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Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Thieves steal hundreds of bronze markers from the graves of veterans in Byron-Bergen area

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, byron, crime, veterans

The way Jim Neider sees it, stealing markers from the graves of men and women who served their country through military service is "as low as you can go."

Neider was reacting to news that more than 400 bronze markers -- perhaps many more -- have been stolen from the graves in at least a half-dozen cemeteries in the Byron-Bergen area.

The case is being investigated by both the State Police and the Sheriff's Office.

The markers are placed by families and veterans service organizations and, in many cases, were pushed into the turf beside the headstone of a veteran decades ago.

The markers are designed as flag holders and include a bronze medallion designating a veterans group, such as the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars. The medallion typically weighs about a pound and the current replacement value is $32 each.

"They're very expensive," said Nieder, a local veterans leader. "I do discourage people now from getting them because they do have a tendency to walk."

Nieder said since the 1990s, veterans and families have been more likely to buy aluminum markers, which have no scrap metal value to speak of, or less commonly, plastic.

Whoever is involved in the theft of the markers is facing a charge of grand larceny, said Trooper Victor Morales, public information officer for Troop A.

Nieder pointed out that there is a law now on the books that covers both the sale and purchase of markers used on the graves of veterans. Section 450-A of the state's general business law says "it shall be unlawful for any person, firm, association or corporation to engage in the buying or selling of metal cemetery markers and flag holders bearing the insignia of any veterans' organization placed upon the graves of veterans."

Each violation of the law is punishable by a $500 fine or 15 days in jail or both.

Morales said the State Police are investigating the left of markers in four cemeteries in the Byron-Bergen area. More than 400 markers were stolen from these cemeteries. The Sheriff's Office is investigating thefts from other cemeteries, but Morales didn't know how many other cemeteries or how many additional markers were stolen from those locations.

We've been unable to contact the investigator with the Sheriff's Office handling the case.

The disappearance of the flag holders was discovered over the weekend. It's unknown when they might have been taken.

When asked for his reaction to the thefts, Neider said his first thought wouldn't be publishable. He said this isn't like stealing something from somebody's front lawn. The thieves are going into graveyards and stealing from those who unselfishly served and are dead and buried and unable to defend themselves. 

"It's the ultimate slap in the face to these veterans and their families," Neider said. "They earned these markers by their service. It's akin to the problem in Batavia earlier this summer of people going in and desecrating headstones. It's almost beyond that because these markers are earned by these veterans, and it's a cemetary for crying out loud. ... It's pretty low. As low as you can go."

Anyone with knowledge of the whereabouts of these items, or, who may have information on the larcenies is asked to contact the State Police in Batavia at (585) 344-6200 or the Genesee County Sheriff's Office (585) 343-5000.

UPDATE 7:40 p.m.: We just spoke with Tom Williams, with the American Legion in Bergen. He said local Legion leaders are trying to figure out what to do. It would cost $16,000 to replace all of the markers. 

"That's a lot of money," Williams said. "You know how hard that is to come by."

He doesn't have a count on how many total markers were stolen. There's still an inventory taking place of all the graveyards in the Byron-Bergen region.

Among the more than 400 known to be stolen was the one that marked his father's grave, said Williams, who served in the Seabees from 1963 to 1966.

He doesn't think much of the perpetrators who lifted the markers of America's heroes.

"Those are people who made sure we were kept free," Williams said. "They did their job. They left their homes, their families. I did that, the same as my dad. It's just the idea that whoever did this is a real son of a bitch. It just bothers me. Why would they come here? Why would they do that? There are people who are nuts. They don't understand. They have no clue."

Photo: For the purpose of illustration, a picture of a marker in a local cemetery. If you see these, made of bronze, and they're not in a cemetery, contact local law enforcement.

Saturday, October 18, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Car vs. tree accident with injuries in Bergen

post by Billie Owens in accidents, bergen

A car struck a tree at Warboys and Sautell roads, Bergen. There are injuries and a victim may have a broken leg. Bergen fire and Mercy medics are responding.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 11:16 pm

Photo: Train crossing at Route 19 through Village of Bergen closed with no ETA for reopening

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, csx, railroad, trains

Route 19 through the Village of Bergen is closed to all but local traffic while crews rip out the current crossing and construct a new one. The recommended alternate route is Jericho Road. Village officials only learned of the closure after CSX erected signs, and officials say that when contacted, CSX was unable to provide a timeline for how long the work will take or when the crossing will reopen.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Bergen dedicates 'life trail' system in Hickory Park

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, health, Hickory Park, Seniors

A bit of rain didn't dampen spirits in Bergen this morning where officials dedicated a new "life trail" system in Hickory Park.

The system, made up of seven, three-sided stations with a series of exercises people can perform, is designed to give seniors in particular a chance to be active and improve their physical health.

It was funded by a $50,000 state grant, secured with the help of Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, Assemblyman Steve Hawley and County Legislator Bob Bausch.

"We have put in place a parks master plan with a focus on fitness and wellness," said Mayor Anna Marie Barclay. "In particular, we want to give opportunities to seniors, which is our fastest growing population, an opportunity, because there are not as many opportunities for seniors as there are for other age groups. We want to encourage our seniors to come out, and not just our seniors. We invite seniors from all of the surrounding communities to come out to our park."

Ranzenhofer said he was proud to have helped bring about the project.

"I'm very excited to be here," Ranzenhofer said. "The comment about the weather, we were talking before about it being a rainy day, but it really is shining today, even though you may not see the sun. On a project like this, with your hard work, collectively, we were able to do a very good thing for the village residents, and thanks for including me."

Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Deadline is TODAY to buy tickets for Bergen Business and Civic Recognition Dinner

post by Billie Owens in bergen, events

The Bergen Business and Civic Association Recognition Dinner is Saturday, Nov. 1, at Bohn's restaurant in the Town of Batavia.

This year’s honorees are Barry Miller, Jim Pascarella, Ken Milner, Alyson Tardy, Fred and Eunice Ely, Triple-O Mechanical and Bergen C Store.

The restaurant is located at 5256 Clinton St. Road. There will be a cash bar starting at 5 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person. You may contact Michele Smith (Bergen town clerk) at 494-1121 or Maria Rowland at 721-7721 for tickets.

There are a limited number of tickets; please purchase by Oct. 24th.

Event Date and Time

October 24, 2014 - 9:00am - 5:00pm
Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 2:02 pm

Bergen Business and Civic Recognition Dinner is Nov. 1, deadline to buy tickets is Oct. 24

post by Billie Owens in announcements, bergen, business

The Bergen Business and Civic Association Recognition Dinner is Saturday, Nov. 1, at Bohn's restaurant in the Town of Batavia.

This year’s honorees are Barry Miller, Jim Pascarella, Ken Milner, Alyson Tardy, Fred and Eunice Ely, Triple-O Mechanical and Bergen C Store.

The restaurant is located at 5256 Clinton St. Road. There will be a cash bar starting at 5 p.m. and dinner at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person. You may contact Michele Smith (Bergen town clerk) at 494-1121 or Maria Rowland at 721-7721 for tickets.

There are a limited number of tickets; please purchase by Oct. 24th.

Friday, October 10, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Photo: Cornfields across the road from Byron-Bergen School

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, byron-bergen

When I was out there today, I liked this early-fall-day scene I spotted across the road from Byron-Bergen School.

BTW: Byron-Bergen is hosting a first-ever Friday night football game tonight. It's a big local football night. Batavia HS has its homecoming and the 5-0 Le Roy team meets 5-0 Bishop Kearney in a homecoming game. (I'll be in Le Roy).

Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 2:14 pm

Accident with injuries on Swamp Road, Bergen

post by Billie Owens in accidents, bergen

An accident with injuries is reported at 7666 Swamp Road, Bergen, near or at the intersection with Jerico Road. It's a small dump truck vs. car. Bergen fire and Mercy medics are responding

Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Grand Jury: Two Bergen women accused of possessing more than 3K in stolen retail merchandise

post by Billie Owens in bergen, crime

These indictments were handed down from the Genesee County Grand Jury this week:

Joan A. Gliwski is accused of criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree, a Class D felony. It is alleged that between August 2013 and January 2014 in the Town of Bergen she knowingly possessed stolen property with the intent to benefit herself or another person other than an owner or to impede the recovery by an owner. Moreover, the value of the property exceeded $3,000. The property was various merchandise stolen from seven retail stores.

Maria A. Gardiner is accused of criminal possession of stolen property in the third degree, a Class D felony. It is alleged that between August 2013 and January 2014 in the Town of Bergen she knowingly possessed stolen property with the intent to benefit herself or another person other than an owner or to impede the recovery by an owner. Moreover, the value of the property exceeded $3,000. The property was various merchandise stolen from seven retail stores.

Brian R. Croakley is accused of driving while intoxicated, a Class E felony. It is alleged that on May 31, 2013, in the Town of Bergen, he operated a 2010 Dodge on Route 19 while in an intoxicated condition. In addition, he is indicted by way of Special Information of having been convicted in the Town of Bergen Court of driving while intoxicated as a misdemeanor on June 16, 2010. This conviction was within 10 years of the crime alleged in the indictment.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Brockport man testifies he feared for his life, but didn't call police after looking down barrel of shotgun

post by Howard B. Owens in bergen, crime

A Brockport man who claims he had a shotgun pointed at his head by a local resident testified today that he couldn't get State Police to even consider his side of the story before he was arrested on a charge of criminal mischief.

After the charge against Micheal Crooks was dismissed (under what's called an ACD -- adjudication in contemplation of dismissal), he did what a trooper and attorney labeled "cop shopping." 

Crooks went to the Sheriff's Office and found that Sgt. Ron Meides was willing to listen to his side of the story. As a result, John Robinson, of North Lake Road, Bergen, was arrested by Deputy Matthew Butler and charged with menacing, 2nd.

The attorney for Robinson, Kevin DeCarolis, has requested Justice Donald Kunego dismiss the charge against his client "in the interest of justice."

Kunego held the hearing today as part of the motion process. He will issue a written ruling at a later date.

He's already received written arguments from both DeCarolis and Assistant District Attorney Kevin Finnell on the motion.

The case stems from a confrontation Jan. 13, 2013. Crooks contacted both the State Police and the Sheriff's Office about pursuing charges against Robinson in November 2013. Robinson was arrested in April of this year.

Trooper Eric Daigler, who arrested Crooks based on a complaint by Robinson that Crooks damaged his screen door while trying to get into his house, testified today that he was confused and angry when he learned Butler was about to arrest Robinson.

He said typically, law enforcement officers don't involve themselves in cases that have been handled by other agencies.

He felt the case had been closed in January 2013 with the arrest of Crooks.

"I was dumbfounded," Daigler said. "First and foremost, it's common practice not to take on other agencies cases. We refer to it as 'cop shopping.' It happens. Usually, we are pretty good at stopping people who are just trying to get the right answer. They are looking for the answer they want. That's usually the Sheriff's Office policy."

Daigler said it was his position at the time of the incident that Robinson was doing exactly what he's allowed to do under the law -- protect his property and himself. 

"He didn't conduct himself in a manner that should be arrested," Daigler said. "He was in his home. He armed himself and he called 9-1-1 and informed dispatchers he had armed himself. He was well within his rights in his own home when a man he never met came to his door and was yelling and screaming."

Daigler consulted with his supervisor, Sgt. Ron Lobur, and other troopers, who all concurred, arrest Crooks, but not Robinson.

Since the arrest of Robinson, Daigler said, everybody he's spoken to in the local law enforcement community, with the exception of Meides, are bothered that Robinson was arrested.

"I've had 10 members of the Sheriff's Office come to me independently and voice their displeasure with the case," Daigler said.

Crooks testified that Daigler never even asked for his version of events before telling him he would be arrested.

Contrary to prior reports, Crooks said he didn't try to hide from troopers before being contact. He said he didn't even know that in his "assertive" knocking he damaged the door, and to this day, he isn't convinced that he did.

After the confrontation, he said he went to a job site in Brighton -- he's a construction manager -- and then went home and discovered he had a message from Daigler that evening. He immediately returned the call, and when he didn't get a call back after an hour, he called again.

When he spoke to Daigler, Daigler told him to meet him at the Batavia barracks. When he asked why, he said Daigler told him he was going to be arrested on a criminal mischief charge.

At that point, Crooks said, he decided he wouldn't make a statement without an attorney present.

On the advice of his attorney, he didn't pursue charges against Robinson until after the term of his ACD expired (six months).

Crooks was upset, he said, because he believed Robinson was involved in some sort of relationship with is wife.

He said he first became aware of the relationship some time around October of 2012.

He thought it had ended, but on Jan. 12, he said, his wife went to a party with their two daughters, ages 11 and 14.

His wife became drunk at the party, he testified this afternoon, and placed numerous calls to Robinson.

The girls became aware of what was going on and tried to get her to stop. That led to a physical confrontation between mother and daughters, he said.

That was what really upset him, he said, and convinced him he should talk with Robinson about not having further contact with Mrs. Crooks because of the stress it was causing for his daughters.

He testified that he didn't make any verbal threats to Robinson. That the only thing he yelled once he figured out Robinson was in fact at home Jan. 13, 2013, was "come out you coward."

He said after about two minutes, when it was clear Robinson wasn't going to come out, he decided to leave. 

He testified that as he walked down a sidewalk close to the house he caught some movement through a window and turned to look.

"There was Mr. Robinson," Crooks said. "He was holding a shotgun and he rushed right towards the window and screamed absolutely bloody murder that he was going to blow my fucking head off."

He said the barrel was only inches from the window.

"My heart stopped," Crooks said. "I've never looked down the barral of a gun that wasn't removed from a gun that closely in my life. I've been around guns my whole life. I own guns. I've owned guns since I was 19. I'm not afraid to be around guns."

Under questioning by DeCarolis, Crooks admitted that despite this mortal threat, he didn't call police.

When Finnell asked him about why he didn't call police, Crooks said he dialed 9-1-1 and had his finger on the button, but then changed his mind.

"I was exhausted," Crooks said. "I was emotionally drained. I wanted this to be over. I just wanted to go to work and do what I had to do."

In closing arguments, Finnell urged Kunego to take into the account of events provided by Crooks. He didn't fault Daigler for arresting Crooks. Since he didn't have a statement from Crooks, he could only go on the information available to him at the time of the arrest. But now, he said, Kunego has just as Medies had, Crooks' version of events. He said the case should proceed based on Crooks' account.

DeCarolis dismissed the testimony of Crooks as vindictive and self-serving.

Daigler, he said, did something very unusual -- he testified for the defense rather than the prosecution. That never happens and that should carry a lot of weight with court, he said. Daigler's testimony should weigh heavily in favor of Robinson because he has nothing to gain from his testimony.

The testimony of Crooks is another matter, however.

"His action, his tone, his disposition all show he has a very significant animus against Mr. Robinson," DeCarolis said. "It's very clear he was cop shopping. I would ask, your honor, that you evaluate his testimony in that light."

Kunego set a follow-up appearance for Nov. 19, but said he will likely issue a written decision on the motion to dismiss "in the interest of justice" before that date.

The Batavian's exclusive previous coverage:

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