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December 23, 2015 - 1:10pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Stockings for Soldiers, batavia.

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T.J Woodward, owner, with Matt Meyer and Timothy D. Woodward of Gilmartin Funeral Home & Cremation Company, Inc., load up not even two-thirds of the boxes containing donations for Stockings for Soldiers.

Eaton-Watson Funeral Home, LLC, of Perry, and Marley Funeral Home, LLC, of Attica, also participated in the second annual Stockings for Soldiers.  

This year's contributions well surpassed last year’s contributions, with enough donations for more than 600 stockings, along with donations toward the cost of the shipment coming into the company's three locations.  

Stockings will be shipped to three different locations where U.S. troops are currently stationed.

Woodward would like to give a special thanks to Mr & Mrs. Tim Landers and Mr & Mrs. Jim Palermo for their donations toward shipping.

Photo and info submitted by T.J. Woodward.

December 23, 2015 - 12:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, oakfield-alabama, pembroke.

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In an effort to preserve its undefeated season, the Oakfield-Alabama Hornets twice battled back from double-digit deficits in the second half, and managed to briefly grab the lead with 1:11 left in the game. But missed free throws and two whiffs on easy layups proved to be O-A's undoing, allowing Pembroke to slip by with a 59-58 win.

"I told them this is one we let get away, but we learn from it," said Hornets Head Coach Ryan Stehlar. "You can't dwell on it. You learn from it and get better."

Both coaches were proud of how their teams stayed focused and played tough in the hard-fought contest.

The Dragons know O-A would play hard and fast, and they came prepared, said Dragon's Head Coach Matt Shay.

"They play a real intense style and I thought our guys faltered a little bit at times, but showed some resliance at the end," Shay said.

Junior guard Ryan Cansdale lead all scorers with 16 points for Pembroke; Zach Staebell had 15 and Dakota Dieter scored 14.

For O-A, Jake Mandel scored 13, Trey Nadolinski had 12 and Allen Chatt had eight.

The Hornets and Pembroke are both at the top of the Genesee Region standings with just one defeat each. They won't meet again until the final regular season game, Feb. 9.

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To purchase prints of game photos, click here.

December 23, 2015 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Darien, mental health, synthetic drugs, bath salts.

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Ryan C. Bergman
Photo courtesy the Bergmans

Just before Thanksgiving, 2013, a month before his death, 26-year-old Ryan C. Bergman sat at the dining room table after an evening dinner with his parents in their home on Fargo Road, Darien, and talked with his mother about his mental health.

At age 10, his fourth-grade year, all his troubles seemed to start, Ryan told his mother as they talked through his life on a chilled and snowy November evening.

That made sense, Bernadette Bergman said. She always thought there were two turning points, downhill points, really, for her son — when he was 10 and when he was 13.

Ryan spent that fourth-grade year with a Pembroke teacher whom Bernadette described as rude, cruel and largely uncaring about Ryan’s struggles.

Bright, articulate but unable to stay focused, Ryan was a misfit among his peers. He was oblivious to social norms, craved attention and found it difficult to complete his assignments in the manner expected by his teacher.

To a public school teacher with 30 other kids to manage and guide, Ryan was, perhaps, more like a distraction than a promising literary master, a potential mathematician or computer scientist.

Bernadette, herself a teacher, recalled one parent-teacher conference that didn’t go well.

She had a notebook with her from a parenting workshop with information meant to help a student like Ryan, but Ryan’s teacher dismissed the binder and its contents as useless.

“She literally, right in front of me, ripped it apart page by page,” said Bernadette, mimicking the teacher ripping page after loose-leaf page from the book.

“‘Oh, he doesn’t need that. He doesn’t need that,’” Bernadette recalled her saying.

“If you’re rude to the parent, you can imagine what she was like in the classroom,” Bernadette said.

Her husband Richard added, “We learned from other kids later that when he got kicked out of class, he would go to the class of the grade above and he would just be rolling around in the back and the teacher would ask the class a question and nobody would know the answer, no hands would go up, and Ryan would yell out the answer. He wasn’t even paying attention and he would know the answer and shout it out.”

The first inkling the Bergmans got that Ryan might be struggling to find his place in the world came after a day out sledding with neighbors who had children right around Ryan’s age.

Ryan was a bit disruptive and the other mother told Bernadette that Ryan was “a little wild.” Bernadette was unfazed. He was just a squirrelly kid.

Later, at a pool party with the same family, Ryan found ways to irritate both children and adults. He would annoy, pester and bother, ignoring the social signals other children might decipher and realize their behavior went a little too far.

“Ryan would just do aggravating things to get people’s attention,” Richard said. “Like, he might poke you under water. He wasn’t nasty, maybe borderline nasty, just to get their attention, with it never clicking in his brain that maybe they were going to want you around less.”

Ryan was trapped in a world where his verbal skills allowed him to converse knowingly with adults, but as a matter of age and experience, his time was properly spent with children, and typically, children with minds that couldn’t grasp his meaning and tongues muted by more limited vocabularies.

Ryan’s mind worked fast, fueled by a voracious appetite for printed words.

He was reading above his grade level when he started kindergarten.

“It was like a switch,” Richard said. “A switch went off and he could read and that was it. He could read.”

From kindergarten on, he always had a book open, if not in his hand, within arm’s reach.

“He would read everything,” Bernadette said. “He would read anything. You couldn't be any place and he wouldn't read. He would read the toilet tissue roll, you know what I mean. He just loved the language. He spoke early. He loved to play with words. When he was real little he would say things like 'uppy duppy, potty watty,' all the rhyming stuff. He would just do it naturally. Ryan just loved it. He just loved the language.”

The Bergman’s think Ryan’s advanced skills with the English language drove some teachers crazy. One counselor warned Ryan’s teachers not to engage with him verbally, “because he’ll just chew you up.” Some teachers couldn’t accept that this elementary school student might be smarter than they were. 

“There’s always going to be kids who are smarter than you,” Bernadette said. “I don’t care who you are, just suck it up and embrace it, you know, because there’s other things you can teach them. In Ryan’s case, it was organizational skills.”

The lack of organizational skills is what led to Ryan’s second turning point, downhill, when he was 13, in sixth grade. Ryan was accepted into an advanced mathematics program at the University at Buffalo.

It was an odd fit. Ryan, the word guy in an advanced math class at a university. He really wasn’t good with numbers, but his innate ability to reason through puzzles made higher level mathematics, where it becomes more about theory and logic than formulas, easy.

Except for one problem: Ryan didn’t grasp how he arrived at his answers. In mathematics, where part of the problem-solving regime is showing your work, Ryan couldn’t explain how he arrived at his solutions.  He got the answers right, he just didn’t know how he got there.

Also, he often didn’t turn in his homework.

"In his mind, 'OK, here's the homework,' ” Richard said. “ 'I did the homework. It's done.' But you have to turn it in. You have to hold onto that piece of paper, you've got to take it with you, you got to turn it in, but in his mind, 'I did it.’ ”

Pok-e-Mon was big at the time and Ryan had a collection of cards. When Bernadette met with the UB teacher about her son’s difficulties in the class, the teacher had a hard time buying that Ryan innately lacked organizational skills.

The teacher noted Ryan’s well organized box of Pok-e-Mon cards. Surely, that was proof, she said, that he was capable of being organized when he was motivated.

“I told her, ‘One, I organized them for him so he would fit in, so that he could use them,' ” Bernadette said, adding, “ ‘but, two, he lost them here. He has no clue where they are.’ ”

Ryan was devastated when he was sent back to a regular math class at Pembroke.

“He just shut down the math side,” Bernadette said. “He was embarrassed. Here was something he could have flourished at, but now he’s back at Pembroke.”

And none of the professionals picked up on Ryan’s growing mental issues.

“The tip off (to the professionals) should have been, verbally, he was very strong, in the 99.8 percentile, but the math part, he lagged behind,” Richard said. “That’s usually a tipoff that something is going on. When you get into the gifted math program, you go, ‘How can that be?’ ” But on standardized testing, he was superior in language and was behind in math.”

Even in areas where he should have excelled socially, he became a pariah.

In the pre-Internet days, computer geeks formed social clubs, called LAN groups (LAN: local area network). They would bring their bulky desktop computers to a group member’s house, string them together with Ethernet cable and a network hub and play computer games.

“He was very good with computers,” Richard recalled. “He would, you know, actually read the manuals. He was able to do things other kids couldn’t.”

For some kids, superior knowledge is a pathway to friendship. I help you and you help me. For Ryan, he could use his advanced computer skills to bully the other kids.

“It got to the point where he (the kid who hosted the group) didn’t want Ryan coming over any more,” Bernadette said. “He didn’t want Ryan over because his other friends didn’t want him over. He would screw up their computers and sitting next to them, he would aggravate them either physically or verbally.”

Like many children with attention difficulties and a tendency toward hyperactivity, Ryan was prescribed drugs, such as Ritalin. Sometimes, Ryan would take his medication as prescribed. Sometimes, he wouldn’t. He would hide his pills around the house and then take several pills at once just to see what it was like.

A psychologist — the same one who warned teachers Ryan could out talk them — told the Bergmans that children like Ryan, superior verbal skills, struggling to fit in socially and academically, who were once at the top of their class, but lost their way as organizational skills become a part of the educational process, typically become depressed and take their own lives.

At age 16, Ryan tried to do just that, using the prescription medication he had available to him.

“He was still under care of this doctor and still going to Pembroke,” Richard said. “The doctor was like, ‘I didn’t see this coming.’ And we thought, ‘You’re the one who warned us and now you say you didn’t see it coming?’  ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I thought his ego strength was so large that he would never do it.’ And we were like, ‘His ego strength is there because he’s covering up for the fact that he doesn’t fit in.’ ”

Richard and Bernadette Bergman have all the attributes of ideal parents — steady jobs, a stable home life, community involvement, an active church and social life, and an abiding desire to be parents.

Ryan isn’t the first child Richard and Bernadette tried to adopt. First, there was Jeffrey, a special needs child who has never lived with them, but still has a room in their house and often spends the holidays, some weekends and other special days with the Bergmans.

Jeffrey is now 46 years old and lives in a group home in East Aurora.

“We call him our voluntary son,” Richard said.

Then Richard and Bernadette learned of a single mother who was going to give birth to a baby girl, so they arranged through an attorney to adopt that child upon her birth.

Preparations were made, documents signed and on the day the child was born, Richard and Bernadette were waiting for the child to be brought to them from the hospital when they learned the mother had changed her mind.

The Bergmans were disappointed. The attorney felt horrible about the turn of events. He promised, “when the next child becomes available, you’re at the top of the list.”

It was 1987. A 15-year-old girl in Erie County gave birth to a little boy. He became Ryan Bergman. He came to live with them in their turn-of-the-century home in a little hamlet in the Town of Darien that once was known as Fargo Village, with a train station on the Delaware, Lackawana & Western Railroad line and a little schoolhouse at Fargo and Sumner roads.

At some point in Ryan’s young life, the Bergmans learned through a sister of the birth mother that the young lady had her own struggles with alcohol, as did her father.

Scientists are still learning about the role of dopamine (a biological chemical critical to brain and body functions) in people’s lives, but it is an apparent factor in drug and alcohol abuse and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. These traits could be hereditary.

The Bergmans knew this.

“We warned him, 'Smoking, alcohol, anything you can be come addicted to, you can become addicted to, because there seems to be a correlation,' ” said Bernadette, who has long been involved the Genesee County Mental Health Association.

From a young age, Ryan had a preoccupation with alcohol, not that he was drinking at a young age, but he talked about it, asked questions about it, was curious about it.

There wasn’t much alcohol around the house, though Bernadette liked to have an occasional drink, but Ryan was fixated on the idea of alcohol.

“He was obsessed with talking about it,” Bernadette recalls. “In our mind as lay people, that just seemed, you know, an obsession.”

The response of GCASA (Genesee Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse)?

"We don't see any problem here. Kids always talk about alcohol."

Ryan decided he was Irish. And the Irish, of course, have a reputation for boozing it up.

“He was starting to embrace the idea by the time he was a teenager,” Bernadette said. “We have no idea if he has any Irish blood in him or not, but he decided he was going to be Irish.”

Ryan started going to parties with friends. Richard and Bernadette weren’t sure if there was alcohol involved or not, but they suspect there was, then one night he came home plastered.

They think Ryan might have been the one supplying the drinks. He had a job. He had money of his own to make the purchase. He was savvy. He could have been buying beverages and supplying them to his peers.

“It was a way for him to be accepted,” Richard said. “If you’re an outsider, this is an in. ‘I can get you alcohol.’ ”

Despite his struggles, Ryan did graduate from Pembroke High School, earning his diploma in 2005.

In August, he entered the Army, but washed out of basic training and was home by October.

It was tough for him to keep jobs. The Genesee ACE Employment program helped and Ryan landed one of his longer term jobs at the Kutter Cheese Factory, working there from July 2009 to February 2010.

He floated in and out of jobs and friendships, apparently using drugs and grappling with his mental health issues. He wound up in a program at GCASA and was working at Pioneer Credit when he met a woman who was 10 years older, married, with four children and a husband and a house in Oakfield. Ryan moved in with the woman and her children, along with the teenage friend of one of the woman’s daughters.

To support their drug habits, they got into property crime, along with a man who was recently released from prison and was on parole.

They broke into a fire hall in Orleans County and were caught because Ryan, disorganized, forgetful Ryan Bergman, left his mother’s mobile phone in the building. The night before the Orleans deputies showed up at the Bergman’s house, the group had broken into a gun club in Cowlesville and stole a computer.

Ryan insisted the woman wasn’t involved in his crimes.

“He was very loyal,” Richard said. “He wouldn’t turn her in because she had kids. He went to jail so she wouldn’t have to.”

He was sentenced to several months in the Genesee County Jail for breaking into cars, followed by weekends in the Orleans County Jail.

“Most parents worry about where their kids will be when they turn 21,” Richard said. “Ours was already in jail.”

He also spent nearly a year in the Erie County Jail when he was caught driving the wrong way on a street near the Buffalo Airport while high.

It was during this time, Ryan became friends with a person who already had some experience with bath salts. 

When a friend of the family lost a daughter to heroin, Ryan’s response was, “I don’t do heroin,” Richard recalled, “like it was a lesser drug.”

Bath salts, though, were the product of chemistry, and presumably safe because, at least at the time, they were legal.

They could be bought on the Tonawanda Indian Reservation, and soon thereafter at locations in the City of Batavia. But when law enforcement swooped in and cut off the local supply, Ryan turned to mail order.

Bath salts are easy to find and buy online and can even be purchased as “samples,” which makes hits more affordable.

“It was the best of both worlds,” Richard said. “It was an amphetamine and he could get high or whatever he was taking them for, and it was legal. At least that was the selling point in the beginning.”

The Bergmans were trying to get their son help in those late fall and early winter months of 2013. It was a struggle.

Certain synthetic drugs are known to induce paranoia, and Ryan may have tended toward suspicion already. When he was in the grips of synthetic drugs, he could distrust anybody and everybody.

A family friend, an attorney, named David, found him out and about and tried to help him. Ryan asked him, “How many pieces of silver was Jesus sold for?”

David said, “I don’t exactly remember.”

“See, David would know the answer to the question, so you’re not David.”

Eventually, David got Ryan home and told the Bergmans, “This kid needs to go to the hospital.”

They tried.

One time, Ryan was taken to a mental health institution and the social worker called the Bergmans at home.

“She said we can give him a ticket at the bus station, or he can stay in a homeless shelter or we can sign him into the facility for care.”

To Ryan, in-patient treatment was tantamount to jail.

“I was on my way there to read him the riot act and by the time I got there, he had sweet talked her -- he was very charming -- and he had her talked into letting him go to out-patient treatment,” Richard said. “He just had her wrapped around his finger and now I was the bad guy.”

Ryan didn’t think it did him any good to be taken to facilities in Buffalo, but he thought he might get help at the hospital in Warsaw, so when he would agree to be checked in someplace, he would agree to Warsaw.

But agreeing and actually getting there were two different matters.

Bernadette learned once the decision was made, she had to get the car started, the windows up and ensure the child safety locks were on. Otherwise, once he got into the car, if he did, he might try to escape at some point.

“We’d maybe go around and around for an hour before he would get in the car,” Bernadette said. “Twice, once we got to Warsaw, after we got there, he just ran off. Once a deputy found him at Tim Horton’s (Cafe).”

In December 2013, Richard Bergman realized there hadn’t been mail delivered to his house in a few days.

“I’d come home and Ryan wouldn’t be there, and I’d ask him where he was when I came home, and he said he went out for a walk to blow off steam,” Richard said. “Well, Thursday, there was no mail. Friday, no mail. Saturday, no mail. Then a notice comes and said, ‘OK, we’re restarting the mail you had suspended for three days.’ I asked him, ‘Did you suspend the mail?’ He said he didn’t know what happened, ‘but your name is on it.' ”

Richard confronted Ryan about getting drugs through the mail, but Ryan denied it.

The Bergmans now know that Ryan was getting samples of Alpha PVP from China delivered to their mail address. The evidence: an envelop with the synthetic drug and a packing slip arrived in the mail a couple of days after he died.

In December 2013, Alpha PVP was little known in the drug or law enforcement community, but over the past year news about its deadly effects have burst into the news under its most common street name, "Flakka," and those reports are what prompted the Bergmans to contact a local reporter more than a year after his initial interview request.

They’re very concerned about how easy it is for young people to buy these dangerous drugs. They don’t know the answer, but they think people should be more aware of what’s going on.

“If you can’t control in anyway how this stuff is getting into the country, you’re never going to be able to address it,” Richard said. “If it’s that easy to obtain, it’s like, how can you blunt that?”

Bernadette remembers sitting in court one time waiting for Ryan’s case to be called and another drug addict accused of a crime stood with his lawyer before the judge.

“The judge says to the lawyer, ‘How many times does he need to go to rehab?’ and I want to say, ‘As many times as it takes,’ and that’s basically what the lawyer said. We need lawyers to understand. We need judges who understand. That would all work easier if the insurance and medical professions had a greater interest in getting a handle on this. My fear is that maybe (bath salts) isn’t as big as heroin, but it’s just so easy to get. You can order it from the comfort of your own home and it comes in the mail and maybe kids see that as no big deal.”

The Sunday before Christmas 2013, Ryan didn’t want to be checked into Warsaw, so he was taken to Strong Memorial Hospital instead. His father brought him home Monday. He swore he didn’t have any drugs in his room.

“His room was a pig sty,” Bernadette said. “If he had any drugs in there, you could look for them and it would take you a week, so he swore, ‘Mom, there are no drugs here,’ well, obviously, that was a lie. He must have taken all he had.”

On Christmas Eve day, Bernadette knew something was wrong with her son.

“Clearly, he was not well,” she said. “I told him, you have two choices. I can take you to the hospital or I can call an ambulance. We got his bags packed and we’re ready to go and he says, ‘Mom, there’s a third choice. I can do outpatient.’  ‘Yes, but we need to get you stable first.’ Just like that, he takes off. He’s in this room. He’s in that room. He gets the poker (from the fire place) and runs into the bathroom and locks the door. I feel the gush of cold air and I know he’s opened the window.”

Bernadette doesn’t remember if she saw him running into the woods or if she just saw his footprints.

“In my head, I keep thinking I saw him running, but I don’t think so,” she said.

It was 10 degrees that day and Ryan was wearing nothing more than jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers.

She called emergency dispatch. She called her husband. He started home. At this point, she wasn’t scared.

“We’ve been through this before,” she said. “We’ve been through the paranoia before. We’ve called the cops before, and usually he heads down the old railroad bed in that same direction and he comes back, so it’s not like you’re thinking, ‘This is the end.’ You’re thinking, ‘We’re going through this again,’ but this time, he just kept right on going and went through the creek and got a way down the other side.”

The State Police arrived. Sheriff’s deputies arrived. Volunteers from the Darien and Alexander fire departments were deployed in a search of the area. After dark, the search was called off for the night.

It resumed the next morning, Christmas Day.

A volunteer from Alden -- a friend of the family, in fact -- found Ryan’s body.

Another friend, a fellow church member, Chief Deputy Gordon Dibble, Sheriff’s Office, delivered the news to Richard and Bernadette.

But they already knew.

“We don’t believe it was a suicide,” Richard said. “He did all of these risky behaviors that were kind of like, ‘If I die, I die. If I live, I live.’ He cracked up his car twice. It was almost like a sense of pride. After (the neighbor friend) died of an overdose, he told a social worker, ‘How come (the friend) can do it and I can’t?’ He would take these risky behaviors, knowing full well he could die, but probably not intentionally.”​

Previously on The Batavian:

December 23, 2015 - 6:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, batavia, pembroke.

A motor-vehicle accident with minor head injuries is reported on the Thruway, in the westbound lane at mile marker 395.7.

That's about a mile east of the Slusser Road overpass.

East Pembroke fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

December 23, 2015 - 5:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, elba, Oakfield.

Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the accident that claimed the life of a volunteer firefighter on Fisher Road, Oakfield, at 8:04 p.m., Tuesday.

David Beehler Jr., 37, of 3514 Maltby Road, Oakfield, was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The accident was reported as a single-vehicle crash. Beehler was driving a 2009 Dodge Ram pickup truck, which hit a tree and a utility pole. He was the sole occupant and was ejected.

Assisting at the scene was the Oakfield and Elba fire departments, Mercy EMS, the Crash Management Team and State Police.

December 22, 2015 - 11:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Pavilion.
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   Cynthia Eggleston

The treasurer of the Parent Teachers Organization in Pavilion has been arrested, accused of stealing $40,406.10 from the group.

Cynthia R. Eggleston, 48, of Walker Road, Pavilion, is charged with third-degree grand larceny, a Class D felony.

It's alleged that Eggleston began writing checks to herself and depositing them in her own bank account to spend the funds for personal use starting in September 2013, shortly after she became treasurer. She allegedly continued to siphon off funds for personal use until this month.

Eggleston has been relieved of her duties.

She was arraigned in Pavilion Town Court and released under supervision of Genesee Justice.

The investigation was conducted by Investigator Kris Kautz, Sheriff's Office.

December 22, 2015 - 4:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in employment, jobs, business.

Genesee County's November unemployment percentage hit its lowest rate in nearly a decade, according to data released today by the Department of Labor.

The November rate was 4.6, which is better than the 5.1 rate a year ago, and better than the 8.5 rate at the height of the recession in 2009.

The rate in 2006 was 4.1 and it was 4.7 in 2007.

The October 2015 rate was 4.2. The November rate is traditionally higher than the October rate.

There are 200 more Genesee County residents employed in 2015 than a year ago, with 28,200 reportedly having jobs.

The GLOW region unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, compared to 5.6 percent a year ago.

There are 22,700 non-farm jobs in the county, compared to 22,900 a year ago and 23,200 in October.

December 22, 2015 - 4:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office, law enforcement.

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Press release:

The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office was awarded reaccreditation of its law enforcement bureau by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services during the New York State Law Enforcement Agency Accreditation Council meeting in Albany on Dec. 17.

The Sheriff’s Office went through an extensive reaccreditation audit back in October and was found to be in compliance with the program’s 133 standards. An accredited law enforcement agency is reassessed every five years and must show they have been in compliance with the standards during that time period. The Genesee County Sheriff’s Office received its initial accreditation in year 2000.

The Law Enforcement Accreditation Program provides agencies with a method for developing and adhering to the highest standards of professionalism, efficiency and effectiveness within the field of law enforcement and to provide formal recognition of that excellence. The Law Enforcement Accreditation Program is voluntary. Of the approximately 550 law enforcement agencies within New York State, approximately 145 agencies are accredited.

“This is a testament of the professionalism of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office,” said Sheriff Gary T. Maha.

December 22, 2015 - 4:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Fire, batavia.

Press release:

City Manager Jason Molino today announced the immediate appointment of Capt. Dan Herberger to the position of Interim Fire Chief.

“Captain Herberger is well respected at all levels within our fire department and also in the local emergency services community,” Molino said. “I am grateful that Dan has accepted this important transitional responsibility and look forward to working with him.”

Capt. Herberger has served as a member of the City of Batavia Fire Department since 2002 and was appointed to his current position of Fourth Platoon Captain in September 2013.

“I am honored and humbled to serve the people of the City of Batavia in this capacity,” Herberger said. “I look forward to working with the talented and dedicated men and women of this department and appreciate the expressions of support and confidence as we move forward through this transition.”

Capt. Herberger will serve as Interim Chief until a permanent Chief is appointed, which Molino estimates will be sometime mid-Spring. 

The Batavian broke the news of Jim Maxwell's sudden retirement on Saturday.

December 22, 2015 - 4:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron-bergen, schools, education.

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Press release:

A standing-room-only audience of more than 200 filled the Elementary Cafetorium at Byron-Bergen Elementary School on Dec. 21 to hear the school’s kindergarteners greet the holiday season with music. The annual Holidays Around the World event is the culmination of the children’s study of world cultural diversity through understanding holiday customs. This year, the program featured songs and carols highlighting seasonal traditions from Germany, Mexico, Israel and England.

Teacher Melissa Chamberlain presented the program, introducing the students from her kindergarten class and the classes of fellow teachers Beth Amidon, Shana Feissner and Lori Simmons. Accompanist and former kindergarten teacher, Marsha MacConnell, who has been part of the proceedings for many years, played the piano. Dressed in their finest festive garb and wearing elf hats they made themselves, the children enthusiastically launched into their performance.

Songs included a demanding Spanish rendition of “Casca Bells,” “Oh Christmas Tree” from Germany, complete with dancing trees, and “Deck the Halls,” which celebrated the English tradition of caroling. The young performers also represented the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah with a version of “I’ve Been Lighting All the Candles.” Favorite songs were not forgotten: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Jingle Bells,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” were all part of the fun.

After the singing concluded, parents and students enjoyed punch and cookies, and had the opportunity to speak with hosts Principal Brian Meister and Assistant Principal Amanda Cook, along with the kindergarten teachers.

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December 22, 2015 - 11:29am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy.
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   Nick Hawkins

State Police have arrested a 32-year-old Le Roy man after he allegedly drove the car of an acquaintance intentionally into a tree, causing heavy front-end damage and airbag deployment.

Nick Hawkins was jailed on $1,500 bail and charged with petit larceny and criminal mischief. 

According to State Police, Hawkins was involved in a dispute with the acquaintance and he drove the person's car north on the driveway into the back yard and straight into a tree. 

Hawkins declined medical treatment for minor cuts and was transported to the Batavia Barracks for processing. 

Le Roy PD assisted at the scene.

December 22, 2015 - 11:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia.

A 62-year-old Batavia woman who served on a grand jury in a murder case has been charged with unlawful grand jury disclosure, a Class E felony.

She is accused of disclosing to an acquaintance the decision of the grand jury to indict a person in a homicide case before the indictment was officially filed and became a matter of public record.

Janice L. Mortellaro, of Buell Street, was on a grand jury that was seated Dec. 8.

The Sheriff's Office, which handled the arrest of Mortellaro, is not disclosing which case she allegedly shared information about.

The District Attorney's Office is currently handling two homicide cases, the Dec. 1 death of Norman D. "Don" Bell in Le Roy and the discovery of a dead infant in a home on Liberty Street in August.

In the death of Bell, a neighbor, Kyle G. Johnson was arraigned on a second-degree murder indictment Dec. 15. In the case of the infant's death, the baby's mother, Christina M. Colantonio, was originally arrested on a murder charge, but she was released from jail after an autopsy could not prove a live birth. A second autopsy was ordered and no indictment has been announced in that case. It's uncertain if that case has even been presented to a grand jury at this point.

Mortellaro was arraigned in City Court and issued an appearance ticket for 9 a.m., Jan. 5, to answer to the charge.

December 21, 2015 - 2:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, elba, pembroke.

A 17-year-old resident of Porter Avenue, North Tonawanda, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, unlawful possession of marijuana, unlawful possession of alcohol by a person under age 21 and leaving the scene of a property damage accident. The youth is accused of being the driver of a vehicle that struck a building in Elba. The youth allegedly fled the scene of the accident on foot and was located a short time later by a deputy. The incident, reported at 11:04 p.m., Friday, was investigated by Deputy Joseph Corona along with Deputy Howard Carlson and Sgt. Eric Seppala.

Jacklyn M. Ganzhorn, 28, of Central Avenue, Batavia, was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to appear. Ganzhorn allegedly failed to appear in City Court on a charge of unlicensed operation, 3rd. After posting $500 bail, Ganzhorn was turned over to Attica PD on a warrant.

Earle D. Webb, 29, of Joseph Avenue, Rochester, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and aggravated harassment, 2nd. Webb was arrrested by Batavia police as the result of an alleged incident reported at 11:42 a.m., Friday. 

Jordan J. Hardy, 26, of Sunset Parkway, Oakfield, is charged with two counts of sex offender failure to report change of, or changes to, Internet accounts. Hardy allegedly failed to report to Batavia two changes to his Internet accounts within 10 days of the change. He has a prior conviction and was arrested Oct. 26 on the same charge. He was jailed without bail.

Robert W. Blankenberg Jr., 31, of Union Street, Batavia. Blankenberg was arrested on a warrant for alleged failure to appear on an aggravated unlicensed operation, 3rd, charge. He was jailed on $500 bail.

Johnny L. Shannon, 57, of Creek Road, Batavia, is charged with criminal use of drug paraphernalia, criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, and driving while ability impaired by drugs. Shannon was arrested following complaint of erratic operation at 7:47 a.m. Dec. 12 on East Main Street, Batavia, and an investigation by officers Kevin DeFelice and Sgt. Dan Coffey.

Justin Gabriel Sepi, 28, of Columbia Avenue, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Sepi was charged following a traffic stop at 10:25 p.m. Saturday on West Main Street, Batavia, by Deputy Ryan DeLong.

Dylan James Perry, 24, of Kingsbury Avenue, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a weapon, 3rd, and unlawful possession of marijuana. Perry was allegedly found in possession of metal knuckles and marijuana during roadside contact with law enforcement at 2:31 a.m. Friday on Main Road, Pembroke. He was arrested by Deputy Joseph Corona and jailed without bail.

December 21, 2015 - 1:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in music, Christmas, arts, entertainment, batavia.

December 21, 2015 - 1:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Troop A, batavia, NYSP, State Police.

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Press release:

Major Steven A. Nigrelli is the new Troop A commander. He is a 25-year-veteran of the New York State Police, starting his career in 1990, serving as a uniform Trooper in Troop D in Central New York until he was assigned to the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team (CNET) in 1994.

Nigrelli was assigned to CNET in both Western and Central New York (CNET). Nigrelli worked undercover for more than five years in the State Police’s CNET. Nigrelli then was promoted to sergeant and investigator in 1999, and was assigned to Troop A Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).

In 2003 while in Troop A, he received his promotion to lieutenant and was assigned to supervise Troop A's BCI.

In March of 2007, Nigrelli was promoted to captain, accepting an assignment as the Troop A Zone III Commander at SP Jamestown. In 2008, he was reassigned as the Troop A Zone II Commander at SP Clarence. As a Zone Commander, Nigrelli was responsible for overseeing all Uniform operations in his zone.

In 2012, Nigrelli was promoted to BCI Captain for Troop A at Troop A Headquarters in Batavia.

Throughout his career, Captain Nigrelli has had the opportunity to work on several high-profile cases, including numerous homicides, Ralph “Bucky” Phillips manhunt, Bike Path Rapist/Killer Task Force, and he served as the scene commander for the investigation of the crash of Continental Flight #3407.

As the Troop A Commander, Nigrelli will oversee the State Police operations in the eight counties of Western New York. Under his command will be more than 400 civilian and sworn personnel.

Major Nigrelli has been committed to community service and volunteerism throughout his State Police career. He has dedicated his time and energy to volunteering for Special Olympics and currently sits as both the New York State Torch Run director and International Executive Council Board of Directors for Special Olympics. These organizations are dedicated to raising both funds and awareness for Special Olympics, which is comprised of children and adults with individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Prior to joining the State Police, Major Nigrelli briefly served as member of the Buffalo Housing Police and earned a bachelor's degree from Buffalo State College.

December 21, 2015 - 1:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in sports.

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Three members of Batavia's Section V championship team were honored with All-Greater-Rochester selections, including Dom Mogavero (above), who was named as a linebacker.

Second team honors went to QB Greg Mruczek and WR Ryan Hogan.

On defense this season, Mogavero had 125 tackles, four forced fumbles, a sack, an interception and one defensive TD. (He also rushed for 1,127 yards and scored 15 TDs.)

Mruczek (second picture) set several school records this season, including passing yards, touchdowns and total offensive yards. He completed 117 passes in 183 attempts for 2,101 yards and 32 TDs. He also carried the ball 39 times for 248 yards and two TDs, giving him 34 total touchdowns and 2,349 total yards. He's also the BHS career leader in passing yards (4,294), passing touchdowns (59), total yards of offensive (4,883) and total touchdowns (65).

Hogan (third picture)  had 31 catches for 707 yards in 2015. His 14 TDs are a school record and fourth all-time in Section V.

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Other Genesee County football players honored:

  • Noah Dobbertin (Batavia)
  • Anthony Gallo (Batavia)
  • Ray Leach (Batavia)
  • Addison Pitcher (Batavia)
  • Trevor Sherwood (Batavia)
  • Danny Williams (Batavia)
  • Nick Egeling (Le Roy)
  • Luke Hogle (Le Roy)
  • Josh Laurie (Le Roy)
  • Anthony Natrigo (Le Roy)
  • Allen Chatt (Oakfield-Alabama)
  • Richard Flores (Elba/Byron-Bergen)
  • Andrew Gottler (Elba/Byron-Bergen)
  • Dane Heberlein (Alexander)
  • John Hochmuth (Elba/Byron-Bergen)
  • Josh Hylkema (Alexander)
  • Riley Kusmierski (Alexander)
  • Thomas Lambert (Elba/Byron-Bergen)
  • Ethan Osborne (Notre Dame)
  • Dustin Schmeider (Alexander)
  • Ismile Smith (Oakfield-Alabama)
  • C.J. Suozzi (Notre Dame)
  • Jack Sutherland (Notre Dame)
  • Jack Thomas (Pembroke)
  • Dakota Weidman (Notre Dame)
  • Zach Von Kramer (Pembroke)
  • Adam Walter (Elba/Byron-Bergen)
  • Joe Weatherwax (Notre Dame)
  • Reice Woodward (Oakfield-Alabama)
  • Jacob Wozniak (Alexander)

Boys Cross Country

  • Thomas Berggren (Notre Dame)
  • Anderson Bradshaw (Alexander)
  • Nathaniel DiSalvo (Oakfield-Alabama/Elba)
  • Jacob Gualtieri (Notre Dame)
  • Justin Hannan (Byron-Bergen)
  • Josh Larmon (Oakfield-Alabama/Elba)
  • Maxim McKenzie (Le Roy)
  • Cole O'Donnell (Oakfield-Alabama/Elba)
  • Henry Pflaumer (Oakfield-Alabama/Elba)
  • Joseph Yaeger (Alexander)
  • Trevor Zauner (Alexander)

Boys Soccer

  • Kieran O'Halloran (Le Roy)
  • Nicholas Richardson (Le Roy)
  • Mason Muoio (Byron-Bergen)
  • Ryan Richardson (Byron-Bergen)
  • Alejandro Ocampo (Byron-Bergen)
  • Matt Foeller (Byron-Bergen)
  • Ryan Curtis (Pembroke)
  • Ryan Cansdale (Pembroke)

Girls Cross Country

  • Siomara Caballero (Byron-Bergen)
  • McKenna Cone (Le Roy)
  • Emily Dyson (Pembroke)
  • Emily Gonyea (Byron-Bergen)
  • Morgan Munger (Oakfield-Alabama/Elba)

Girls Soccer

  • Leah Thompson (Byron-Bergen)
  • Kelsey Maurer (Byron-Bergen)
  • Sarah Zakes (Oakfield-Alabama/Elba)
  • Stephany McBride (Alexander)
  • Callie McCulley (Notre Dame)
  • Grace Krizen (Pembroke)
  • Quinn Audsley (Pembroke)
  • Olivia Audsley (Byron-Bergen)
  • Hannah Duttweiler (Pembroke)
  • Jenna Amesbury (Byron-Bergen)
  • Jayna Wright (Alexander)
  • Jennifer Yuhnke (Pavilion)

Girls Swimming

  • Maiya Reinhart (Batavia)

Girls Tennis

  • Stephanie Hoy (Batavia)
  • Melissa Mountain (Batavia)
  • Lea Morgan (Batavia)
  • Ariana Ross (Batavia)
  • Alicia Scroger (Batavia)
  • Lauren Leone (Batavia)

Volleyball

  • Lydia Milligan (Pavilion)
  • Taylor Sherman (Le Roy)
  • Ava Vescovi (Le Roy)
  • Riley Pasquale (Le Roy)
  • Naomi Hyde (Le Roy)
  • Breton Stephens (Alexander)
  • Aralyse Johnson (Pembroke)
  • Sami Quaranto (Pembroke)
  • Shea Norton (Notre Dame)
  • Mary Kate Miceli (Notre Dame)
  • Nichol Salvador (Notre Dame)
  • Bryanna D’Agostino (Byron-Bergen)
  • Lauren Burke (Byron-Bergen)
  • Cora Ivison (Byron-Bergen)
December 21, 2015 - 10:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield, Christmas.

Jess Colopy is a journalism student Columbia College Chicago and as a class project she produced this photo essay comparing Christmas in her hometown with her college town, Oakfield and Chicago. 

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Chicago: Millennium Park’s Christmas Tree, viewed by millions of visitors every year. The 64-foot-tall tree was lit during a massive ceremony on Nov. 24, where the cast of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and members of the Chicago Opera performed Christmas carols to the crowd of thousands.

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Oakfield: (Photo courtesy of Jan Colopy.) Roughly 50 six- to seven-foot trees border Oakfield’s Triangle Park. The trees were lit on Dec. 5 in a ceremony that about 100 people were expected to attend. The trees were purchased by non-for-profits, family businesses, and families wishing to memorialize a lost loved one. 

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Chicago: Wreaths and presents adorn The Art Institute of Chicago’s giant bronze lion statues on Michigan Avenue. The lions stand larger than life, towering over visitors who stand next to them for photographs.

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Oakfield: (Photo courtesy of Jan Colopy.)  Small, lit wreaths adorn the Village of Oakfield Office building on Main Street. The office is conveniently located next to the town’s only traffic light, part of which is visible on the right. “Welcome” banners sporting a Christmas tree also hang off of the old-fashioned streetlights.

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Chicago: The Prudential building and other skyscrapers light up red and green for the holiday season. Other buildings such as the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Center are also well known for lighting up the Chicago skyline for Christmas.

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Oakfield: (Photo courtesy of Jan Colopy.)  A piece of watering equipment on a family farm on the outskirts of Oakfield is decked out in lights for Christmas. This is a recent tradition among farmers in the rural village.

For my photo essay, I have chosen to explore the differences between Christmas in Chicago, an urban metropolis, and Oakfield, New York, my rural hometown of less than 1800 people. I thought this would be an appropriate topic for myself specifically because this year is my first Christmas in the city, and I started noticing the differences as soon as the decorations started going up and the Christmas sales began. After some research, I realized that not much has been done on the topic. An article by the Harris County Public Library cites the movies that explore the difference between small town and big city Christmases -- you know, the ones where the tough, big-city businessman too wrapped up in his work meets the small-town girl who finds a way to break into his tough heart and get him in the holiday spirit -- but those movies are all I can really find on the topic.

Obviously, my photo essay will be different because it shows what Christmas in a real small town is like compared to what Christmas is actually like in a big city. Both places are cold and generally snowy, but the atmosphere is completely different. Articles on the Christmas festivities in each individual place prove that. The City of Chicago’s Web site’s event page for the Millennium Park Christmas Tree lighting lists the big name opera star and musical cast that will be headlining the event, as well as the information about the original home of the massive tree to be lit in the park. Thousands of people attended. On the other hand, an article from the Batavia Daily News discusses the meaning of the small, hand-decorated trees that memorialize lost loved ones and special non-for-profit causes in Oakfield’s Triangle Park. A marching band information Web site states that Chicago’s Magnificent Mile Lights Parade draws more than one million spectators with its elaborate floats and familiar Disney characters. The Batavia Daily News states that a Christmas parade in Batavia - -a small city with a population of less than 7,000 about 15 minutes from Oakfield -- drew just over 1,000 people from surrounding towns with its floats from local family businesses, churches, and non-for-profits.

Everything is bigger in Chicago, while everything in Oakfield is more humbly done, but generally more personal. There are certainly advantages to each way of celebrating Christmas, but maybe the two are not as different as they seem. At heart, both places simply want to make the holiday season a fun, memorable time for its citizens, and each place’s respective celebrations simply reflect the atmosphere they are held in. Chicago is home to more than three million people, so its “bigger is better” attitude about the holiday is nothing but what one would expect. Oakfield is a quiet, conservative town, and its simple, heartfelt festivities that focus on giving back to the community suit it perfectly. And, honestly, neither place is wrong, despite what biased holiday movies might try to say about the impersonal aspects of big city Christmas, or the boringness of small towns. Though they may be different, they both focus on what is important: the spirit of the season.

December 19, 2015 - 2:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in walmart, batavia, Shop with a Cop, law enforcement.

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Deputy Debbie Snyder helps Isabell Alwardt shop for Christmas presents at Walmart during the Batavia's store first "Shop with a Cop" charity event. The Walmart Foundation provided $4,000 to the store so 40 children in the community could receive $100 each to buy Christmas presents for friends, family or themselves. The Alwardt family donated half of what they received to another family in the community.

Store Manager Shallenberger said he learned about other stores doing "Shop with a Cop" last year and started working on bringing the event to Batavia. He intends for it to become an annual event.

"I think our community needs to see how involved the police department really is in the community and the City of Batavia can see how involved Walmart in the community and that we’re able to this for the community, that we’re not just a retailer we can meet these special needs," Shallenberger said.

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Gabriel Winn shops for a present with Deputy Ryan DeLong and Deputy Brad Mazur while, Joe Loconte, looks on.

The deputies, police officers and troopers who participated in the event -- there were enough uniformed officers from all of the departments so each child could shop with a cop -- were off duty and volunteering their time.

Members of City Church's youth group volunteered to wrap presents after checkout.

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December 19, 2015 - 1:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, batavia.

A vehicle fire is reported in the rear lot of Batavia Downs.

Flames are showing.

Town of Batavia Fire dispatched.

December 19, 2015 - 12:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, Falleti Ice Arena, batavia, sports.

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Prior to the start of the David M. McCarthy Memorial Hockey Tournament at the Falleti Ice Arena, Assemblyman Steve Hawley donated a U.S. flag and a state flag to the arena to hang next to the scoreboard. The U.S. flag replaces the one that has hung in the area for years and has become worn with age.

Pictured are arena managers Alan Fitzsimmons and Adam Reach, Batavia players Bryce Polito and Riley Kusmicrski, Hawley, and players Bryce D'Alba and Jack Kasmarek.

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