Skip to main content

Howard B. Owens's blog

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Fickel Murder still a long way from being solved

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Fickel Murder, Oakfield

mug_steven_rebert.jpg(Revised at 3:49 p.m.)

If the Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster -- who's been the lead investigator on the Bill Fickel murder for five years -- is going to make a case against "person of interest" Steven Patrick Rebert, it seems like he's got a lot of work ahead of him.

"In order to arrest someone, you need probable cause, you need more than a mere suspicion," Brewster said this morning. "Do we have probable cause at this point? Absolutely not."

Yesterday, in an interview with WBTA 1490, Brewster said there are some tantalizing coincidences that make Rebert a person of interest following his arrest on a double homicide charge in Jefferson County, Pa.

"There are some commonalities that would make a prudent person go, 'um, I wonder if this is something there we should be looking at,'" Brewster said.

Those commonalities might include (our own list, not from Chief Brewster):

  • Rebert knew Fickel. They went to the same high school, but it is not known whether they attended it at the same time.
  • The two men lived less than a mile apart in 2005 (Fickel on Burns Road, Rebert on East Shelby Road);
  • Both Fickel and the homicide victims in Pennsylvania -- James and Victoria Shugar -- were shot to death;
  • Pennsylvannia investigators say Rebert was doing computer searchs on the murders of the Shugars, Bill Fickel and Kevin Smith (Smith was killed in 2007 in Orleans County and Rebert is now considered a person of interest in that case as well).
  • Fickel was killed with a 30-30 and Rebert reportedly told investigators in Pennsylvania that the only gun he owned was a 30-30;
  • For the last five years of his life, Fickel worked as a cable installer with Time-Warner; at the time of his arrest, Rebert was a contractor for Zito Media installing fiber optics. There's no information that Rebert ever worked at TW.
  • Both men enjoyed hunting.

Those commonalities are mostly coincidences that certainly don't tie Rebert to the Fickel murder. The two most intriguing coincidences are that Rebert knew Fickel and that Fickel was reportedly doing internet news searches on the Fickel murder.

Knowing somebody, however, isn't a crime, and Rebert could simply have been checking for an update on the death of somebody he knew (though reports indicate Rebert was pretty obessively seeking out news reports on the Shugar murders).

Coincidences, also, don't establish probable cause. There also needs to be evidence.

Such as the DNA found at the scene of the Fickel murder. It's DNA that doesn't match Fickel, and no match has ever been found in the national criminal database.

Pennsylvania State Police will likely obtain a sample of Rebert's DNA, and if it matches the sample Brewster has tagged as evidence, it would likely place Rebert at the scene the night of the murder.

But putting Rebert at the scene, Brewster was quick to point out, doesn't mean Rebert is the killer.

"A match itself is not probable cause," Brewster said. "Just putting you at the scene doesn't mean you where the one who pulled the trigger."

Brewster has long suspected there were two people at 5820 Burns Road when Bill Fickel walked out onto his driveway at 7:55 p.m., Nov. 10, 2005, because a flatbed truck had just arrived and Bill and Lisa thought somebody was there to look at a van they had for sale.

Finding just one of those two people, even if the person identified didn't pull the trigger, would be a big break in the case.

Brewster is naturally reluctant to discuss details of other evidence that might be used in building probable cause, but it's obvious that finding the murder weapon would also be a big break in the case.

Rebert was arrested in Genesee County on June 3 on a weapons charge (he was allegedly carrying a switchblade knife).

Last Friday, Rebert waived extradition back to Pennsylvania, where he was arrested and charged with charged with two counts of criminal homicide, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of burglary.

When he waived extradition, only a mind reader would know if he realized he was going to face murder charges. The waiver affidavit charged him only with manufacturing/delivery/possession of a controlled substance and a small amount of marijuana for personal use, though he had been questioned in the murder investigation on April 25.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 11:56 am

Researcher looking for information on WWII airman from Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, veterans, world war two


Do you know any of the men in this photo? Researcher and historian Teunis Schuurman from the Netherlands is trying to identify all the men, who were aboard a plan believed to have crashed in his hometown during World War II. He believes S/Sgt. Joseph Deffner, from Batavia, is in the front row, but isn't entirely sure which man he is. He's hoping for help in identifying him as well as finding out as much information about him as possible. Teunis can be reached at [email protected].

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 11:48 am

Gillibrand throws support behind federal anti-gang legislation

post by Howard B. Owens in Kirtsen Gillibrand

There are too many gang members in New York, in Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's view, and she wants to do something about it.

Today, Gillibrand announced a sweeping piece of legislation that she's co-sponsoring called the Youth PROMISE Act.

The act will:

... help keep children from joining gangs and fight gang-related crime. The legislation would draw on recommendations from a broad range of community leaders and experts to develop effective policies to prevent children from joining gangs and break up existing gangs.

Specifically, communities facing the greatest youth gang and crime challenges would initiate a coordinated response from law enforcement, court services, schools, social services, health and mental-health providers, and community-service and faith-based organizations.

Gillibrand said there are 50,000 gang members in New York, including 4,000 in WNY.

The specific measures proposed in the legislation:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 10:20 am

Photos published on The Batavian make first cut in statewide contest

post by Howard B. Owens in Darrick Coleman, photos, thebatavian

Two photos that were first published on The Batavian will represent Genesee County in a statewide contest aimed at finding photos that showcase New York's landscapes and landmarks.

The winners of the Genesee County stage of the contest were announced by County Legislature Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock today.

The winners are "Barn Storm - LeRoy, NY" by Le Roy resident Darrick Coleman and "Old Courthouse at Sunset" by Batavia resident Howard Owens.

The Coleman photo is being submitted in the landscape category and the photo from Owens is in the landmark category.

The contest is sponsored by the New York State Association of Counties.

Genesee County received more than two dozen submissions from about 12 photographers.

For more on Coleman, here's a video Philip Anselmo made about him in 2008. For more of Darrick's photography, click here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 7:14 am

Police Beat: Alleged violation of court order leads to arrest, $1k bail

post by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy

Chad E. Heideman, 35, of 10540 Roosevelt Highway, Lyndonville, is charged with criminal contempt. At about 1:40 a.m., Le Roy Police responded to a report that Heideman was at the residence of a woman in Le Roy. There is reportedly a order of protection in place barring Heideman from having contact with that woman. Heideman was jailed on $1,000 bail.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 6:13 am

Committee approves low bid on purchase of rock salt for winter roads

post by Howard B. Owens in County Highways, Public Services Committee

On a hot, humid summer Monday, the Legislature's Public Services Committee spent 15 minutes talking about keeping the snow off of county roads.

It may be June, but now is the time to plan the purchase of salt -- or sodium chloride -- to spread on winter roads.

The committee approved the purchase of rock salt from American Rock Salt out of Hampton Corners for $40.16 a ton, up 40 cents from last year.

American Rock Salt beat out the only other bidder, North American Salt Company, which bid $70.48 per ton.

None of the other four companies that were invited to bid have done so.

County Supervisor Tim Hens said the lack of bids might be due to the fact that the other companies know it will be hard to beat American Rock Salt's bid because ARS is located so close to Genesee County. Or maybe they're anticipating a lot of sales to the northeast and Washington, D.C. after the snow-heavy winter those areas endured last winter.

"We're lucky to be located where we are in terms of salt mines," Hens said.

Because it was a mild winter in Western New York, Hens said the county currently has its salt barn about one-third full, which should cut down on the amount of salt the county must  purchase this year.

The county budgeted $115,000 for rock salt this year.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 5:26 am

The time for regular visits with friends at Dwyer is quickly approaching

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

When you attend a Batavia Muckdogs game at Dwyer Stadium, if you think you're there to watch a baseball game, you've missed at least 65 percent of the reason to be there on a warm summer night.

The main reason to be at Dwyer is the people the stands -- your neighbors, friends and family -- and if you don't know anybody, just start talking, you'll soon make a new friend.

Bill Kauffman writes a lovely tribute to his friend Dennis Bowler for the Front Porch Republic, St. Dennis of the Bleachers.

The home opener for the Muckdogs is Saturday.  I hope to see you there.

Monday, June 14, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Recent court ruling could change arraignment procedures for new arrestees

post by Howard B. Owens in courts, genesee county

What Public Defender Gary Horton calls a "throw off line" in a recent court decision could create a headache for Genesee County.

New York Court of Appeals in May ruled in favor of a defendant on a case and mentioned that one of the problems with the defendant's conviction was that he wasn't given adequate representation at his initial arraignment.

It's common in upstate New York -- including Genesee County -- for defendants arrested in off-hours to be given an initial arraignment without their own attorney in court, even a public defender.

The arraignments are pretty routine -- the defendant learns the charges against him and what his rights are going forward -- but the court ruled, according to Horton, that the arraignment is a critical part of the process and defendants should have legal representation.

Horton said he's concerned that the Office of Court Administration will order that no arraignment should take place without the defendant having an attorney in court.

"I didn’t hire attorneys to be on call and basically you would have to have an attorney on call every night and on weekends," Horton told the County's Public Service Committee on Monday afternoon.

Many of the larger counties, according to Horton, have certified holding cells -- allowing the counties to keep arrestees behind bars until the normal business hours of courts and the public defender's office.

The ruling likely won't effect previous convictions, Horton said, because courts would find that a defendant's case outcome would have changed even if there had been a public defender at the initial arraignment. It would be a "harmless error," according to Horton.

Monday, June 14, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Photos: Flag Day ceremony at American Legion, Batavia

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, American Legion, Flag Day


Jane LaWall, above, attended the flag burning ceremony at the Batavia American Legion this afternoon to honor her late brother George Fry, who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1969. Also participating in the Flag Day ceremony were Ron Konieczny and Paul LaValley, as well as (in pictures below, after the jump), John and Karen Bannister, Jim Neider and Kristen Sikora.

Monday, June 14, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Photos: Leadership Genesee bocce ball tournament at Terry Hills

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Leadership Genesee, terry hills


Leadership Genesee was at Terry Hills today for a golf tournament and a bocce ball tournament. Above Sara Mattingly tosses a bocce ball while competitor Susie Boyce behind her roots against her effort.

Three more pictures after the jump:

Monday, June 14, 2010 at 1:22 pm

General fire alarm at Allens plant in Oakfield

post by Howard B. Owens in Allens Inc., fire, Oakfield

A general fire alarm has sounded at Allens, Inc., the food processing plant on Stevens Street in Oakfield.

The facility was the site of an ammonia leak on Saturday.

The building is being evacuated.

The alarm company tells Genesee dispatch that they don't know what caused the alarm.

An assistant fire chief is on scene. He reports nothing showing. The building is evacuated.

UPDATE 2:24 p.m.: Oakfield Fire has cleared the scene. Back in service.

View Larger Map

Monday, June 14, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Alleged failure to yield right-of-way leads to injury accident in Darien

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, Darien

A passenger was injured in a two-car crash at 7:30 p.m., Sunday in Darien.

One driver was cited for failure to yield right-of-way.

Cited was a 17-year-old from Alden who was reportedly heading north on County Line Road and stopped at the stop sign before allegedly proceeding.

Driving west on Route 20 was Ronald P. Pfeil, 52, of West Seneca. His passenger, 48-year-old Barbara Pfeil, was transported to Erie County Medical Center.

The 17-year-old, nor her 11-year-old passenger, nor Ronald Pfeil were injured.


Monday, June 14, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Police Beat: Elba man accused of possessing unregistered handgun

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, byron, crime, Darien, elba, Stafford

Fernando Casteneda, 47, of Transit Raod, Elba, is charged with criminal possession of a weapon, 4th (unlicensed handgun). Deputy Chris Parker responded to Casteneda's residence at 9:52 a.m., Sunday, following a complaint of an alleged domestic dispute in which it was reported Casteneda had a gun. Casteneda is accused of possessing an unlicensed Hi Point 40 Cal semi-automatic pistol.

Lucus M. Hamlin, 32, of Canaseraga, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Hamlin was charged for allegedly driving drunk in the Darien Lake parking lot at 12:16 a.m., Sunday.

Justin D. McQuillen, 21, of Freeman Road, Byron, is charged with DWI and speeding. McQuillen was stopped at 11:52 p.m., Saturday, on Route 237, Byron, by Deputy Chad Minuto.

Raymond William Schramm, 24, of W. Main St. Road, Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Schramm was charged after a 4-year-old child reportedly entrusted to his care was found wondering on the shoulder of Route 5.

The following individuals were charged with disorderly conduct following an alleged fight at Darien Lakes Theme Park at 9:15 p.m., Sunday: Octavia M. Kimble, 19, of Rochester; a 17-year-old from Rochester; Tara B. Moore, 19, of Rochester; Corey M. Bogdanovitch, 21, of Waterloo; a 17-year-old from Rochester; Katlin C. Baily, 18, of Clyde; Tasia D. Blocker, 20, of Rochester.

Theodore D. Lazik, 27, of 73 River St., Batavia, is charged with DWI, running a red light and unlicensed operation. Lazik was stopped by Officer J.A. Davis at 10:35 p.m., Saturday, at the intersection of Main and Bank streets.

Katrina I. Drake, 20, of 21 Wood St., Batavia, is charged with criminal mischief, 4th. Drake is accused of breaking the window of a neighbor's house on Friday. She was located and arrested on Saturday.

Gregory Seppe, 52, of Batavia (no permanent street address), is charged with attempted petit larceny and criminal trespass, 3rd. Seppe is accused entering the rear fenced yard of a local resident and attempting to steal a portion of the white vinyl fence. Seppe was reportedly observed by the resident. Seppe was jailed on $1,000 bail.

Brittany LeeAnn Ellis, 21, of Mill Street, Nunda, was arrested on a bench warrant for petit larceny. Ellis was turned over to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office by the Livingston County Sheriff's Office.

A 17-year-old is charged with petit larceny and illegal entry into the country. The youth was allegedly caught concealing two bottles of cologne in his pants pocket. He allegedly left the Kmart store without paying for the cologne. After receiving an appearance ticket for the alleged petit larceny, he was turned over to ICE on the immigration charge.

A 16-year-old from Albion is charged with petit larceny for alleged shoplifting from Kmart.

Steven L. Maltese, 41, of Rochester, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Maltese was stopped by State Police at 12:05 a.m., Saturday, on Center Street, Batavia.

Monday, June 14, 2010 at 11:15 am

DWI charge made following accident that led to car fire

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident, Stafford

An accident on Prole Road, Stafford, early Sunday morning led to a vehicle fire and an arrest for the 21-year-old driver on a charge of alleged DWI.

Adam B. Thomas, of 191 S. Main St., Batavia, was headed North on Prole at 5:33 a.m. when his 1999 Dodge sedan reportedly left the road, hit a rock pile and then a group of trees before catching on fire.

Thomas allegedly fled the scene and was located later.

The accident was investigated by Deputy Tim Weis, who charged Adams with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, leaving the scene of an accident, unlicensed operation, no seat belt, driving on a suspended license and speeding.

Monday, June 14, 2010 at 11:02 am

Driver charged under 'Leandra's Law' following accident in Darien

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, Darien, Leandra's Law

A 23-year-old woman from Alden was charged with DWI and a felony under "Leandra's Law" after reportedly being involved in a two-car accident in Darien on Thursday evening.

Haley A. Heidebreicht, of Seabrook Drive, Alden, allegedly had a BAC of .08 or greater. And she allegedly had a 5-month-old girl in the 2000 Dodge SUV she was driving.

Heidebreicht was driving westbound on Sumner Road when another driver reportedly failed to yield at the intersection with Colby Road.

Three people were hurt in the accident, including the 5-month-old, who was transported to Children's Hospital by ground ambulance. The driver and passenger in the other vehicle also suffered minor injuries and were taken to UMMC.

The other driver, Margaret M. Bliemeister, 46, of Townline Road, Alden, was issued a citation.

Her passenger was 16-year-old Edwin T. Bliemeister, also of Alden.


Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 10:40 am

Double homicide suspect in PA labeled 'person of interest' in Fickel murder

post by Howard B. Owens in Fickel Murder, Steven Rebert


(Updated version at 1:25 p.m.)

A man suspected of killing two people in Brockway, Pa., has been identified by Sheriff Gary Maha as a "person of interest" in the Nov. 10, 2005 slaying of Oakfield resident Bill Fickel.

The Fickel murder has gone unsolved for five years.

Steven Patrick Rebert, 45, 422 N. Broad St., Emporium, Pa. knew Fickel, according to Maha. At one time, Rebert was a resident of East Shelby Road, Oakfield.

The Sheriff's Office arrested Rebert June 3 in the Town of Alabama on a criminal possession of a weapon charge. He was allegedly carrying a switchblade knife.

Rebert was reportedly in Genesee County visiting relatives at the time.

A Pennsylvania radio station reported that Rebert was in New York when arrested for the alleged double homicide in Brockway. It's unclear if that would have been the June 3 arrest or a subsequent arrest.

The murder of Wayne and Vicky Shugar of Brockway occurred April 12. Vicky Shugar was a flower shop owner and Rebert reportedly came to know the couple while involved with an employee of the store. Pennsylvannia police say they have not identified a motive for the killings. For more on the Shugar murders, click here.

Media reports are also tying Rebert to the unsolved murder of Kevin Smith in Orleans County.

Bill Fickel, who was 46 at the time of his death, was shot and killed outside his home on Burns Road, Oakfield. No suspect has ever been previously identified.

A possible one-time residence of Rebert, on East Shelby Road, is not far from the murder scene. The two roads intersect (see map below).

There may have been evidence found in Rebert's home that has led law enforcement to consider him a suspect in the unsolved murders in Genesee and Orleans counties.

DNA evidence has reportedly tied Rebert to the Shugar murders. DNA from Wayne Shugar was reportedly found on one of Rebert's work boots. The Shugars were found shot to death in the basement of their home. There are also reports that Rebert had previously been seen in the area of the Shugar's home as much as a month before the murder.

There is also DNA evidence in the Fickel murder. Three days ago, Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster told The Batavian that the Sheriff's Office is continually looking for a DNA match.

Asked about a possible suspect being identified, Brewster would say only that  recent leads "take us in a direction we want to go."

Lisa Fickel, who is not available for comment this morning, also said she was "hopeful" about recent developments in the case.


View Larger Map

Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 8:30 am

Truck stuck on Route 5, Corfu, blocking traffic

post by Howard B. Owens in accident, corfu

A truck attempting to turn around on Route 5 in Corfu has become stuck and is now blocking both lanes of traffic.

The cab of the truck apparently became stuck in the yard of 540 Main Road.  The trailer is in the roadway.

Law enforcement is responding.

View Larger Map

Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Ammonia leak in Oakfield interrupts garage sale day

post by Howard B. Owens in Allens Inc., Oakfield


Officials have yet to determine what caused an ammonia leak this afternoon at the Allens, Inc., food processing plant on Stevens Street in Oakfield.

The leak prompted a call for residents to evacuate the south side of the village, including the baseball fields and park off Drake, which was filled with families and children on a warm, reasonably sunny Saturday.

Oakfield's big garage sale day was interrupted by the emergency, but some sellers tried to carry on even as fire police were keeping anyone from entering the cordoned area.

“Oakfield fire company responded very quickly," said Allen's plant manager Jeff Clark. "Genesee County (hazmat) came in. We were able to work together with their people and my people being able to go in, discover the (origin) and shut off the values to stop the leak."

The initial call came in at about 12:30 p.m. The leak was contained at about 2:30 p.m. (The Batavian's initial report is available here.)

Visibility in the room with the leak and the heat of the day made it especially challenging to get to the proper valve and shut off the ammonia, officials said.

amleak06.jpgOne firefighter suffered heat exhaustion and was transported by ground ambulance to an area hospital. He was doing fine an hour or so later, according to Oakfield Chief Sean Downing.

Clark said no Allens personnel were in the machine room when the leak occurred and no Allens personnel were hurt.

"We have hazmat drills several times per year," Clark said, explaining that employees know exactly the process for evacuating the plant when an alarm sounds.

The heat, one official said, causes the ammonia to stay close to the ground, making it more of a health hazard, and also making it more likely to settle in the basin where the community ball fields are located.

The wind, which was blowing at 15 to 20 mph, Downing said, spread the plume further than it might otherwise move, but also helped dissipate the gas more quickly.

Residents within a half-mile radius of the plant were notified of the leak using the county's reverse 9-1-1 system. They were advised to stay inside and close their windows.

The biggest concern, Downing said, was people with respiratory problems being exposed to the fumes. No medical issues were reported in the village related to the leak.

Emergency personnel were called in from Alabama, East Pembroke and Elba fire departments. The Monroe County hazmat team was dispatched to the scene to provide relief to the local hazmat teams. Shortly after the Monroe County team arrived, the leak was contained, so the team was sent into the village to test the air quality.

amleak05.jpgNo heavy concentrations were found after the leak was contained, said Deputy Fire Coordinator James Bouton.

Ammonia is used at the plant in the refrigeration system.

“It’s part of our system to freeze the vegetables that are harvested locally," Clark said.

The system contains 38,000 lbs. of ammonia, Clark said, but not the entire system was effected by the leak. He could not say today how many pounds of ammonia escaped the plant.

The plant operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day. More than 200 people are employed there during peak season, and 65 employees were working today's day shift.

Allens, Inc., is based in Siloam Springs, Ark.

Allens acquired the Oakfield plant from Birdseye about three years ago, Clark said.

About four years ago, the plant had another ammonia leak. In that case, Clark said, a pressure valve gave way and the leak was contained in about 15 minutes.

Clark said he couldn't immediately estimate the financial loss to the company from the leak. He said all of the vegetables exposed to the ammonia will be thrown out.

Top inset: Jeff Clark; Bottom inset: Chief Sean Downing



Premium Drupal Themes