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Howard B. Owens's blog

Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 9:09 am

Police Beat: Driver accused of driving under influence of drugs and alcohol

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Alabama, crime, Pavilion

Joseph S. Martaus, 26, of 14 Overlook Drive, Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving under the influence of drugs, controlled substance not in original container, possession of a hypodermic instrument, disobeying pavement markings. At 6:48 p.m., Wednesday,  Batavia Police responded to a report of an individual who appeared either drunk or ill getting behind the wheel of a car. The caller provided the license plate number of the car and a vehicle description. The vehicle was located and stopped on Ellicott Street. Martaus was allegedly unable to pass a field sobriety test. An officer who is an expert in recognizing the influence of drugs responded to the scene and determined Martaus was allegedly also driving under the influence of drugs. He was jailed on $500 bail. Officers Mark Lawrence, Eric Hill and Jason Davis were involved in the arrest.

Daniel D. Reese, 55, of 97 Abbott St., Rochester, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .18 or greater, and following too close. Reese was reportedly involved in a rear-end accident in the area of 210 E. Main St., Batavia, at 4:51 p.m., Wednesday. Officer Chris Camp conducted a field sobriety test and found Reese was allegedly driving drunk. Reese was booked and released on an appearance ticket.

Christopher Lawrence Bauld, 21, of Kinmont Drive, Rochester, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, no front license plate. Bauld was stopped at 8:22 p.m., Wednesday, on Route 77 in Alabama by Deputy James Diehl for allegedly having no front license plate.

Kelsey Anne Sanders, 23, of E. Main Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Sanders is accused of shoplifting from Kmart.

Louis Alfredo Mercado, 22, of Bank Street, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Mercado is accused of shoplifting from Kmart.

Jacob John McCowen, 26, of Oak Street, Warsaw, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. McCowen is accused of visiting the residence of, and calling a person in Pavilion whom he'd been ordered not to contact.

Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 7:57 am

Buffalo station covers ducks on Oak Street

post by Howard B. Owens in Oak Street

WIVB sent a reporter to 172 Oak Street yesterday to talk with Ron Graziaplena and his neighbors about his ducks and all the stuff in his front yard.

Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 7:44 am

Electrical wire down on South Swan

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


A wire is reported down and arcing in the area of 229 South Swan St., Batavia.

City Fire is on scene.

National Grid has been notified.

UPDATE 8:54 a.m.: A fire captain requests that National Grid expedite its response because "we have a tree on fire here." National Grid ETA is five minutes.

UPDATE 8:59 a.m.: National Grid is heading down to Ellicott Street to cut the power.

UPDATE 9:15 a.m.: National Grid reports more than 600 customers are without power in the area around South Swan.

UPDATE 9:28 a.m.: Fire is out. Engine 12 returning to quarters. National Grid still on scene.

UPDATE 9:38 a.m.: National Grid now estimates 320 customers are without power.

UPDATE 10:21 a.m.: 113 customers now without power.

UPDATE  11:34 a.m.: Guess I should have gone out to this one for some pictures. It sounds like it was far more interesting than came across on the scanner. The tree was burned pretty good. The pavement literally melted clear through under the wire. Water evaporated as soon as it hit the spot, I'm told. The cause of the downed line? Unknown. Possibly a limb fell on it.  It was a very old line.

UPDATE: Photo submitted by Laura Mullen.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 7:40 am

More Buffalo coverage of Latina's gulls

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Latina's

WRGZ out of Buffalo broadcast a story about the gulls at Latina's.

UPDATE: The Democrat and Chronicle has also posted a story.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Photos: North Elba - wheat, thistle and an old canal

post by Howard B. Owens in elba, photos


Billie went with me on a photo expedition this evening. We went looking for a barn somebody said I should photograph. We didn't find it, but in looking, we saw some interesting things.

Part of what interested me in the trip was the other day I noticed Muck Road on Google Maps, and it looked like it ran along a canal. That seemed like worth exploring. There is a canal there, and Muck Road is appropriately unpaved. We did drive down three miles of it, though.



This portion of the canel, along Spoil Bank Road, may actually be in Orleans County.


This portion is back in Genesee County, by Route 98. On the other end of this section, we saw fish jumping. We stopped and talked to a guy out walking his dog who told us there are some pretty good size carp in the old canal.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Three arrests, seven citations at Vans Warp Tour concert, Darien Lake

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Darien, darien lake

The following people were arrested in conjunction with the Vans Warped Tour concert at Darien Lake.

Michael P. Radecke, 18, of Raintree Court, Williamsville, is charged with trespassing. He is accused of entering the concert venue after being ejected and told not to return. He was jailed on $250 bail.

Wellsley G. Radecke, 20, of Raintree Court, Williamsville, is charged with trespassing. He is accused of entering the concert venue after being ejected and told not to return.

Cole M. Pilkey, 25, of Landings Court, Amherst, is charged with harassment, 2nd, after allegedly striking a security officer in the face. 

The following people were issued tickets for allegedly possessing alcohol under age 21.

Heather A. Heverly, 19, of Friendship
A 17-year-old from Angelica
A 16-year-old from Orchard Park
Ed Anthony W. Antalik, 20, of Greengage Circle, East Amherst
Paschal J. Abbarno, III, 20, of Smith Road, East Amherst
Daniel Q. Newman, 18, of Greengage Circle, East Amherst
Thomas B. Cohen, 20, of Glen Oak Drive, East Amherst

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Photo Essay: An alleged DWI arrest

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident, crime, photos


After this afternoon's minor accident on East Main Street, I was tipped to stick around  -- there might be a field sobriety test about to take place. So I did.

The test was administered by Officer Chris Camp. The name of the subject is not yet available.

It begins, above, with a pat search of the subject. ...


Instruction, walk a straight line touching ...


... heel-to-toe ...

More pictures after the jump:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 11:41 am

Unsolved, Part 3: A pair of cases out of the 'cold' file

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Jerome Brewster, unsolved murders


It's as if somebody is whispering in his ear, "you're getting warmer."

Of all four mysterious death files on his desk, the murders of Kisha Sullivan and Bill Fickel are the ones Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster is least likely to call cold cases.

While arrests may not be imminent, Brewster has a "person of interest" in each case.

Now, it's just a matter of putting the pieces in place that will lead to indictments.

As Brewster is fond of saying, "Mere suspicion isn’t enough and if that’s all you’ve got, you really don’t have anything."

Kisha Sullivan's body was found at least two weeks after she was bludgeoned to death in a wooded area of Gulf Road, Le Roy.

Nobody had reported the deaf young mother missing, even though she had a boyfriend, whom she wasn't living with at the time.

After extensive interviews in the Rochester area, where the 27-year-old lived, Brewster said investigators concluded that everybody who knew her liked her and the only person she ever had cross words with was her boyfriend.

Early on, he was a logical suspect.

"He came up with an alibi but we were never really satisfied that he wasn’t involved," Brewster said. "But through our investigation, we concluded there was really a strong possibility that he was telling us the the truth and he wasn’t involved."

Sullivan's body was found Oct. 27, 2002. Her last known location while she was alive was at an ATM machine at a convenience store in Rochester on Oct. 5.

Her body decomposition, Brewster said, was consistent with somebody who had been dead in those weather conditions for that period of time.

The wooded area where she was found is owned by the Dolomite Group. It was a Dolomite supervisor, who was giving a tour of a new logging operation on the property to a friend, who found Sullivan's body.

It was clear from the scene, Brewster said, that Sullivan tried to flee from her attacker, but that she was killed in that wooded area.

She wasn't sexually assaulted.

Nobody saw her get in a car, nor was she seen with another person prior to her disappearance.

Investigators were unable to find anybody in Le Roy or Bergen with any connection to the St. Mary's High School graduate.

As for DNA evidence, Brewster said he recently learned from the criminal lab that, with recent advances in the DNA technology, he should resubmit DNA samples. In the first go around, no DNA that might be tied to a suspect could be found. With the new technology, Brewster suggested, maybe something might turn up.

The only thing Brewster revealed about the person he thinks killed Sullivan is that it is somebody she knew prior to her death.

"The one thing I can tell you, I’m fairly confident that we know who is responsible for her death," Brewster said, "but I guess you can read between the lines that I don’t have enough to make a charge yet."

unsolvedmurders_inset2.jpgOn Brewster's book shelf is a very thick, full binder. On its spine: Fickel Homicide. You can't miss it when you walk into Brewster's office. It draws your eye faster than the stunning photograph of a lone tree in the midst of an expansive landscape on one wall, or the beautifully carved birdhouse atop his credenza.

Brewster has amassed more than 500 leads in the Fickel case, and more than 300 of them are filed in the Fickel Homicide binder.

But the most important lead of all may have come in mid-June when Steven Rebert, a former Oakfield resident, was arrested as a suspect in a double murder in Pennsylvania.

State Police in that case reported finding evidence on his computer that indicated he had more than a passing interest in the death of Fickel and the unsolved murder of Kevin Smith in Orleans County.

All four people were shot to death.

Bill Fickel was killed outside his home in November, 2005, less than mile from where Rebert lived at the time. The two men knew each other.

In the Fickel murder, there was DNA found at the scene. It could be the DNA of the killer or the DNA of an associate, but Brewster has spent years looking for a match, because a match could crack the case.

Of all the mysterious deaths in Genesee County in the past 30 or 40 years, the murder of Bill Fickel has gotten the most attention. Fickel was well known and well liked, and he was gunned down in front of his own home with his wife inside -- for no apparent reason.

Since the arrest of Rebert, Brerwster said he's been working the case daily. There have been steps forward, and steps backward.

"You have to be able to roll with the punches," Brewster said. "Some days are good, and some days are bad."

But, he said, "I'm optimistic on that case, and that's probably all I'm going to tell you."


For audio versions of these stories, tune into WBTA today, Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 11:22 am

City firefighters dress in pink to help fight cancer

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, charity, City Fire


You may seen firefighters around town in pink T-shirts over the next week or so. It's not the new team color. After the wife of a firefighter was diagnosed with breast cancer, the entire department agreed to start wearing pink T-shirts as a sign of support. It's also turned into a fundraiser.

Members of the department will be at Thursday's Batavia Muckdog's game selling pink T-shirts with the Batavia City Fire Department logo on the front for $10 each. The proceeds will benefit Genesee Caner Assistance.

Pictured from left are, Rich Stefani, Mike Morris, Jeff Stevens, Bill Hilchey and Frank D'Angelo.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 10:45 am

Photos: Lacrosse clinic aimed at developing more local talent

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, lacrosse, sports


More than two dozen second- through sixth-graders are participating in a five-week long lacrosse clinic at John Kennedy School under the guidance of Joe Husser, a program assistant for lacrosse at Batavia High School.

Husser explained that while many schools in the Rochester area start developing players as young as 5, Batavia players have traditionally not started learning the game until middle school.

Lacrosse was invented by Native Americans and has huge regional appeal in some parts of the country, such as Upstate New York, but has yet to gain a national following.  Interestingly, the Iroquois are being barred by the United States from playing in the world championships in London because for the first time the State Department isn't recognizing the Iroquois passport.


More pictures after the jump:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 10:08 am

Police Beat: Alleged road-rage incident in Bergen leads to arrest

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

Charles Anthony Piazza, 52, of Cherry Laurel Circle, Webster, is charged with harassment, 2nd. Piazza is accused of punching another driver three times in the face during a road-rage incident in the area of 6168 Route 19, Bergen, at 11:34 a.m., Monday.

Matthew Scott Williams, 22, of Hundredmark Road, Elba, was arrested on a bench warrant out of Town of Elba Court. He was jailed on $3,000 bail.

Alanna Marie Whelan, 20, of 25 Bacon St., Apt. A, Le Roy, is charged with unlawful dealing with a child, 1st. Sgt. Micaheal Hare responded to a noise complaint at Whelan's apartment at 1:15 a.m. and allegedly found that she served alcohol to two individuals under 21.

Kristopher Jon Ayers, 25, of Spring Street, Caledonia, is charged with criminal possession of a weapon, 3rd, and criminal possession of a controlled substance, 4th. Ayers was stopped in the Village of Le Roy by Deputy Joseph Graff in relation to an  arrest warrant on a misdemeanor charge of harassment, 2nd. Ayers was allegedly found in possession of five sets of brass knuckles and a quantity of hashish.

Luke W. Ritzenthaler, 27, and Amy L. Ritzenthaler, 26, both of Batavia, were both charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. They were stopped by State Police on Route 33 in Batavia at 5:34 p.m., July 4. No further details were released.

Floyd B. Eldridge, 53, of Pavilion, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Eldridge was cited by State Police at 7845 Broadway Road, Pavilion, at 3:52 p.m., June 24.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 2:26 pm

County Board of Health gives Latina's gulls a clean bill of health

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, downtown, health department, Latina's

BATAVIA, NY -- The gulls roosting atop Latina's may be noisy, stinky and prone to poop on anything and everything, but they are not a public health hazard, according to the County Board of Health.

latinas_condemned02.jpgBoard President Mary J. McJury notified BID Director Don Burkel of the board's finding in a July 7 letter.

"Although the Board of Health empathizes with the current situation, it was the board's determination, following careful review of the investigation, that this situation does not constitute a public health nuisance."

The Latina's building was condemned last week by the city for allegedly unsanitary conditions.

LKLWL Properties, the building's owner, has been summoned to City Court on July 23 to answer a complaint by the city that the company has failed to deal with unsanitary conditions on the property.

In her letter, McJury notes that the Herring Gulls are attracted to the Latina's roof because it is flat, warm and protected from harassment and predation.

"It is a short flight for them to feeding opportunities in the agricultural land surrounding the city," she wrote. "They are omnivores and eat anything from garbage to berries."

She said the actual issue with the property appears "to be property maintenance and aesthetic in nature."

She notes that the New York Department of Health issued a report finding no negative human health issues associated with Herring Gull populations.

Also, to date, there have been no reports of illnesses related to Batavia's gull infestation.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 11:53 am

Dispute over ducks, other complaints, has Oak Street man headed to court

post by Howard B. Owens in animals, batavia, code enforcement, Oak Street


There's more than a property line that separate Ron Graziaplena and Cheryl Collins. There's 30 years of neighbor disputes, and now that Collins wants to sell her property and move away, she's even more concerned about what Graziaplena does outside his house.

Graziaplena, a former truck driver, builds things in his front yard, has a row of tomato boxes along his driveway, a boat parked on the grass of the north side of his house, and he's keeping 18 mallard ducks in his back yard.

"My home is assessed at $80,000," Collins said. "The last real estate agent I had over said I probably couldn't get $50,000 for it."

The dispute will land Graziaplena in City Court on July 23. He is accused by city inspectors of keeping his yard full of debris, trash and junk, and of keeping the ducks in unsanitary conditions.

On April 26, 2001, Graziaplena was granted a variance to keep 10 water fowl on his property. He is allegedly in violation of the variance. The city says he has 19 ducks. Graziaplena says he has 18.

The variance, reportedly, also doesn't allow mallards.

Graziaplena said he's kept dozens of different varieties of ducks over the years, and that he wasn't aware the variance allowed only certain breeds of ducks, and besides, what's the difference?

"They’re pets," Graziaplena said. "People have dogs and cats. I have ducks. I ‘ve always been fond of ducks and geese -- waterfowl."

He said he got his first duck when he was 2 years old (his parents moved into 172 Oak St. when he was a year old), and he's pretty much kept ducks ever since -- for 59 years, most of the time living in the same house.

He moved back into his parent's house about 25 years ago, he said, and it's been for close to that long, by his version, that Collins has been complaining about "anything and everything" around his home.

"It's been no picnic living next door to that man," Collins said.

The real trouble started, Graziaplena said, when he let go a young woman that was working for him, helping him with his projects and the care of his ducks.

The woman had become friends with Collins, and Graziaplena accuses Collins of retaliation for letting her go.

"There’s a lot of work around here that needs to be done by a guy, and I’m disabled, so I needed to hire a guy," Graziaplena said.

Collins said the girl wasn't fired, she quit. She couldn't stand, according to Collins, the unsanitary conditions the ducks lived in.

Graziaplena disputes that the ducks are kept in an unhealthy environment. Their water pond is cleaned regularly and they get fresh water daily, he said. It's heated in the winter, they have shelter and plenty of food.

As for the limit on ducks, Graziaplena notes that ducks breed. They lay eggs and produce ducklings. When the young ducks have enough feathers to fly, Graziaplena said, he releases them at a swamp owned by a cousin. He only keeps the 10 adult ducks, otherwise.

The young ducks are usually released in the last week of July.

As for Collins, she said she's about done with the situation.

"I’m ready to walk away from it all," Collins said.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 11:00 am

Unsolved, Part 2: Separate drowning cases continue to bedevil investigator

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Jerome Brewster

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

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 10:50 am

Alleged fugitive caught after leaving backpack at Walmart

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime


A man wanted from San Francisco to Ithaca was taken into custody in Batavia on Friday after he reportedly left a backpack allegedly containing drugs and stolen items in Walmart.

The backpack was turned over by Walmart security to Deputy Tim Wescott, who located Thomas E. Dodson, 24, of Rochester, at the 48 Deli Express on Park Road.

After searching the backpack, Wescott reported finding drugs, drug paraphernalia, a  stolen credit card, a stolen wallet and several stolen prescriptions.

Upon checking Dodson's identity, Wescott reportedly learned that Dodson had outstanding warrants in San Francisco, Rochester and Ithaca.

Dodson was charged with being a fugitive from justice, criminal possession of stolen property, 4th, criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, criminally using drug paraphernalia, 2nd, criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument, three counts of criminal possession of stolen property, 5th, and criminal impersonation, 2nd.

He was ordered held without bail.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 10:01 am

Muckdogs win 15th-inning shootout

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

After pushing a 2-2 tie into the 15th inning last night, Batavia and Staten Island lit up the scoreboard with seven runs in the decisive inning.

Fortunately for the Muckdogs, the balance of the runs tipped their way, giving them their 11th victory of the season, against 13 losses.

The 6-5 victory was powered by first basemen Victor Sanchez. The San Diego State University product hit a three-run blast in the 15th for his first home run of the season.

Yunier Castillo added what proved to be a much needed insurance run with a single later in the frame, driving in Adam Melker.

Relief pitcher and Riverside, Calif., native LaCurtis Mayes, in his third season with the Muckdogs, got the win. He's now 2-1.

Colin Walsh, playing second base, picked up three hits, as did third baseman Jonathan Rodriguez. Right Fielder Melker also had three hits, and Sanchez had two.

The Muckdogs return to Dwyer Stadium tonight to begin a six-game home stand, starting with a three-game series against the Red Sox farm club from Lowell, following by three games against longtime NY-Penn League rival Jamestown.

Wednesday is Volunteer Firefighters' Night. There will be fireworks after Friday's game. Saturday features a sun-visor giveaway, a community sleepover and music by Papa and Mama Root.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 9:35 am

Three-car accident with injuries reported on College View Drive

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident

A three-car accident with injuries has been reported in the area of 9 College View Drive, Batavia.

Town of Batavia Fire and Mercy EMS are being dispatched.

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