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June 14, 2010 - 11:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in genesee county, courts.

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.

June 14, 2010 - 10:19pm
posted 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.

June 14, 2010 - 9:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, terry hills, Leadership Genesee.


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:

June 14, 2010 - 2:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield, fire, Allens Inc..

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.

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June 14, 2010 - 1:24pm
posted 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.


June 14, 2010 - 1:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, elba, byron, Darien, 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.

June 14, 2010 - 12:15pm
posted 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.

June 14, 2010 - 12:02pm
posted 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.


June 13, 2010 - 11:40am
posted 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.


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June 13, 2010 - 9:30am
posted 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.

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June 12, 2010 - 7:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield, Allens Inc..


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



June 12, 2010 - 10:35am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, Le Roy.

A woman at 67 Myrtle St., Le Roy, managed to extinguish a pan fire on her stove top, but became locked in her apartment because she couldn't find the key for the deadbolt.

She reportedly was having a hard time breathing because of the fire extinguisher fumes, even though her windows were open.

A Le Roy Police officer responded within seconds of the call, gained entry to the apartment and she is now outside and OK, he reports.

Le Roy Fire is responding for ventilation only.

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June 12, 2010 - 10:23am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos, St. Joe's.


Last night was the annual Lawn Fete at St. Joe's -- a good turn out and lots of laughter and smiles, as always.

More pictures after the jump:

June 12, 2010 - 10:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

Sheriff's deputies are responding to Stringham Drive where a huge garage sale is apparently causing traffic and parking problems.

Some people have apparently parked in such a way as to potentially block the fire trucks at the Town of Batavia fire station at the intersection with Clinton Street Road. Those cars may be towed.

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June 11, 2010 - 3:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, fire, pembroke.


A van fire has been reported in the area of mile marker 396.1 of the Thruway.

Several callers reported the fire.

East Pembroke and Town of Batavia have been dispatched.

A chief reports the fire was knocked down with available fire extinguishers while awaiting fire truck response, but the fire is starting to go again.

UPDATE 3:56 p.m.: Traffic is stopped in the westbound direction.

UPDATE 5:27 p.m.: Fire units cleared the scene some time ago and traffic is starting to flow again. Photo by Destin Danser.

June 11, 2010 - 2:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Wiard Plow.

While police investigators have concluded the Wiard Plow factory fire was intentionally set and they have at least two suspects, no arrests have been made yet.

"We're still trying to nail down a few things," said Det. Kevin Czora, who has been leading the investigation.

A number of youths may have been involved in setting both fires in the historic factory building on May 8. The first fire did little damage and was put out quickly. The second fire several hours later leveled the back part of the old brick, steel and wooden structure.

At least one person was present at the ignition of both fires, Czora said.

Czora said he doesn't know why the youths set the blaze.

They may have used accelerants to help push along the second fire, but lab results are not back yet.

After the State's fire dog, "Shadow," alerted on chemicals on the old factory floor, investigators attempted to gather traces of whatever chemicals were on the floor to send to a crime lab.

Detectives conducted numerous interviews over the past several weeks, Czora said. The interviews were key both in identifying suspects and corroborating statements.

In a release about the investigation earlier today, the PD said evidence used to crack the case included "electronic" evidence. Asked if that meant phone calls or text messages or cell phone photos, Czora just said, "communications."  He said the communications included suspects and witnesses.

The youths apparently entered the factory buildings without permission on dates previous to the fire, Czora said.

The case has taken a long time to develop to this point, Czora said, because investigators are trying document as many details as possible.

"Because of the scope -- the evidence, the witnesses, the suspects -- we just needed to make sure we investigated thoroughly and completely so as to make sure nothing is unidentified or missing from the investigation," Czora said.

It will be up to County Attorney Charles Zambito to file charges once the investigation is complete, and the youths will be dealt with in family court.

June 11, 2010 - 11:27am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

City Fire is responding to a report of a "toxic odor" in the area of the Sugar Creek Store, 189 Pearl St., Batavia.

Engine 12 is responding "non-emergency" to investigate.

UPDATE 12:07: We've not heard any more about this.

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June 11, 2010 - 10:39am
posted by Howard B. Owens in BARNS, photos, Stafford.


I was out on a story that didn't pan out this morning, but being out and about a little earlier than usual, I was struck how great the sky looked to the east, so I decided to drive out that way in search of photo opportunities. The better light was probably 30 or 45 minutes earlier before I got to any place worth taking pictures, but here are three photos from my short drive.

Above a group of barns on Britt Road near Warner Road.


I was struck by these two bare trees in an emerging cornfield.


Douglas Lake on Route 237.

June 11, 2010 - 9:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, Oakfield, Darien.

Kevin Andrew Hinca, 18, of Brunswick Road, Depew, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance. Hinca was reportedly on a 12-grade field trip from a high school in Erie County to Darien Lake. He was allegedly found at Darien Lake in possession of hydrocodone and MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy.

James Thomas Pero, 18, of Ross Street, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Pero was allegedly found in possession of marijuana in the parking lot of Batavia High School following a random sniff search with the Sheriff's Office K-9. The search was conducted at the invitation of the school.

Megan T. Suttell, 20, of Oakfield, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Suttell was cited by State Police at 12:25 a.m., Thursday. No further details were released.




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Contact: Howard Owens, publisher (howard (at) the batavian dot com); (585) 250-4118

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