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May 30, 2017 - 1:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in fire, news, batavia.

Black smoke is reportedly pouring from the back of a house at 5155 E. Main Street Road. A first responder on scene is investigating and says it's a controlled burn, of tree stumps. Town of Batavia Fire Department is called and a firefighter is continuing to the scene to investigate.

May 30, 2017 - 12:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, news.

A local businessman who said he hasn't even had time to grieve his sister's death because of five years of litigation around her estate was given a conditional discharge in County Court today on his prior guilty plea to a misdemeanor of falsifying business records.

James Pontillo's attorney, Fred Rarick, reminded Judge Michael Mohun, who is handling this case, that his client accepted a plea deal, not because he had done anything wrong, but because he wanted to get this part of the legal issues surrounding his sister's estate behind him.

"I tried to do everything the best of my ability," Pontillo said. "I did everything I was called upon to do, but there seems to be a misunderstanding."

Much of what this case is about, apparently, is tied up in surrogate's court, where Scott German, as one of his duties as county treasurer, has been appointed the administrator of the estate of Jeanne Veronica Pontillo, because there was nobody else deemed qualified to assume that role.

Pontillo has said he was trying to take care of his sister's properties while the estate was settled.

The conditional discharge means the Pontillo's conviction can be dismissed if he has no run-ins with the law for a year. He was required to pay $2,500 in restitution, which Rarick asked to be applied to back taxes on Jeanne Pontillo's properties, but District Attorney Lawrence Friedman objected to the redirection of the money.

Three of the properties -- none of them in Genesee County -- are about to go into tax lien foreclosure because nobody has paid the property taxes on those properties.

"The hardest thing about all of this is I haven't been able to properly been able to grieve for my sister," Pontillo said. "This has been going on for five years. She was more than a sister to me," he said as his voice quivered, "she was like a daughter to me."

He said the litigation has affected him personally, financially and professionally.

"I just want it to end."

Friedman renewed his request for an order of protection, requiring Pontillo to have no contact with German. This was a contentious issue in December in front of then Interim Judge Micheal Pietruszka. Rarick raised concerns about the order and the ongoing probate issues, so Pietruska agreed to amend the order, but Friedman asked for further refinement, and after more back and forth among the attorneys, Pietruszka literally tore up the order in court.

Again, today, Rarick and Friedman couldn't agree on the necessity of the order, and while Rarick acknowledged personal animosity between Pontillo and German, he said he feared German could use the order to make a false claim against his client.

Friedman scoffed at the suggestion and said a false claim is possible with any order of protection. That's no reason, he said, not to issue one.

Mohun didn't sign the order. He thought an order of eight years was excessive in a case involving a conditional discharge, but he amended Pontillo's conditional discharge so it requires him to stay away from German for the next year.

Previously: Landlord accused of falsely claiming to own a dwelling in Batavia (we've covered James Pontillo extensively over the years and this story contains links to most of that prior coverage).

May 29, 2017 - 4:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Memorial Day, veterans, batavia, news.

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To purchase prints, click here.

May 29, 2017 - 3:32pm
posted by Billie Owens in paolo busti foundation, education, SCHOLARS, batavia, byron, bergen, news.

Submitted photos and press release:

The Paolo Busti Cultural Foundation Scholarship Dinner will be held at Terry Hills Restaurant and Banquet Facility beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14. There will be a cash bar followed by an Italian buffet at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 and are available at Ben’s Appliance, VJ Gautieri Construction or from any board member.

Outstanding Italian Americans will be honored and the recipient of the Paolo Busti Scholarship will be named.

The following scholarship applicants are all high school seniors in the Class of  2017.

Alexis "Lexi" Hoerner, pictured above, attends Batavia High School where she holds an overall GPA of 95 and ranks 19th in a class of 175. Lexi is a member of the National Honor Society as well as the National Art Honor Society. She has received numerous honors and awards, including a commendation in the 2016 Congressional Art Competition NY 27th District, and the Bob Heischman Award for Excellence in Creativity in Drawing as well as various school awards for outstanding achievement in art, printmaking, portfolio, sculpture, and excellence and creativity in drawing.

Lexi is a member of the BHS varsity swim team and has volunteered with various local community organizations including the Lions Club, YWCA, Crossroads House, and Genesee County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). She has also served as a BHS Link Leader and with the Art Department Stage Crew at Batavia High School.

Lexi plans to attend Canisius College in the fall where she will continue her studies in Studio Art.

Alexis is the daughter of Karen Cutitta and Michael Hoerner.

Gabrielle "Gabby" Della Pena, in photo at right, has participated in dancing, soccer, and cheerleading at Notre Dame High School. She was captain on varsity soccer team in high school, and was awarded the Leadership Award at the end of her senior season. She is a scholar athlete, and was a dancer   in the highest dance company since she was 11 years old.

She is currently employed at Olympia Sports in Batavia. This job has given her incredible communication skills, leadership qualities and patience. She volunteers at the NYS Veterans Home in Batavia. She helps in the business office with medical records and also has helped with the residents when needed.

She feels her work ethic has come from being a part of a sports team, volunteer and working with different people at Olympia. She would be a different person if she did not experience all she has, especially in her last four years at Notre Dame High School. Gabby plans on attending Niagara University in the fall and major in Biology.

Gabrielle is the daughter of Rocco and Janice Della Penna, of Batavia.

lyndsey_rowlandc2017.pngLyndsey Rowland, at left, is a senior at Notre Dame High School and will be graduating with honors. After high school she is planning on going to Genesee Community College in Batavia to study in the Health Studies program before going to a University. Lyndsey has dedicated many hours to studying for the various college and AP courses. She hopes to study Pharmacology after her two years at GCC.

Lyndsey has dedicated many hours to various activities in high school. She has participated in band, chorus, drama club, JV and varsity volleyball, track and field, DECA, business club, National Honor Society and high honor roll. She has also participated in various events outside of school, including youth group and nursery at Grace Baptist Church, Genesee Cancer Assistance fundraisers, club volleyball, teen leadership conference, youth seminars and mission trips.  

When Lyndsey is not participating in sports and various clubs at school, she works hard at home with her many chores and household work.

Lyndsey is the daughter of Scott and Karen Rowland, of Perry.

Serena Strollo-Di Censo, pictured right, is a senior at Batavia High School. After transferring from Notre Dame during her sophomore year she remained involved in sports, music, and volunteering at BHS and became actively involved in music, theater, band and community theater.

She is president of Tri-M National Music Honor Society and treasurer and historian of the Production Club. At Batavia High School she had lead roles in "Hairspray," "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Mary Poppins."

As President of Tri-M, she established a sock drive in tandem with the Zonta Club to benefit the Salvation Army. This sock drive was a true high point for Serena.

Serena is attending the University at Buffalo in the fall with a double major in History and Theater with a minor in Italian. Her goal is to become an entertainment industry lawyer working with women in that industry who are historically under represented.

Serena is the daughter of Anita Strollo, of Batavia, and Joseph DiCenso, of Williamsville.

Karson Antonia Richenberg, bottom right, is a senior at Byron-Bergen High School. She plans to attend the University of Buffalo to study Psychology.

Her interests include track and field, soccer and basketball. Her hobbies are hiking, running, visiting historical places, and volunteering her time to different community activities.

She is a Scholar Athlete, and also received the Triple C Award from the New York State Attorney General for her “Character, Courage and Commitment.” She has been awarded the Human Services Scholarship for her involvement in the community and her plan to pursue a career in Psychology.

Karson prides herself on her ability to overcome adverse situations and never losing her positive outlook on life and the future. She has been able to do this through her faith in God. Karson enjoys making lifelong memories with her family and friends and never taking any moment for granted.

She is the daughter of Eric and Antonia Richenberg.

May 28, 2017 - 11:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Old Courthouse, batavia, news, Lighting Design Innovations.

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Installation of a new LCD lighting system atop the Old Courthouse in Batavia was completed this week and for Memorial Day Weekend, the cupola is illuminated with alternating red, white and blue lights.

The system, donated by Batavia-based Lighting Design Innovations, has a color pallet of thousands of shades to fit any occasion.

The value of the system is $7,500 and is computer controlled.

Paul Mercier, a partner in the company, pitched the idea to the County Legislature in February and said his company would donate the system for the cupola.

"For us, the significant aspect of being here is we believe in community," Mercier said.

Mercier suggested that at some point, the Legislature may wish to support a fundraising effort to illuminate the entire building.

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May 27, 2017 - 2:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in veterans, Memorial Day, batavia, news.

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Veterans, other volunteers, and family members were in cemeteries throughout the area today to replace worn flags and place new flags on the graves of the men and women who served in the U.S. military.

It's an annual tradition locally to honor military personnel on Memorial Day Weekend.

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Emilio Rosales, 8, places a flag at Elmwood Cemetary. Also placing flags was his sister, Valentina, 5.

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Daniel Tomaszewski and his family, from Freedonia, made their annual trip to the St. Joe's Cemetery in Batavia to plant flowers on the grave site of his parents, who grew up and were married in Batavia before moving to Freedonia. With Daniel are wife Kristin, daughter Josephine and son Mason.

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Tim Burch places a flag at a marker in Elmwood Cemetery.

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Don Morris at Elmwood.

May 27, 2017 - 1:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news, sports, Memorial Murph.

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Riley D'Alba, of Oakfield, completes her squats during a workout today at Batavia Cross Training known as the Memorial Murph.

The event is a scholarship fundraiser for students pursuing careers in law enforcement; the proceeds this year going to D'Alba, who plans to attend Hobart College.

Dozens of people completed The Murph today, which is named in honor of Lt. Micheal Murphy, a Navy Seal killed in action in 2005 in Afghanistan. The workout, which he called Body Armor, starts with a one-mile run, followed by 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and ends with another one-mile run. Those who have them and can endure it also wear a 20-pound vest.

Batavia Cross Training holds annual Memorial Murph over Memorial Day weekend to honor those who have served or are serving in the U.S. military. Several members of local law enforcement participate each year.

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May 27, 2017 - 11:54am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Joey Belladonna, batavia, Batavia Downs, music, entertainment, news.

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Joey Belladonna and his band Chief Big Way play the Paddock Room at Batavia Downs tonight.

The lead singer with Anthrax, nominated five times for Grammy awards, Belladonna is playing in Batavia for the second time this year. The show is free and starts at 9 p.m.

Pictured with Belladonna are his friend Tom Mazurkiewicz and band members Dave Michelson and Joe Precourt.

May 26, 2017 - 3:57pm
posted by Maria Pericozzi in news, batavia, Memorial Day.

Veterans Don Lewis and Roger Martin will serve as grand marshals for the annual Memorial Day parade in Batavia on May 29th.

Lewis will be driving in the parade and Martin will be riding with him. Lewis and Martin were both born and raised in Batavia.

“We’ve been good friends ever since high school,” Lewis said. “He and I have been in the parade every year since we could be.”

Lewis graduated high school in 1944 and shortly after, joined the military. He went overseas to the Philippines and when he returned to the United States, he was discharged.

Martin also graduated from high school in 1944 and joined the Navy in February of 1945.

The parade starts at 9:45 a.m. from the Eastown Plaza, proceed down Main Street, and end at the Alva Place parking lot. A Veterans Memorial Service will be held afterward at Jerome Center.

If any veterans wish to participate in the parade, they can just show up at 9:15 a.m. Any veterans needing a ride in the parade, should contact Bob Bialkowski at 409-3624.

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Don Lewis

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Roger Martin

May 26, 2017 - 9:52am
posted by Maria Pericozzi in news, batavia, Neighborhood Art House.

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Neighborhood Art House, an art studio and shop offering classes, parties, workshops and ceramics located on 155 Walnut St. in Batavia, opened its doors a few weeks ago.

Jill Pettigrew, the owner, said she has been an artist all her life.

“I want people to be able to do art activities in a relaxed atmosphere and not feel intimidated,” Pettigrew said. “So many people feel like they’re not artistic or creative, but there is something here that everybody can do.”

Neighborhood Art House has open studio times for people of all ages to paint ceramics, make a wood sign or pottery. Anyone can also call to book a paint night party or a wood sign party. Pettigrew said she is already booking parties into September and October.

“In the fall, we will be adding more things when we see what people want to do,” Pettigrew said.

The building Neighborhood Art House is located in what was previously a TV repair shop, Pettigrew said.

“I’ve always had my eye on this building,” Pettigrew said. “I was driving by one day and there was a 'for rent' sign on it and I just thought I would go for it.”

Pettigrew said it did not take long to transform the building into an art studio.

“I didn’t really have to do anything,” Pettigrew said. “It’s still retro '70s, with the red Elvis carpet and the paneling but it worked. It was perfect.”

Pettigrew said her husband, Jeremy, does a lot of work behind the scenes.

“We want to make it a nice place where people come and be relaxed,” Pettigrew said. “I want people to come and enjoy the art process, whether it's painting ceramics, taking a class or learning something new.”

Neighborhood Art House is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.

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May 26, 2017 - 9:48am
posted by Maria Pericozzi in news, batavia, homeownership.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will be hosting a homeownership workshop at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7, at the Richmond Memorial Library for residents to learn about housing programs offered throughout Western New York.

Michael Grundel, an area specialist for USDA, said the workshop, titled Keys to Homeownership, will outline each program that is offered. Staff members will be there to answer any questions about eligibility and how to apply.

“It’s a nationwide program,” Grundel said. “We have this local area for Genesee, Erie, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties.”

USDA Rural Development is committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America, offering loans, grants and loan guarantees to support essential services, according to the USDA website. The loans, grants and loan guarantees support housing, economic development, healthcare, first responder services and equipment, and water, electric and communications infrastructure.

Grundel said anyone is welcome to come to the workshop.

“We are happy to have all people attend to get the word out, get recognition for the programs, (provide) an understanding of how it works and to answer questions,” Grundel said. “It’s a great resource for all in the area.”

Dawn Kuras, the lead loan specialist for USDA, said this is not the first workshop being held.

“June is our homeownership month,” Kuras said. “We always do a special event for each of our service centers.”

A couple workshops are held a year, Grundel said. Previous workshops have been held with various partners and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Grundel said they partner with PathStone, a nonprofit community development, and human service organization, but are looking for more.

Depending on the need for a workshop, another one could be in the near future, Kuras said.

“Even people that don’t have acceptable credit should come to the workshop,” Kuras said. “We can go over the requirements and opportunities to improve their credit.”

For more information or questions before the workshop, residents should call 343-0442.

“Keep an open mind,” Kuras said. “A lot of people don’t think that they can qualify for a mortgage, but our program really has a lot of opportunities for people, whether they don’t have enough savings or make enough money.”

May 25, 2017 - 3:10pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, batavia, Announcements, Batavia Cross Training.

Press release:

Batavia Cross Training is hosting its second annual Memorial Day Murph fundraising event beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 27.

Local law enforcement, first responders, active military, and veterans are invited to train alongside members of Batavia Cross Training gym to complete the Murph Challenge. For those interested in joining in on the fun, sign up today!

The Murph will consist of a one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, then another one-mile run.

A $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to a high school senior in Genesee County who will be pursuing law enforcement. If you or someone you know is interested, they can contact Batavia Cross Training or go to the scholarship department at their high school for more info.

Feel free to join us to cheer on the participating athletes!

All donations made during this event will be used for a scholarship for a Genesee County high school senior who is pursuing a law enforcement career.

May 25, 2017 - 12:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Ellicott Station, batavia, business, news, Dellapenna Building.

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The first work toward revitalizing the Della Penna buildings into Ellicott Station -- apartments, office space, a restaurant, and brewery -- began today with a contractor digging test pits and checking soil samples.

The tests are the first step in any contamination remediation process. The tests will provide officials with information on the scope of any remediation that is needed.

The old industrial parcel on Ellicott Street will undergo a $17 million transformation that will eventually bring in Buffalo's Resurgence Brewing Company as the anchor tenant.

For previous coverage, click here.

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May 24, 2017 - 10:07am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, Pavilion, darien center.

James L. Ozzello, 29, of Kathryns Way, Livonia, is charged with: pedestrian failed to yield right of way to a vehicle; pedestrian proceeded into the path of a vehicle; disorderly conduct; and resisting arrest. The alleged incident was reported at 2 a.m. Saturday on West Main Street, Batavia. Ozzello was jailed on $1,000 bail.

Geoffrey M. Anderson, 51, no permanent address, was arrested on a warrant for failure to appear. He was jailed without bail.

Bonnie Mae Marrocco, 47, of Swan Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal mischief, 3rd. During an argument, Marrocco allegedly damaged property of another person with a value of more than $250.

Rebecca A. Edwards, 23, of Central Avenue, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Edwards was arrested on a warrant and jailed on $500 bail.

Wendy Lee Henry, 32, of Central Avenue, Batavia, is charged with obstruction of governmental administration. Henry allegedly interfered with a medical situation at 4:08 a.m. Friday at a residence on Central Avenue.

Christopher S. Usselman, 25, of Hamilton Street, Albion, is charged with criminal impersonation, 2nd, two counts of aggravated unauthorized operation, 2nd, open alcoholic beverage in motor vehicle, and unlawful possession of marijuana. Usselman was stopped at 1:49 a.m. Friday on West Main Street, Batavia, for an alleged traffic violation by Officer Mitchell Cowen. Usselman allegedly initially gave the officer the name of another person for his identity. Further investigation allegedly led to the discovery of an open container of an alcoholic beverage in the vehicle, marijuana and a revoked driver's license.

Bleyke Z. Culver, 20, of Willow Street, Batavia, is charged with disorderly conduct, trespass, and criminal mischief, 3rd. Batavia PD responded to a residence on Maple Street at 8:02 p.m. Friday for a report of a disturbance involving several people. Police were able to separate the parties and after an investigation, Culver was arrested. Culver was jailed (bail status not included in press release). Also arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, Laqueasha M. Taylor, 23, of Bank Street, Batavia.

Bryan S. Harris, 35, of Stratford Road, Buffalo, was arrested on a warrant stemming from an incident reported at 9 a.m., Feb. 23, 2015. No further details released.

Sandra Ann Muhs, 50, of South Street Road, Pavilion, is charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs, failure to keep right, and unsafe tires. Muhs was arrested by Deputy Mathew Clor following the report of a motor-vehicle accident, no injuries, at 5:56 a.m. Tuesday in the area of 9778 South Street Road, Pavilion.

Corey B. Rieser, 29, of Darien Center, is charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, 3rd, insecure license plate, and visibility distorted by broken glass. Rieser was stopped in the Town of Sheldon by Sgt. Colin Reagan, Wyoming County Sheriff's Office, for alleged traffic violations. He was jailed on $500 bail or $2,500 bond.

May 23, 2017 - 4:35pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, batavia, senior center.

City Ladder 15 and Engine 11 were called to the Senior Center on Bank Street after employees of St. Jerome's called 9-1-1 and reported smelling smoke outside the building. They discovered an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) unit on the roof that was smoking and resolved the issue.

May 23, 2017 - 3:35pm
posted by Maria Pericozzi in batavia, news, Holland Land Office Museum.

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The Holland Land Office Museum, located on 131 W. Main St. in Batavia, will have its collection, “Over there to over here: 100 years later,” on display only for a couple more weeks.

The artifacts in the collection all pertain to World War I with a connection to Genesee County, said Ryan Duffy, the museum’s executive director.

“I decided to put [the artifacts] on display to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry in the war,” Duffy said.

The collection includes military and personal items, Duffy said, noting that the collection also has items used to support the war, and each piece is labeled with what it is, who it belonged to and the year it was from.

“For the most part, all of the items were used by Genesee County residents,” Duffy said. "For instance, all the uniforms we have were worn by someone from the area that was donated to the collection.”

Duffy said there are around 60 items on display. The collection was put together with items already donated to the museum.

“It’s good to show off some of the things in our collection that pertain to the time period,” Duffy said.

Also in the collection is a list of the World War I veterans in Genesee County.

Duffy said it is as complete as it is going to get, but sometimes visitors look at the book and tell him another name that should be included.

The collection was on display starting on April 11 and will remain open until June 10.

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. There is a suggested donation of $1 for a child or student, $2 for an adult and $5 for a family.

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May 23, 2017 - 3:27pm

The Knox Choir, a youth choir from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Ohio, is coming to Batavia on Wednesday, June 7, to perform a free concert.

The youth choir will be touring this summer and performing at different communities in the Northeast.

Batavia will be this tour's debut performance. It's at 7 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, located at 300 E. Main St. in Downtown Batavia.

A wide variety of music will be sung, including works by Faure and Bach, as well as music from the Gospel tradition, and songs from around the globe.

Since 2007, this choir has completed eight tours, including three Presbyterian Heritage Tours of Scotland.

May 23, 2017 - 11:48am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news.

The assistant district attorney who prosecuted Heather Ace believes the Batavia mother whose 2-year-old twin boys died in a house fire 8157 State Street Road, Batavia, in May of last year is genuinely remorseful for leaving her children home alone unattended.

Ace was sentenced yesterday to a year in jail after previously pleading guilty to endangering the welfare of a child.

ADA Melissa Cianfrini said Ace has been remorseful since the night of the fire.

"As I said at sentencing, if she could go back and undo it she would a million times over," Cianfrini said. "I didn't doubt her remorse or that it was sincere."

Cianfrini said the DA's office is obligated to follow the evidence and the law and prosecute suspects with the highest charges available to them based on the evidence and the law. Since there is no indication that Ace was involved in any way with starting the fire or causing the fire, the only charge that fit the crime, Cianfrini said, was endangering the welfare of a child.

She originally faced two charges, but since both charges stemmed from the same event, she could not receive separate, consecutive one-year sentences. The maximum available sentence was a year in jail.

The cause of the fire has never been determined and this morning Chief Deputy Jerome Brewster said that while electrical has been ruled out as a cause, there was no evidence uncovered that suggested any other cause.

Ace wasn't at home at the time of the fire. There was also nobody else with Michael and Micah Gard when the fire broke out. They were locked in a bedroom and nobody was able to reach them in time after the fire was spotted by neighbors. The boys died of smoke inhalation. 

According to her statement, Ace left the tots home alone to go to a friend's house. She said she stopped to buy a malt liquor and also smoked some marijuana while she was out of the house.

When Ace's mother heard about the fire, she tried calling Ace, who didn't answer her phone. She then sent a text to her daughter, according to statements to investigators, "Answer your f---ing phone."

Ace answered on the next ring. She was hysterical by the time she reached her house a few minutes later.

"She had no role in the fire," Cianfrini said. "It was a serious lack of judgment (leaving the boys alone)."

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