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Police scour city for wanted man

By Billie Owens

The law is on the lookout for a white male wanted on a warrant. Batavia City Police and Sheriff's Deputies have set up a parameter search in the area of State and North streets and Fairmont Avenue.

No further information is available at this time.

UPDATE (12:35 p.m.): The subject of the manhunt is wanted for allegedly violating his probation following his conviction for burglary in the second degree. A helicopter is requested to help in the search.

UPDATE 12:48 p.m. (by Howard): The Sheriff's Office has identified the suspect as Christopher A. Laird, who has been on the county's very short wanted list since Feb. 2. He's been spotted in the city a couple of times recently, including today. Laird is not considered dangerous. If spotted, witnesses should call 345-3000.

UPDATE 1:17 p.m.: A witness informed law enforcement a short time ago that an 18- to19-year-old wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt ran through his yard "looking scared" about 45 minutes ago. That was on State Street. The search is moving southeast.

UPDATE 1:32 p.m.: Police and Sheriff's units are calling off the search, going back in service. 

Police Beat: Alleged DWI arrest follows after cop observes suspect in store

By Howard B. Owens

John P. Vanderzell, 62, of 9732 Summit Street Road, Le Roy, is charged with DWI and aggravated DWI (driving with a BAC of .08 or greater). Vanderzell was reportedly observed at a store in Le Roy by Sgt. Michael J. Hare in an intoxicated condition. Sgt. Hare then reportedly observed Vanderzell get into his car and drive away. Sgt. Hare stopped Vanderzell and arrested him for alleged DWI.

Kyle B. Bacon, 19, of 679 E. Main St., Apt. 4C and Ryan T. Nugent, 19, same address, are charged with unlawful possession of alcohol by a person under 21. Batavia Police were dispatched to 679 E. Main St., Apt. 4C to check a report of underage drinking. Upon arriving, police allegedly found Bacon and Nugent in possession of alcohol.

Robert L. Drozdowski, 28, of 15 Washington St., Castile, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Drozdowski was reportedly issued a stay away order out of City Court, which he allegedly violated by contacting the subject person by leaving voicemails on the person's mobile phone.

Accidents reported on the State Police blotter:

2:04 p.m., March 31, Boyce Road, Pembroke, one vehicle; Driver 1: Daniel M. Johnston, 58, of Corfu. No injuries reported.

Car accident reported at Main and Liberty

By Howard B. Owens

There are possible injuries in a car accident at Main in Liberty in Batavia.

The driver is reportedly pregnant and there are children in the car.

City Fire and Mercy EMS responding.

UPDATE: Only minor injuries reported.


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Record traffic in March, and most viewed posts

By Howard B. Owens

The Batavian set new records in the three key Web traffic stats we watch.

  • Unique visitors: 42,215
  • Visits: 176,152
  • Page Views: 301,889

Unique visitors doesn't necessarily translate into X number of people. The tools that measure Web traffic can only count computers. One person may use two different computers to visit the site in a month, or two people may share the same computer.  But it is a close approximation of number of people who visited the site.

Visits accounts for all the times that people visited the site in the month.  One unique visitor can account for several visits.

Page Views are the number of times a page of the site is downloaded into a Web browser window.

The previous records:

  • Unique Visitors: 38,057 in August
  • Visits: 155,782 in January
  • Page Views: 292,176 in August

Thank you all for your support.

Here's the most viewed posts for March:

Truck hits utility pole on Bloomingdale Road, Alabama

By Howard B. Owens

A truck hit a utility pole in the area of 1254 Bloomingdale Road, Alabama.

A transformer may have been knocked down. There are wires on the roadway and Bloomingdale is now closed.

There is also fluid on the ground.

Alabama Fire is responding.

UPDATE:  Reportedly, a semi-truck with trailer hit the pole. It reportedly also hit a structure, possibly a house.  It then reportedly left the scene.

Wide loads snarl traffic in Downtown Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

Seven or eight trucks carrying wide loads, along with multiple escort vehicles, passed through Batavia on Main Street this morning.

At about 11:30, traffic was tied up between Ellicott and Oak streets, as at least four police cars were used to block traffic, allowing the convoy to pass safely along the route.

The trucks appeared to be hauling windmill parts.

New York's new blue and gold plates now available

By Howard B. Owens

Genesee County Clerk Don Read holds up one of the new New York license plates, which are now available.

Unlike the original plan, switching to the new plate is not mandatory, and just because you register your new vehicle, doesn't mean you will get the blue and gold plate. Unless requested, according to Read, the old Empire State plates will be given out until there are none left (that's them on the shelves behind Read).

People who want the new plate when it's time to renew their vehicle registration, can request a pair.

However, vehicle owners with "County Clerk Plates" (GS, BA and 7H series) will have to wait until the current supply of those Empire Plates are used up. The State isn't sending out county plates until current supplies ares are depleted.

Read, a history buff, said he likes the plates' retro design.

"A lot of people don't like them," Read said. "I think they're nice."

Critical week for many New Yorkers out of work as benefits expire

By Howard B. Owens

For many New Yorkers who lost their jobs near the start of the recession nearly two years ago, this could be a terrifying week.

Unemployment benefits cannot be extended past 99 weeks, and for 46,000 New Yorkers, those 99 weeks are up.

Figures for how many Genesee County residents might be effected are not immediately available, but the Democrat and Chronicle reports that 2,100 Rochester-area residents will be losing their benefits this week.

In each of the following weeks, more and more people will see their benefits expire.

Last year, Congress extended the previous 26 weeks of benefits to 99 weeks, but officials are not expecting another extension.

State Labor officials are encouraging people who are losing benefits to visit the state's "My Benefits" site and complete a five-minute self-assessment of income and family situation to determine what other government aid might be available.

Potential assistance includes food stamps, health benefits, school lunch programs and other government programs.

Officials are also encouraging unemployed workers to reach out to job centers in the state, such as the one on East Main in Batavia, which can help with job-search tasks.

The latest figures from the Department of Labor put Genesee County's unemployment rate at 9.1 percent. The state's rate is 9.3 percent, while the rate nationally is 10.4 percent.

UPDATE: Jeanne Ianita, business services representative for the Department of Labor in Batavia, called with the local numbers.  On the week ending March 28, 98 people in Genesee County lost their benefits. Over the next three weeks, unemployment payments will stop for another 19 people.

Below is a video produced by the State Department of Labor:

Police Beat: Man accused of breaking up items in mother's home

By Howard B. Owens

Sath Paul Dhanda, 29, of 5458 Clapsaddle Road, Bethany, is charged with criminal mischief, 4th. Dhanda was arrested at 12:30 p.m., Wednesday, after his mother phoned in a complaint about him allegedly breaking items in her home. Dhanda was allegedly drunk. He reportedly threw a sewing machine and knocked over two television sets. He was jailed on $5,000 bail. This is the fourth time Dhanda has been arrested since October.

Farah St. Cloud, 18, of 1196 Lake Ave., #2, Rochester, is charged with disorderly conduct. St. Cloud is accused of engaging in violent and threatening behavior by attempting to fight with other residents at College Village. During the 3 a.m. incident, St. Cloud reportedly had to be held back by roommates and College Village staff.

Joshua Cordero McIver, 22, of 130 3rd Ave., Apt. 18H, Brooklyn, is charged with criminal trespass, 3rd. McIver was reportedly at College Village after being banned from the property.

Ricky A. Marsceill, 45, of Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and aggravated unlicensed operation. Marsceill was stopped by State Police at 11:10 p.m., Tuesday, on Route 33 in Stafford.

Justin M. Quaintance, 18, of Bergen, is charged with grand larceny, 3rd. Quaintance was arrested Tuesday by State Police on charges that stem from a Sept. 26 incident. No further details were released.

Tanya M. Tomlin, 41, of Batavia, is charged with petit larceny and criminal impersonation, 2nd. Tomlin is accused of shoplifting from Kmart at 12:55 p.m., Tuesday. She was arrested by State Police.

Jeffery D. Appleberry, 33, of Rochester, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Appleberry was stopped by State Police on the Thruway in Stafford at 10:30 p.m., Monday.

No snow in March could make for record-shortest winter

By Howard B. Owens

Fans of long winters may long remember 2009-2010 as a disappointment.

There was no measurable snow in March, according to Dave Sage of the National Weather Service, and combine that with a late snowfall to start the season, it may be the shortest winter on record for Genesee County.

"It's pretty unusual," Sage told WBTA. "We didn't even have our first measurable snow until Dec. 1. If Feb. 28 is truly the last time we had measurable snow, it will be the shortest period, just a 90-day period, between the first measurable snow and the last measurable snow, and that would be a record."

The last time there was no snow in March was in the 1870s.

Sage, noted, however, that it's at least theoretically possible we'll get more snow before summer. In 1989, the region was hit with 8 inches of snow on one day in May.

UMMC marks construction milestone with ceremony

By Howard B. Owens

To commemorate the last steel beam being put in place on UMMC's $19.5 million expansion, the hospital held a "topping off" ceremony this afternoon.

A worker placed a flag -- for national pride -- and an evergreen tree -- for growth -- atop the beam.

The beam was painted white and signed by employees, administrators and board members.

When completed, the expansion will add 44,000 square feet to the front of the hospital on the North Street side. Construction is expected to be completed in December.

Wilson Verdict: Guilty on both counts

By Howard B. Owens

(Updated 4:10 p.m.)

Reginald M. Wilson passed up a plea deal that would have limited his prison time to two- to four-years in State Prison on a charge of criminal possession of stolen property.

This afternoon, a jury convicted him of burglary, 2nd, and criminal possession of stolen property, 3rd, and now Wilson has to wonder if Judge Robert C. Noonan will want to lock him away for life.

Because of Wilson's prior violent felony offenses, his upcoming stint in prison won't be a short one either way.

On the burglary charge, Wilson is facing a possible 5 to 15 year sentence. The possession charge carries a maximum sentence of 3 1/2 to 7 years.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman said he's not ready to indicate whether he will ask Noonan to consider a life sentence.

Noonan set the sentencing for May 12 and revoked Wilson's $100,000 bail, which was never posted.

Wilson showed little reaction when the verdict was read. There were four additional law enforcement officers in the court room when the jury came back. The jury forewoman's hands were visibly shaking when she handed the verdict slip to the court deputy.

Defense Attorney Fares Rumi said he still believes the jury should have returned a not-guilty verdict.

"I felt we put on a strong defense," Rumi said. "I felt we exposed the weaknesses in the prosecution's case. I'm obviously disappointed in the verdict. I didn't feel the People met the burden of proof.  But the law is the law. We have a good system."

Friedman said he was pleased with the verdict, that he felt all along that Wilson was guilty.

"As I told the jury (this morning), I really could not believe that this witness (Dillon Brito) who testified for us, the accomplice, as a 17-year-old, would falsely implicate this particular defendant. I just could not fathom what his motivation would be for doing that. He was consistent. I thought he was believable. Obviously, the jury thought so, too."

UPDATE: After court, I failed to ask Mr. Rumi why he didn't have Gibson and Dash testify. Readers may remember that Gibson and Dash were reportedly willing to say that Wilson did not participate in the burglary.  I spoke with Mr. Rumi again a few minutes ago. He said even though the trial is over, he didn't want to go into detail on his strategy, but it was a strategic decision based on his review of all the statements in the case.  "I still believe it is the right decision."  Also, in a previous story I said Rumi is "from Batavia."  He said he grew up in Batavia, but now lives and is based in Rochester.

For previous coverage of this case, click here.

Muscle car drawing leads to record night for Batavia Downs

By Howard B. Owens

The joint was hopping Saturday night at Batavia Downs, with more than 6,100 patrons on hand for a muscle car drawing and a live band in the Paddock Room.

There were 3.1 million credits played Saturday, and Marty Biniasz, director of marketing, said that is a new record, beating the 2.8 million credits played one night last march.

The muscle car -- a 2010 Camero SS -- was won by a guy named Jim (last name not released) from Le Roy. He opted for the $20,000 instead.

Players eligible for the drawing earned chances to win through play at the casino over the previous seven weeks.

Last year, the an OTB employee won the Dodge Challenger given away by the Downs. This year, Biniasz said, before the winner was announced officials made sure he wasn't an employee of the Downs, of OTB or the dealership sponsoring the contest.

To accommodate the large crowd, the Downs opened up the Paddock Room, where an 80s tribute band played live, and the grandstands were open with TVs tuned either to basketball or the Buffalo Sabres game.

Attorneys make closing arguments in State Street burglary case

By Howard B. Owens

The testimony of Dillon Brito, one of the men who admitted to taking part in a robbery on State Street, Batavia, in September, was the focus of closing arguments for both the defense and prosecution in the trial of Reginald M. Wilson.

Wilson is charged with burglary and possession of stolen property and faces a possible life sentence because of his prior felony convictions if the jury finds him guilty.

The jury began deliberations this morning.

In his summation, Defense Attorney Fares Rumi told jurors that Brito lacked credibility.

"He's a young criminal who took a deal to testify," Rumi said.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman countered that Brito implicated Wilson when he was first arrested, long before the prosecution offered a plea agreement. Brito's testimony was credible, Friedman said, because his statements were consistent from the time of his arrest to his testimony and even under cross-examination.

"It's not like he tried to accuse Reginald Wilson to save his own skin," Friedman said. "How does implicating Reginald Wilson saves his own skin? Why would he implicate Reginal Wislon when it hasn't been shown he has a motivation to lie? I’m not saying people never lie, but people usually lie for a reason. What was the reason?"

Brito said Wilson asked him to act as a lookout during the break-in and that he saw Wilson enter the residence. Brito also testified that he was with Wilson and the other defendants, Quentin L. Gibson, 25; Joseph D. Dash, 24, when they were showing off the allegedly stolen items.

Wilson's possession of the car that was stolen from the State Street house was also a key part of the closing arguments.

Rumi asserted that the prosecution failed to prove that Wilson knew the car was stolen. He relied heavily on the fact that Wilson drove that car around Batavia the day after the burglary, even hanging out with it on State Street.

"Think about it, men and women of the jury, my client rode around all over Batavia all day," Rumi said. "He wouldn’t have done that if he knew it was stolen. He would have taken it out of town or he would have ditched it."

Friedman told jurors that Wilson obviously knew the car was stolen because he gave differing versions of how he came to possess the car. First he told Toni White that his girlfriend gave it to him. Later he told her it belonged to "Joey."  When he was picked up by police, he reportedly said it belonged to a friend.

Obviously, Friedman said, Wilson wasn't worried about being caught with the car. "He had his story ready," Friedman said.

The car not only proves, Friedman said, that he knowingly possessed stolen property, but it corroborates Brito's testimony that Wilson participated in the burglary.

Following the arguments, Judge Robert Noonan instructed the jury on its role in evaluating facts, what they heard in court and that it is not the juror's job to decide what the law should be. He further explained the law and the scope of the case.

Young driver suffers minor injury in Galloway Road accident

By Howard B. Owens

A 19-year-old driver says she hit an unknown object on Galloway Road yesterday causing her to lose control of her car, sending it over an embankment and into a group of trees.

Ashley N. Rippel, of 1302 Phelps Road, Corfu, suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported by ground ambulance to UMMC.

The crash occurred at 4:01 p.m.

Rippel was driving a 2001 Plymouth sedan owned by a Batavia resident.

There were no passengers and no other vehicles were involved in the crash.

No citations were issued.

The accident was investigated by Deputy Timothy Weis.

Batavia thruway exit to undergo repairs

By Howard B. Owens

One lane of the Batavia Toll Plaza will be closed for pavement repairs until mid-May, according to a news release from the Thruway Authority.

Travelers should plan for delays of up to five minutes.

Lane #3 will be closed.

There may be other delays in the coming weeks as other lanes are periodically closed for concrete removal between toll lanes.

Accident reported at Bank and Douglas

By Howard B. Owens

A one-car accident has been reported at Bank and Douglas in the City of Batavia.

A possible health problem may have been the cause.

No word on injuries.

City Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.


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