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Tractor operator charged with reckless driving

By Howard B. Owens

Neil W. Phelps, 55, of 2494 DeNoon Road, Caledonia, has been charged with reckless driving.

Phelps was reportedly the operator of a tractor on eastbound Main Street in Batavia last month that struck several cars and pushed one with two occupants inside about a tenth of a mile down the roadway.

The Sheriff's Office press release says that Phelps operated the tractor "in a manner which unreasonably interfered with the free and proper use of the public highway and unreasonably endangered users of the public highway."

Phelps is set to appear in Batavia Town Court on July 16 at 1:30 p.m. for arraignment on the charge.

Police Beat: Rash of Wal-Mart shoplifting charges filed

By Howard B. Owens

A 17-year-old Byron gril is charged with petty larceny. The teenager is accused of putting items in her purse at Wal-Mart and then walking past all points of purchase.

Markeda Starks, 18, of 7 Mill St., #7, Batavia, is charged with petty larceny. Starts is accused of shoplifting at Wal-Mart.

Toni White, 28, of 14 S. Main St., Batavia is charged with petty larceny. White is accused of stealing from Wal-Mart.

Shaleesa Woods, 18, of 2964 Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road, Batavia, is accused of stealing from Wal-Mart. She was charged with petty larceny.

Emilea Webster, 20, of 126 Frank St., Medina, Batavia, is accused of shoplifting from Wal-Mart. Webster was charged with petty larceny.

Timothy Wood, 20, of 115 S. Main St., Batavia, is charged of petty larceny. He is accused of shoplifting from Wal-Mart.

Teri Sczepanski, 47, of 2034 Lewiston Road, Basom, is charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Sczepanski allegedly drove another person's car without permission.

Car hits tree in Le Roy neighborhood

By Howard B. Owens

A car has reportedly run into a tree at the intersection of Maple and Church in Le Roy. The accident was originally reported as a non-injury accident.  Several emergency units are responding.

UPDATE: "All victims have been removed from vehicle."

UPDATE: National Grid has been called to the scene.

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Tractor trailer fire near Route 20 in Darien

By Howard B. Owens

There was apparently a tractor trailer fire at 1402 Broadway in Darien (I wasn't in the office for the initial call).  After fire crews extinguished the fire and left, they were asked to return because an air filter had started burning. It was a non-emergency response.

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Federal charges filed against accused child pornographer apprehended in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

Federal charges have been filed against Dalton Wilke, the accused child pornographer from Livingston County that Batavia Police Detective Todd Crossett helped apprehend last August by imitating a 15-year-old in online conversations.

Wilke, 45, faces a felony charge of using the Internet to persuade or entice a minor to engage in sexual activity.

Wilke reportedly had pictures of minors engaging in sexual activity on his computer when he was apprehended. He faces charges of receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography. 

He faces five to 20 years in prison on the child pornography charges and up to 10 years for the enticement charge.

Walgreens fence is barrier to business growth in Le Roy

By Howard B. Owens

I took this picture last week, but I have the same thought every time I reach the intersection of Main St. and Lake St. in Le Roy: What good is Walgreens going to do for Le Roy? What where village planners thinking when they agreed to see two buildings that fit the village torn down and replaced by one that intentionally doesn't fit?

The Walgreens will do nothing to help the existing businesses in the village or help fill up the 10 or so vacant store fronts there.

The parking lot in front of the building is designed to make Walgreens a drive in, buy, and leave location.  The black metal fence further imprisons Walgreens customers, sending a clear message: Don't park here and walk to the village.

A new company coming into an existing business district couldn't send a more hostile message to the local community than this parking lot and fence.

Lightpost painting in downtown Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

Doug Houseknecht, a city worker, grinds old paint from the stop-light post at Main and Center. The city is repainting the base of the light polls up and down Main Street -- the first time since there were installed that they've been refinished. Houseknecht said they get sanded down, primed and then two coats of black paint. The city started on the project at least a week ago on the west end of Main.

Today's Deals: Delavan's, Adam Miller and South Main Country Gifts

By Howard B. Owens

Three Deals Today:

Delavan's Restaurant & Tavern, 107 Evans St., Batavia, N.Y.: Take a casual but classy atmosphere, some of the best dishes you can order anywhere and a fine choice of beers, and you've got a great place to dine. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

Adam Miller Toy & Bicycles, 8 Center St., Batavia, N.Y.: The best place in town to buy a bike -- competitive prices and better quality and better service from an experienced and knowledgeable staff than can be found in the chains. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

South Main Country Gifts, 3356 Main St. Road, Batavia, N.Y.: From cozy to contemporary is what you'll find at this well-stocked gift store. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

A $1 PayPal service fee applies.

Rules: The gift certificate must be used by within 30 days of purchase. It is not valid with other offers and has no cash value.  People who have won a certificate in the past 30 days are not eligible to win a certificate from the same business as before.  By state law, gift certificates cannot be used for alcohol purchase.

How to Win: Purchase using the PayPal "Buy Now" button below. After the first person to hit the "buy now" button completes the purchase, PayPal will let you know that the item has been sold. Ideally, the winner will arrange to stop by my office on Main Street to pick up gift certificate. Mail is an option, but it would be better to hand you the gift certificate. 

If you want to be notified via e-mail of future Deals of the Day, sign up for the Deals of the Day e-mail list by clicking here.

Merchants: If you would like your business featured in Deal of the Day, call Howard Owens at 260-6970.

Adam Miller Toy and Bicycles


South Main Country Gifts


Delavan's Restaurant and Tavern


Tenative roster for 2009 Batavia Muckdogs published

By Howard B. Owens

The Cardinals Nation blog has posted a tentative roster for the 2009 Batavia Muckdogs, and fans will recognize a few names from last year, including one of my favorites - Beau Riportella.

Other returning Muckdogs include: pitchers LaCurtis Mayes and Dan Richardson, catcher Luis De La Cruz, infielders Jairo Martinez and Xavier Scruggs with outfielder Edwin Gomez.

The roster also includes some top draft picks: fifth-rounder Ryan Jackson, eighth-round pick Jason Stidham and ninth-round selection Nick McCully.

Ryde Rodriquez, signed as a free-agent out of Havana, Cuba, is also on the roster. In 2008 in rookie ball, Rodriquez hit .324 but otherwise failed to impress at either Johnson City last season or Quad Cities so far this year.

Besides the returning Muckdogs, 11 of the other players have previous professional experience.

And, I'm telling you, if Riportella develops plate discipline (not just "some discipline" but any discipline), he'll be a hell of a hitter.  Last year he struck out 32 times against only 3 walks.

You can come out to Dwyer Stadium tomorrow night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and meet members of the team.  The season opens Friday at 7 p.m. at Dwyer Stadium.

UPDATE: Here's a post about a Muckdog from last year who won't be back in 2009 with the Muckdogs or any other Cardinals team.

Former Batavia Middle School teacher honored

By Howard B. Owens

A former Batavia Middle School teacher is being honored by the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association as a Distinquished Alumni of the Year.

Rosa LaSorte Rich, currently living in Brockport, taught at the school from 1973 to 1989.

Richard Boardman, a 1963 SUNY Brockport graduate who met her in 1959 as one of his class advisors and has since followed with admiration her professional and volunteer career.

“I can’t come up with one special act or accomplishment, because there are many, but the success of each was the result of the accumulation of the smaller, day-to-day positive contributions she makes, which are necessary to make individuals and society better,” Boardman wrote in his nomination letter.

Police Beat: Man picked up on petty larceny warrant in Pavilion

By Howard B. Owens

Harris Reed, 28, of 11121 W. Park Road, Pavilion, was arrested on a bench warrant for failure to appear on a petty larceny charge.  Reed was stopped on Route 63 north of Route 5 and arrested. He appeared in court, paid a $150 fine and was released.

Ryan Gugel reports to Florida to begin professional baseball career

By Howard B. Owens

Local baseball fans will be disappointed to learn that newly-minted professional ballplayer, and Batavia High grad, Ryan Gugel likely won't be playing any of his games in Batavia this summer.

The slugging catcher who signed a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies last week has reported to Clearwater, Fla., in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, according to the D&C..

The Phillies also have an affiliate in the New York-Penn League, the Williamsport Crosscutters, and it's possible Gugal could make his way to that Batavia Muckdog rival at some point this season or next. Though his next step could just as easily be the Lakewood BlueClaws or the Clearwater Thrashers.

Meanwhile, fellow Batavia High grad Chris Page, taken in the 50th round of the June Draft by the Cincinnati Reds, has yet to sign a contract.  The Reds have rookie-level and Class A affiliates in Sarasota, Fla., Billings, Mont. and Dayton, Ohio.

Brush or mulch fire reported in City of Batavia

By Howard B. Owens

Fire units are responding to a report of a brush fire or mulch fire burning close to a garage at 142 Tracy Avenue, between Hart and North.

UPDATE 9:06 p.m.: All units returning to station. Small mulch fire with minor extension into garage.

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Ranzhofer says he will oppose 'Farm Death Bill'

By Howard B. Owens

Not surprising, but good to know - Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer has come out against the "Farm Death Bill" -- the piece of legislation introduced by a Queens assemblywoman that would mandate time-and-half for New York's farm workers, as well as other rule changes that will drive up the cost of farming in the state.

Full press release after the jump:

Pembroke, NY –  At his first Agricultural Advisory Committee Meeting last Saturday at Pembroke Town Hall, New York State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer discussed proposed legislation that could cripple the local agricultural industry by mandating overtime pay for farm workers.
“The proposed legislation would put New York farmers at a competitive disadvantage with other states and devastate the local agricultural industry.  Mandating overtime pay in the agricultural industry will pass higher prices along to consumers at the grocery store, force farms to close, and leave consumers with unsafe produce from other countries instead of from our own backyard.” said Senator Ranzenhofer. 
The proposed legislation (S5212) requires mandatory overtime, one day of rest per week and contributions to federal unemployment insurance for farm workers.  Currently, farm workers are excluded from time and a half pay and unemployment insurance under New York State law.  The legislation has received criticism from numerous members of the agriculture community.
“Mandatory day of rest would require more migratory employees to manage the harvest, creating more burdens on a limited H2A farm laborer system.  Leaving crops unharvested and wasted in the fields will not help to feed our consumers with local, fresh, safe food.  While the legislation has a feel good sentiment, the impact would leave the food, high quality food lay to waste,” said Shelley Stein from Stein Farms, LLC in LeRoy.
Senator Ranzenhofer has formed the Agricultural Advisory Committee to discuss State issues important to preserving the financial and economic stability of the local agricultural industry.  Agriculture, a critical economic engine in Genesee County,  is the largest industry in New York State. 
Focusing on scientific based legislation rather than over burdensome regulations, streamlining the dual layer of regulations between the State and federal government and supporting research institutions such as Cornell University were among the topics discussed at the inaugural meeting.
“Committee members can bring issues to my attention that I may be unaware of and I can ask for their input on pieces of legislation.  I do not pretend to know everything about agriculture, but with the help of the Agricultural Advisory Committee, I will ensure that the agricultural community’s voice is heard clearly in Albany,” said Senator Ranzenhofer. 
“It was a great idea for the Senator to reach out to the Agricultural community.  He listened intently to our problems and issues,” said Hans Mobius from Equine Maple Row Farm in Clarence.
Members of the committee include: Bill Crocker and Tom Wheeler, Carolina-Eastern Crocker, LLC in LeRoy; George Squires, Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District; Hans Mobius, Equine Maple Row Farm in Clarence; Hal Kreher, Kreher’s Farm Fresh Eggs in Clarence; John Duyssen, Duyssen Farms in Stafford; Robin Denniston-Keller, Genesee County Farm Bureau and Denniston-Keller Jersey Farm; Bill Young, Upstate Niagara Cooperative;  Shelley Stein, Stein Farms LLC in LeRoy; Craig Yunker, CY Farms in Elba; Maureen Torrey-Marshall, Torrey Farms in Elba; Patrick and Charlene Spoth, Kelklenberg Farms in Clarence; and Mike and Louise Badding, Badding Brothers Farm in East Amherst.

Doll's defense attorney takes aim at evidence and questioning procedures

By Howard B. Owens

Scott Doll's defense attorney Paul Cambria spent the afternoon trying to build a case that shows any evidence or statements gathered by Sheriff's Office deputies or investigators should be inadmissible in his upcoming murder trial.

District Attorney Lawrence Friedman brought forward four witnesses -- a dispatcher, two deputies and an investigator -- to tell Judge Robert Noonan how they went about questioning Doll and gathering evidence the night in February when Joseph Benaquist was beaten to death in the driveway of his Pembroke home.

With Deputies James Holman, Patrick Reeves and Detective Kristopher Koutz, Cambria asked repeatedly about questions asked and evidence gathered prior to Doll being read his rights or actually being charged with murder.

About two hours after Doll was initially handcuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser, Doll was charged with trespass for parking his mother's red Ford van on the auto repair lot at Main Road. and Route 5 in Pembroke.

Judge Noonan won't rule on the motion until receiving written briefs from both sides in the case. That could take seven or eight weeks.

Cambria is seeking a rulling that would throw out any statements Doll made prior to being read his rights, as well as any evidence gathered before he was charged with killing Benaquist.

Deputy James Diehl was the first officer on scene. He said he found Doll wandering on the east side on North Lake Road. When he stopped, he said, Doll turned around and walked back toward the cruiser. Diehl exited his vehicle. He motioned, he said, at an object he could see in Doll's pocket, and Doll put his left hand in the air, then slowly grabbed the object -- possibly a lug wrench -- with two fingers and dropped it to the ground.

Diehl observed what he believed to be blood on the knees and thighs of the camouflage jumb suit Doll was wearing. Doll also had what appeared to Diehl to be blood on his sneakers and on his face.

Doll told Diehl he was out for a walk because the doctor had warned him he needed to reduce his heart rate and his cholesterol, Diehl testified.

Doll reportedly told Diehl that he was walking up to Gabby Road to a friend's house and Diehl asked Doll if he wanted a ride, and Doll said he did.  Diehl asked Doll to sit in the back seat of the cruiser. Before getting in, Diehl said he told Doll he had leather seats and maybe he should let Diehl handle the lug wrench and jack Doll was carrying, and Doll agreed.

During questioning, Doll explained the blood on his clothing by saying that he butchered deer.

Diehl testified that he thought it was strange that Doll would be walking where he was on North Lake Road when he lives in Corfu, which has a much nicer village atmospher for a leisurely stroll.

The initial report of a suspecious person walking on North Lake Road came from an unidentified individual who apparently is a law enforcement official (he was identified in court by his call numbers only).  This individual later pulled up in a dark pick up truck and spoke with Diehl.

It was after this person arrived that Diehl decided to handcuff and search Doll.

Diehl then drove Doll to the corner of Main Road and Route 5, where Doll said he had left his van.

"I didn't know what was going on with the blood on him," Diehl said. "I wanted to see what was in the van, pretty much, 'where did the blood come from?'"

Diehl found blood on the van, on the ground next to the van and a pair of bloody cloves on the hood of a car next to the van.

Cambria, in his cross examination, drew special attention to how cooperative Doll was throughout this initial contact, making no attempt to feel, cooperating with every request and doing nothing, it would appear, to make him a suspect in a major crime.

He also ensured Diehl testified that Diehl never read Doll his Miranda warning (you've heard it on Adam-12: "You have the right to remain silent, etc."). 

Under cross, he also testified that at the time he discovered Doll and found all of the blood, that he didn't know if it was animal or human blood.

Cambria is also working to undercut the law enforcement case that Doll was legitimately questioned and detained because he allegedly trespassed on private property. With Diehl, as well as the subsequent witnesses, Cambria established that the property in question did not have a "no trespass" sign, was not marked "private property," did not have "no parking" signs, nor were there chains designed to keep vehicles out of the lot.

Doll was handcuffed in the back of the car for at least three hours before being transported to the Sheriff's Office on Park Road.

Benaquist's body wasn't found until 1:30 a.m.

The first back-up officer on scene, according Diehl, was Deputy Patrick Reeves. 

Reeves apparently knows Doll and his family.  He was very concerned, afraid even, he testified, that after seeing Doll covered in blood that Doll had harmed another person.  Reeves initiated an effort to locate members of Doll's family and ensure they were safe and to see if they knew anything about why Doll was in the shape he was in.

Reeves recounted this line of questioning with Doll (which Cambria would later note took place before Doll was read his rights -- also, Reeves said that at this point, his heart was racing and he was getting scared about what might have happened):

"Tell me it's deer blood," Reeves said.

"Enough about the blood," Doll responded.

Doll then said, "Do what you've got to do."

"What would you want me to do?"

"What about an attorney?"

"Who do you want me to call?"

"I don't know. I guess my divorce attorney."

He also asked him at some point, "Is that human blood," and Doll responded, "I can't tell you that. You know me better than that."

He said at that point, he started trying to contact anybody who might know Doll and what might be going on.

"I was really scared that Mr. Doll would know who was seriously injured or even dead."

Later, back at the Sheriff's Office, Reeves tesified that he overheard Doll say, "I didn't do it," but Cambria drew out of Reeves that Reeves didn't make a note of that statement in his reports.

Next on the stand was Det. Kristopher Kautz, a 20-year veteran of the department.

The key portion of Kautz's testimony dealt with his decision to allow a friend of Doll's visit him in the interview room.

Doll's girlfriend and this friend, Teresa Zolakowitz (spelling not available at this time) arrived at the station at 3:30 a.m.

Kautz said he questioned the two women at some length without revealing that a body had been found, but neither women had any information that enlightened him as to the circumstances of the case.

At this point, Teresa was insistent that she be allowed to talk with Doll. Kautz said never previously in his career had he allowed such a think, but she was so persistent, he decided to let her into the room, provided she agree that he could be present and take notes of the entire conversation.

Later, during cross from Cambria, Kautz did say that he did not give Doll the option of not taking part in the personal meeting with Kautz present, though when informed of the woman coming he, Doll did not object.

Kautz recounted the following questions and answers:

"What happened?"

"I was there, but didn't do it."

"Was something wrong at your pad?"


"Does this involve an animal?"


"Tell me there is no dead body."

"I can't do that."

After being allowed to review his notes, Kautz added that Doll also said, "Let the chips fall where they may," and "I'm going to be in jail for some time," and, "It's an open and shut case," and, "I will get what I deserve, I guess."

Again, Cambria noted that this conversation took place before Doll was read his rights.

On his final redirect, Friedman noted that DNA swabs were taken after Doll was charged with the crime, and that some key pieces of evidence -- such as the blood on his face and the bloody gloves -- needed to be properly secured before the evidence was lost or damaged, even though detectives had not yet determined what was going on.

After the hearing, I happened to overhear Doll say to a woman in the audience, "Be careful what you say. They will twist it out of context."

Wal-Mart's Batavia staff shrinks

By Billie Owens

If it seems like there are fewer helping hands at Wal-Mart in Batavia these days, it's because there are.

A corporate spokeswoman confirmed rumors that the local site recently let go an undisclosed number of temporary workers.

Michelle Bradford, who works at the mega-chain's Bentonville, Arkansas offices, said: "We adjusted staffing at that store. We reduced the number of temporary workers. They are hired knowing their positions are temporary and subject to elimination at any time."

She would not divulge the number of downwardly adjusted staffing, but offered that Wal-Mart has several valid reasons for fluctuating the numbers of its employees. These include, but obviously are not limited to, being busier or slower, job performance or the lack thereof, training and scheduling requirements and "the needs of our employees."

Furthermore, stores are staffed "on a case-by-case basis" and these adjustments are, to be clear, made "from time to time."

Today's Deals: The Enchanted Florist, Valle Jewelers

By Howard B. Owens

Today's Deals

The Enchanted Florist, 202 E. Main St., Batavia, N.Y.: Whether you need just the right gift or a memorial or just want to brighten your own home or work place, The Enchanted Florist can put together just the right floral arrangement for you. We have a $20 gift certificate for $10.

Valle Jewelers, 21 Jackson St., Batavia, N.Y.: This three-generation Batavia business sparkles and gleams on every visit. The friendly staff can help you find just the right gift or fit you and your wedding party with the most exquisite jewelry. We have a $25 gift certificate for $12.50.

A $1 PayPal service fee applies.

Rules: The gift certificate must be used by within 30 days of purchase. It is not valid with other offers and has no cash value.  People who have won a certificate in the past 30 days are not eligible to win a certificate from the same business as before.  By state law, gift certificates cannot be used for alcohol purchase.

How to Win: Purchase using the PayPal "Buy Now" button below. After the first person to hit the "buy now" button completes the purchase, PayPal will let you know that the item has been sold. Ideally, the winner will arrange to stop by my office on Main Street to pick up gift certificate. Mail is an option, but it would be better to hand you the gift certificate. 

If you want to be notified via e-mail of future Deals of the Day, sign up for the Deals of the Day e-mail list by clicking here.

Merchants: If you would like your business featured in Deal of the Day, call Howard Owens at 260-6970.

Valle Jewelers



The Enchanted Florist


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Crossroads House is a comfort care home for the dying. We are a non-for-profit organization that provides its services free of charge. We run on a supportive community and selfless volunteers. With out both of those we would not be able to serve our community. If you have a caregiver's heart and 2 to 4 hours a week, we would love for you to become a part of our Crossroads House family! No experience required, we will train you and provide mentors and experienced volunteers to guide you. Please go to to apply, click on volunteer tab to complete application or email [email protected]
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