia Engine 24 returning to the station.

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Monday, November 15, 2010 at 12:34 am

Red Chevy Impala reportedly stolen from Pringle Avenue

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

A resident on Pringle Avenue has asked for police to respond to his house.

He says he came home to find his house broken into.  The only thing missing are his keys and his red Chevy Impala.

UPDATE 6:51 a.m.: The car has been located.  The owner's brother borrowed it.  The owner's brother sent a text message saying he was borrowing it, but the owner didn't read the text message.

Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 11:43 pm

First loss of year for Le Roy girls comes in regional championship game

post by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, sports, volleyball


A perfect season came to a disappointing end for the Le Roy Girls Volleyball Team Saturday as they suffered their first lost of 2010 in a regional championship game at Genesee Community College.

Le Roy (21-1) lost to Section VI Champions Falconer High School (from near Jamestown) three games to one by scores of 25-21, 24-26, 25-23 and 25-19.

Katlyn Tyler had 21 kills and 20 digs for Le Roy. Megan Condidorio had 22 assists and 18 digs.


Six more photos after the jump -- and we have more than 30 photos available for purchase by clicking here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Accident with injury reported at Park and Veterans Memorial Drive

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident

A two-car accident with an injury is reported at the intersection of Park Road and Veterans Memorial Drive, Town of Batavia.

The accident is reportedly blocking the intersection.

Town of Batavia Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 9:57 am

Family of Baby Andrew still shocked by manslaughter, rather than murder, verdict

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Andrew Cianfrini, crime


When the verdict was pronounced, all Kristen Cianfrini could do was cry.

Melissa Engelhardt, who in her mind, had murdered her 21-month-old son, Andrew Cianfrini, was getting away with it.

Even though experts had told Kristen a manslaughter rather than a murder verdict was possible, especially from a reportedly liberal Chumung County judge who would render the decision in a non-jury trial, she didn't want to believe it.

"I just pushed it out of my mind," Kristen said. "I just thought the evidence was there."

And according to Ed Minardo, director of Genesee Justice, who sat with Kristen through the entire trial, it was.

"How can somebody put poison in a sippy cup and over the next 24 hours watch a baby get sicker and not take him to the hospital and that not be depraved indifference?" said Minardo.

George Engelhardt, Melissa's husband, didn't know what his wife was up to, according to testimony, and Melissa resisted his attempts to get her to take Andrew to the hospital. He didn't know Andrew had been poisoned.

"He was devastated (by the verdict)," Minardo said.

Kristen said her former boyfriend and Andrew's father tried to divorce Melissa after Andrew's death, but couldn't because she was pregnant with the couple's second child.

George Engelhardt doesn't currently have a phone. We've contacted him through Facebook seeking comment.

Judge Peter C. Buckley took more than an hour to read his verdict, meticulously going through his reasoning, while the supporters of Andrew Cianfrini grew increasingly fearful as Buckley's line thinking started to become clear.

"It got to the point where it was just like, 'Get it over with and let us get out of here,'" Minardo said. "It was tortuous."

Minardo said Buckley skipped right past evidence that 24-year-old Englehardt had discussed with friends how to poison a toddler, and that she had researched through Google how to poison a baby.

According to Minardo, the judge said that Engelhardt was unable to comprehend the articles she found online because she only has a GED-level education.

Minardo said Buckley put a lot of stock in the fact that Engelhardt had read that convulsions would proceed death in a methanol poisoning, ignoring statements in the same article that death is likely if a person ingests methanol.

"He used the evidence he wanted to support the conclusion he wanted to arrive at," Minardo said.

Engelhardt's whole idea of poisoning Andrew started with the thought, according to Minardo, that she could some how pin it on Kristen. Even if Andrew didn't die, she could get Kristen labeled an unfit and neglectful parent. Then George and Melissa could gain sole custody, and George would no longer be required to pay child support.

If the Elmira resident had been convicted of murder, she could have been locked away for more than 25 years, possibility for life. With a manslaughter conviction, the sentence range is five to 25 years.

"Andrew's not coming back," said his grandmother, Jean Cianfrini. "There is no justice, no matter how long she gets. But if she only gets give years, I don't think this family can handle it."

Minardo is hoping many people from Genesee County write letters to the Chumung County Probation Department asking that Melissa Engelhardt receive a long, if not the maximum sentence. The department is preparing the required report that Buckley will review prior to sentencing.

Minardo said the community could make a difference.

"The fact that he did not find her guilty of murder second doesn't mean he needs to be lenient in the sentence Melissa gets," Minardo said.

A long prison sentence, Kristen said, would help restore some of her damaged faith in the criminal justice system.

Engelhardt is scheduled for sentencing at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 6, in Elmira.

Letters for presentencing review can be sent to: 

Brian Dupont
Re: People v. Melissa Engelhardt
Chumung County Probation Department
203 Williams St.
Elmira, NY 14091

Photo: Jean Cianfrini, left, Kristen Cianfrini and Ed Minardo.

Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 9:33 am

Batavia's newest diner set to open on Monday

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Ellicott Street Road, Fedora Diner


It's been a lot of work, but Fedora Diner, at 4974 Ellicott St. Road, Batavia (the former Beehive location) is finally ready to open, according to owner Alice Buckel.

The diner will open Monday, but it's just a soft opening for the first few days. The diner will offer only baked goods and coffee. A full hot-breakfast menu will be served once any kinks in operations get ironed out.

Friday, November 12, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Accident with injuries reported in Alabama

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, Alabama

A two car accident with injuries is reported in the area of 7415 Reuben Road, Alabama.

Alabama Fire and Mercy EMS being dispatched.

UPDATE 10:14 p.m.: A second ambulance is requested to the scene.

Friday, November 12, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Local Dem arrested after Republican legislator accuses him of harassing phone call

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Chris Charvella, crime, Jerome Grasso, politics

County Legislator Jay Grasso says he felt threatened by online postings, and one phone call, from a member of the County Democratic Committee and so he called State Police.

file_chris_charvella.jpgYesterday, 30-year-old Chris Charvella -- a former candidate for the legislature himself and a frequent contributor to The Batavian -- was arrested and charged with aggravated harassment, 2nd, a misdemeanor.

Today, Grasso said that he felt Charvella had gone too far with some of his postings, but when Jay got a call from his wife, who said she felt fearful after a phone call from Charvella, he couldn't just laugh it off.

"I don't view it as a joke once you call my wife and upset my wife," Grasso said. "When you call my house and threaten my wife, that's going too far in local politics."

The complaint against Charvella reads:

On the aforementioned date, time and place, said defendant did contact the residence of Jerome J. Grasso by leaving a message. The message stated "Hey, Jerome, it's Chris Charvella, thanks for reading my blog."

The complaint is signed by Jay Grasso.

The alleged message is the same one Charvella said he left in a blog item about troopers showing up at his house that he posted on his own website yesterday at 7:55 a.m., more than 24 hours before his arrest.

Today, Charvella, who lost a legislative race to Republican Hollis Upson in 2009, made a two-sentence statement to The Batavian: "You can decide whether or not there is something illegal in there. I obviously don't think so."

The genesis of this particular dispute goes back to just a few days before the Nov. 2 election. Charvella wrote in a blog post that he had shown up to work that morning and found a lawn sign for Republican Mike Ranzenhofer's campaign on his employer's property. He speculated that Grasso had left the sign, giving him the alias, "Sharome Glasshole."

Charvella concluded his post thusly:

"So, to the Genesee County 'sign guy' and the Ranzenhofer campaign: The next time I see an unauthorized sign go up in front of a commercial property, I'm going to harvest the damn thing, march straight down to Republican headquarters and cram it up the first ass I see."

The next day, according to another blog post by Charvella, a Ranzenhofer sign was left in his front yard with a message, "Courtesy of Sharome Glasshole."

It was that message, according to Charvella, that prompted the phone message on Glasso's home phone.

In that post, Charvella raised a number of allegations about Grasso, accusing him of not having a job to pay his bills, having a house go into foreclosure and assaulting a subject while a Sheriff's deputy.

Those are allegations Grasso has heard before and he said today that he can prove he was the victim of identify theft and he is fully prepared for local Democrats to try and use those allegations against him.

Charvella's post concludes with a picture of an Ewok (of "Star Wars" movie fame) and the caption "Prepare Your Anus."

That was a remark that Grasso said he found threatening, adding that the alleged threats have no place in local politics.

"This is local," Grasso said. "We all know each other. We don't need this partisanship. Hopefully, (this case) will cause people to reflect and step back from the politics of destruction."

Photo: File photo of Charvella.

Friday, November 12, 2010 at 8:47 am

Police Beat: Alleged domestic incident outside Days Inn leads to arrest

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime

Robert J. Probst, 30, of 301 Oak St., Batavia, is charged with coercion, 2nd, and obstructing government administration, 2nd. Probst was reportedly involved in a domestic incident at Days Inn at 4:48 p.m., Wednesday. During the incident, a victim reportedly locked him or herself in a car. Probst allegedly displayed a knife and threatened to damage the car if it was not unlocked. When police responded, Probst allegedly fled on foot and was caught minutes later (perhaps in the area of Bob Evans restaurant). Probst was jailed on $2,500 bail.

Joshua A. Harris, 21, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Harris was allegedly on the property of a protected person. Police located Harris a short distance away and took him into custody. Harris was also wanted on a warrant out of Batavia City Court for a previous alleged incident of criminal contempt. He was jailed on $1,500 bail.

Friday, November 12, 2010 at 8:39 am

E-mail: A message for Batavia from a Vietnam Vet

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, veterans

We just received this e-mail that I thought worth sharing:

I kept it to myself for many years that I was a Vietnam Veteran. When I went to 2 Pow Wow's with my Native American girlfriend last year in Florida, as we are snowbirds, I was delighted to be a veteran, as the Native Americans really treat the veterans with great respect.

On Thursday 11, Nov. 2010, I took my turn standing guard at the monument in Batavia. Never in my life did I expect the glory I received that day. It really made me proud to be a veteran again. People I never met came up to me with coffee, water, and snacks. The people that waved to me in cars, trucks, and semis overwhelmed me.

Then people would roll down their windows to thank me for being a Vietnam Vet. I know people have said this many times, that we did not get the welcome home we deserved due to our country being divided in turmoil. I now know what great meaning it is to be a veteran of the United States.

Being in such a great mood while eating supper in The Vets Club in Brockport, there was this young lad that kept admiring my boonie hat. Well after eating and getting ready to leave, I took off my hat pins and gave that boy my hat. I knew I had to do this in return for all the thanks I received from the Batavia residents. Then when talking to this boy's father and grandmother, I found out he was up here from North Carolina waiting for his grandfather's ashes to be sent up here so they could have a funeral. His grandfather was also a vet.

So now, I do not hang my head in shame for being a Vietnam Veteran, but walk with it high in the air. I bleed with all my fellow vets. If you do not belong to either a VFW, an American Legion, or some sort of vets club, do please come out of your shell and join one now. It is very good therapy as I found out. Again, I want to thank the community of Batavia for the great thank yous and waves you gave me on Thursday 11, November 2010.

Bob Polle
(U.S. Navy Retired)
Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 193

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