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April 11, 2019 - 11:36am

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Quentin Marozzi, a resident of Caledonia, can't wait to defend his MMA title in the 135-pound weight class in the Throwdown at The Downs on June 15.

"I am pumped," Marozzi said. "I'm ecstatic. I'm ready to go. I'm so honored to be here to do what I do. It's what I live for."

Batavia Downs is once again teaming up with local mix martial arts promoter Richard Mitchell and Ground Force Fights.

"Oh man," Mitchell said, "obviously last year's show was big, big. This year is going to be bigger. We're going to have 15 to 20 flights again and a lot of exciting fighters. There will be at least five title fights, maybe more."

Local fighters on the card so far include Peter Flanagan, Kenny Hale and Steven Kleckler.

Heavyweight Jon Marconi returns from Canada to defend his title.

Shotzie Doran, from Rochester, is also fighting.

"Honestly, I just love fighting and I'm just humbled by the entire experience, so I'm happy to be here, happy to be a part of it," Doran said.

Marozzi said he's looking forward to taking on the challenge of a fighter who comes to MMA from wrestling.

"He's really tough," Marozzi said. "He's undefeated. I'm looking forward to really going out there with a wrestler. Most wrestlers I've fought have a really good jaw. So we're going to test his jaw and see how good it really is. He's a good guy. He's humble and he's respectable so he's going to be a good opponent. It's going to be a good time."

Marozzi said he's also pleased to be fighting again in one of Mitchell's events.

"He takes care of his fighters," Marozzi said. "He cares about the fighters in the ring and out of the ring, in their lives and at camps. He's not like a lot of promoters who really just care about the fighter to showing up. He actually cares about his fighters. He's the best promoter I've fought for and I've had like 15 fights."

“We are excited to have Ground Force Fights back at Batavia Downs,” said Henry Wojtaszek, CEO/president at Batavia Downs Gaming. “After the success of last year’s event, we began talks almost immediately on putting together another event here in June of 2019. We’re looking forward to another great night of fights that will entertain the passionate MMA fans of Western New York.”

Tickets are on sale now at bataviaconcerts.com. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.; event starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35 for General Admission and $55 for VIP seats closer to the cage. Lawn chairs (which are normally permitted for other Batavia Downs events) are NOT permitted for this event. There will be limited chairs and bleacher seating available.

Each concert ticket is also redeemable once at Player’s Club in the three days following the event for $15 Free Play to be used on one of Batavia Downs Gaming’s 800+ gaming machines.

Photo: Quentin Marozzi, Richard Mitchell and Shotzie Doran.

April 11, 2019 - 10:41am
posted by Billie Owens in Darien, news, hunting accident.

An adult male suffered a gunshot wound to the leg while hunting in Darien. "Sounds like bird shot (type of ammunition)," says a dispatcher. He is said to be in a field, conscious and alert, and making his way toward a house. It's on Broadway Road, between Darien-Alexander Townline Road and Smithley Road.

Mercy Flight is on a ground standby. Darien Fire Department is responding along with its ambulance. Alexander's gator was called to respond, then cancelled.

"Scattered shotgun pattern, right and left lower leg, probably a dozen pellets, minor bleeding at this point," says a first responder.

April 11, 2019 - 9:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, accident, batavia.

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There were no injuries in a three-vehicle accident at Bank and Main streets, Batavia, at 8 a.m.

Photos by Alex Feig, WBTA.

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April 11, 2019 - 8:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Darien, news.

Press release:

The mandatory referendum on the establishment of Water District No. 6 in the Town of Darien has been completed. The result of the April 10, 2019 referendum is 684 “No” votes, 183 “Yes” votes and one Affidavit vote still pending validation.

While the vote count remains unofficial, the result of the referendum will not change. Therefore, the Establishment of Water District No. 6 in the Town of Darien is not approved, and the Town is proceeding to file the required documents to close out this action. 

David Hagelberger, Supervisor

April 11, 2019 - 8:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in farm labor bill, farm labor, news, agriculture, Le Roy, notify.

 

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Proposed changes to farm labor practices in New York would likely destroy the state's agriculture industry, with a spill-over effect on many other businesses in local communities, and ultimately lead to families getting out of farming, a group of local farms said Wednesday at a press conference at Stein Farms in Le Roy.

The farmers gathered to raise concerns about the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act now making its way through the New York State Legislature.

"We're at the point I think where this has the potential to be the single greatest economic devastating effect on agriculture in New York in my lifetime," said Dale Stein, senior partner at Stein Farms.

The bill's chief sponsor and supporter, Sen. Jessica Ramos, from Queens, is in Batavia today, as a guest of Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, to meet with area farmers and listen to their concerns. The press conference was called in advance of that meeting so farmers could share their concerns with the broader public.

"We just aren't heard now very well by Downstate And it's not they're not good people and don't care. They do. Our people want to work. They don't want 40 hours a week. They don't want eight hours a day as my staff tell me. I don't want to sit home and watch TV. I'd rather come and work. We offer them extra hours if they want they come and work. They don't want us at home. They want to make all the money they can."

Stein, along with Jeff Toussaint, an Albion farmer, and Jim Starowitz, a farm employee in Byron, not only talked about the potential costs of the bill, which would institute new overtime rules, reduce weekly working hours, and other regulatory burdens for farms, but also how unnecessary the bill is because of laws already in place, the above-minimum-wage pay scales in place at farms now, and the desire of farm workers to work while there's money to be made.

The bill would also allow farm workers to join labor unions.

"I'm here to tell you that apples are a perishable crop and I can't emphasize that enough," Toussaint said. "They have to be harvested on time. If apples are left in the orchard too long they become soft and we're unable to store them. In just a matter of a few days of becoming overripe, they can lose 50 to 75 percent of their original value. A strike during harvest season would ultimately be catastrophic."

Starowitz said the increased costs associated with the bill would eventually put a lot of farm workers out of work.

"The costs are an additional $200,000 a year," Starowtiz said. "That equates to an extra $32 a tonne (aka metric ton), or almost a thousand dollars an acre. If all states where there are growers are on the same level, we could pass our cost along like every other business.

"But this is a state law that puts us in a noncompetitive position with other states. It increases labor cost and over time we will be no longer able to raise our vegetables. We'll have to move to a row-crop-only business or close our doors."

Maureen Torrey, co-owner of Torrey Farms, joined the conversation and said besides making it harder for her to compete nationally, the proposed changes will also make it harder to attract farm labor to New York.

"We have a limited pool even of visa workers," Torrey said. "They're going to go work where they can get a minimum of 60 hours or more."

April 10, 2019 - 8:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in fire, news, batavia.

Bonfires are reported in the backyards of homes on Wood Street and Manhattan Avenue, City of Batavia.

City fire and Batavia PD have been dispatched to both locations.

UPDATE 8:51 p.m.: At the Wood Street location, the occupants are smoking brisket. The City fire assignment to that location is back in service.

UPDATE 8:54 p.m.: A scene commander tells dispatch there's no need for law enforcement at the Manhattan Avenue location.

April 10, 2019 - 8:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in byron, news.

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I don't know enough about vintage cars to tell you the make or year of this vehicle but driving through Byron this morning I found it sitting outside a building in the hamlet.

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April 10, 2019 - 6:01pm
posted by Billie Owens in notify, news, bergen, batavia, crime.

Guillermo Jose Torres-Acevedo, 22, of Batavia, did not appear in Byron Town Court as scheduled this afternoon at 5 o'clock because federal officers picked him up this morning at Genesee County Jail.

He's been in jail since November, accused of taking an underage girl away from her home in Bergen on Nov. 29 and driving her to Pennsylvania.

Torres-Acevedo was arraigned in Federal Court in Buffalo today on a new charge: transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.

The defendant is already charged with custodial interference in the first degree, criminal contempt, 2nd, endangering the welfare of a child, plus grand larceny, 3rd, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle for allegedly stealing the Dodge Journey he is accused of using to transport the girl.

At the time of the November incident, an Amber Alert was issued for the girl, who was later found with Torres-Acevedo at a Walmart in Mansfield, Pa., through a geolocation ping of her mobile phone.

Torres-Acevedo was arrested in Pennsylvania without incident and the girl was returned to her parents.

The girl and Torres-Acevedo knew each other and Torres-Acevedo had already been arrested in connection with his relationship with the girl and issued a stay-away order, which he allegedly violated, leading to a criminal contempt charge.

UPDATE 7:45 p.m.: Press release from U.S. Attorney's Office in Buffalo:

U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy Jr. announced today that Guillermo Torres-Acevedo, 23, of Batavia, was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with transporting a minor across state lines for sexual activity. The charge carries a mandatory minimum penalty of 10 years in prison, a maximum of life, and $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie O. Lamarque, who is handling the case, states that according to the complaint, on Nov 29 the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office received a report regarding a missing 14-year-old girl (Victim 1). Surveillance video from Byron Bergen Junior/Senior High School showed Victim 1 exiting a school bus at the school and walking to a blue vehicle and leaving the property. Victim 1 had recently been romantically involved with the defendant.

As a result of this, Torres-Acevedo was arrested and charged by the New York State Police three days prior on Nov. 26 with second- degree rape and second-degree criminal sex act. An order of protection was also issued against the defendant.

Further investigation determined that on the morning of Nov. 29, Torres-Acevedo took his mother’s vehicle against her wishes. The vehicle matched the vehicle that Victim 1 was seen to get into in the surveillance video. As a result, an Amber Alert was issued.

Investigators traced Torres-Acevedo and Victim 1 to a truck stop in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania State Police were contacted and located Victim 1 and the defendant in the parking lot of a retail store. Torres-Acevedo was taken into custody, and Victim 1 was returned to her parents.

The defendant made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder and is being detained.

The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of Sheriff William A. Sheron Jr.; the New York State Police, under the direction of Major Eric Laughton; the Pennsylvania State Police, under the direction of Acting Commissioner Lieutenant Colonel Robert Evanchick; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Gary Loeffert.

The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

April 10, 2019 - 4:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, Le Roy Central School District, news, notify.

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The sound of music will still be heard in Le Roy in the coming school year despite concerns that rippled through choral classes that the Central School District Board of Trustees wanted to scale back the program.

In fact, school officials hit all the right notes in a boardroom packed with music students and parents who came to Tuesday's meeting in response to rumors that a chorus teaching position would be eliminated in the proposed 2019-20 budget.

Board President Jackie Whiting told the group that just as there are six teachers in the music department now, there will be six music teachers at the elementary and middle school/high school next year.

Rather than cutting position, the district is adding the equivalent of two and a half teachers, if the budget is approved by voters, in 2019/20, including a special education teacher specializing in reading for first- and second-graders, and a teacher for business education classes (such as computer science, career and finance, advertising and marketing, and accounting).

Superintendent Merritt Holly indicated that the concerns about the music department seemed to stem from a thorough and exhausting budget process that had the budget and finance committee asking a lot of hard questions about what should stay and what should go and what should be added in the coming school year.

"In our conversations we looked at every area inside this budget to provide a program that is, number one, fiscally responsible, and number two, moves up the level of our students up so they can compete, not only in our region, not just in Western New York and Upstate, but across the country and, in fact, as part of the global economy," Holly said.

Like many school boards, Le Roy's allows a forum for public comment early in its agenda and then the public is not given a chance to speak during board discussions of actual agenda items. So before budget came up for board discussion and the members in attendance actually knew no teachers were being eliminated from the music department, four people stood before the board and made their case for retaining a full complement of music teachers.

Speakers include Rita Pencilla, representing the Music Boosters, Megan Privatera, a senior, Aubry Puccio, an elementary school student, and Matthew Austin, a parent.

They all made points about the importance of music to education, the role music plays in shaping students and improving their grades and test scores, and the importance of Le Roy's music programs to the community.

"We have a large number of students who go on to study music or participate in music after graduation," Pencilla said. "This pattern shows that we are cultivating talent and these students need solid foundations in music before graduating."

She added later, "Many studies support the importance of music education and how it improves language and reasoning skills, and the spatial intelligence needed to solve advanced mathematics problems. Students involved in music education are more successful on standardized tests and get better grades."

Austin admitted he's tone deaf and owns the largest collection of guitars of anybody who can't play guitar, but said he's amazed by the progress he sees over the years of students advancing through the district's music programs.

"I’ve really come to appreciate the teachers because they’re here all the time," Austin said. "They give and they give and they give. They’re not just creating singers or dancers or players. They’re creating future citizens that are going to rock the world."

Before telling those in attendance that the budget did not include music department staff cuts, Whiting explained a bit about the budget process.

"None of the decision making is random," she said. "It’s not rash, and it definately involves our staff. They are the key to what happens here, too. In discussions with staff, scenarios may be thrown out, what if we did this, what if we changed that, what if we thought about this. What would it look like if we had one less staff? And that was a discussion that brought all of you people here today. But it was part of a discussion where there is a lot of options."

The proposed budget is $25,909,998, which is $710,770 more than the current fiscal year.

The state's cap on property tax levies would allow the district to increase its local levy 3.45 percent, said Business Manager Brian Foeller. The district is proposing a tax levy increase of 2.89 percent.

The actual proposed budget has not yet been made available to the public yet but there is a vote scheduled for May 2.

Among the highlights outlined by Holly and staff at Tuesday's meeting is the addition of a reading specialist for first- and second-graders.

"If we don’t have students ready to go at grade level by third grade, then we're fighting an uphill battle in math," Holly said.

He gave credit to Wolcott Principal Carol Messura for advocating for the position, even while he pushed back and challenged her on the need.

"Early intervention is the key and we just do not have enough staff to support that early intervention need down in the primary house," Messura said. "With the addition of a reading teacher, my focus will be my first and second grade. It will make a difference."

High School Principal Tim McArdle made the case for increasing the business instructor core from the equivalent of one and a half teachers to three.

"We've been very methodical with business and allowed the data to speak for itself," McArdle said. "We've looked at the number of students who are interested and who are going to college in this field. We're up now to 140 students for the third straight year, up from below 100, the upper 90s, in previous years."

One piece of consistent feedback alumni give is that they wish there had been more computer science instruction available when they were in school and that every student should take the career/finance course.

McArdle said he hopes to see 90 percent of the graduates with that course on their transcripts.

Holly said he felt now is the right time to expand what the school offers to juniors and seniors in business instruction.

"We’re ready right now to make that next step for our students in offering an elective set at the junior and senior level that I would put up against anybody in our region pound for pound with our student enrollment," Holly said.

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Matthew Austin speaking.

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Jackie Whiting at the head of the table.

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Merritt Holly, superintendent.

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At the start of the meeting, Josh Englerth was recognized for his Section V title in wrestling.

April 10, 2019 - 3:22pm
posted by Billie Owens in St. James Church, teatime, batavia, news.
Press release:

Afternoon teatime is returning to St. James Episcopal Church in Batavia on Sunday, April 28, at 3 o’clock. This special event will include musical entertainment and raffles.

The last fish fry is Friday, April 12, but the bakers are now working to bring you a delicious tea experience. A variety of gift baskets have been assembled.

“Rumor has it that Maureen Scoville is planning something special for the raffle, so you know it is not to be missed,” said Dorian Ely, one of the event organizers.

Presale tickets are $20 each or $100 for a table of six. Tickets at the door are $25, space permitting.

Tickets may be purchased at the church office, 405 E. Main St., Batavia. For information call 585-343-6802 or text 585-356-5359.

April 10, 2019 - 3:14pm

Press release:

Richmond Memorial Library starts its 38th year of the "Books Sandwiched In" program in the month of May. "Books Sandwiched In" is a book-review program where community members share their reviews of new, popular or relevant books, often nonfiction.

Attendees of the program are not expected to read the books before attending; instead, they will discover if it is something they are interested in reading or learning about. 

Each program begins at 12:10 p.m. and goes until 1 p.m. on Wednesdays during the month of May. Attendees are encouraged to bring their lunch; coffee, tea and cookies will be served. 

This year’s series brings another eclectic round of books and reviewers:

May 1: Library Director Bob Conrad reviews Susan Orlean’s "The Library Book" (2018)

May 8: Kathy McAllister reviews Tara Westover’s "Educated" (2018)

May 15: Elizabeth White reviews Maxwell King’s "The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers" (2018)

May 22: David Beatty reviews Michael Pollan’s "How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence" (2018) 

May 30: The "Books Sandwiched In’"Committee shares their reviews of fiction titles! The committee comprised of members Richard Beatty, Sue Chiddy, Robert Knipe, Frances McNulty, Sandy Seyfried and Beth Stich will share short reviews of various fiction titles. 

This year’s program includes a few new additions. The first is a 50/50 cash raffle to benefit the Barker Public Library, a fellow library in the NIOGA system.

In January of 2019, the Barker Public Library was completely destroyed by a fire. To help support them as they recover, we will hold a 50/50 cash raffle at each Books Sandwiched

In session in May. Anyone wishing to make a donation by cash or check made out to Barker Public Library may do so as well during the month of May at the circulation desk. All funds will go directly to Barker Public Library. 

A door prize will also be presented at each session! All participants can enter for a chance to win a copy of our Richmond Reads title, "Southernmost" by Silas House. One copy will be given away at each of our five sessions. 

"Books Sandwiched In" is generously supported by the Friends of Richmond Memorial Library. 

More adult programs coming soon:

Thursday, April 11: Lynn McGrath, Ph.D., a world-renowned musician and faculty member at Eastman Community Music School at the University of Rochester will present a free classical guitar concert at 7 p.m.

Friday, April 12: Free computer classes! “Manage Your Digital Life” from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. “Gadgets and Gear” from 1 – 3 p.m. For more information and to register, call the library at 585-343-9550. Registration is required.

Monday, April 22: Mystery Readers’ Monday: Join this book discussion group as we discuss Agatha Christie’s "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd." All are welcome, the only requirement is that you read the book prior to discussion. 

Thursday, May 2: Library book sale 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.; library budget vote & trustee election; free concert at 7 p.m.! 

For a calendar of all events, visit our website at batavialibrary.org. Spring Program brochures are available at the library.

Richmond Memorial Library continually provides access to physical and virtual resources and services that meet the educational, informational and recreational needs of its diverse community in a safe and comfortable environment.

April 10, 2019 - 2:15pm
posted by Billie Owens in Le Roy, crime, news, notify.

From the Le Roy Police Department:

A combination of an unusual set of circumstances, DNA technology and old-fashioned police work led to the arrest of 25-year-old Le Roy resident Patrick J. Gonzales by the Le Roy Police Department.

This arrest announced today allegedly solves a two-year-old burglary, which occurred at 1:58 a.m. on March 16, 2017 on Lake Street in the Village.

The burglary occurred when a person entered the victim's building and stole a safe and other items. At the time of the burglary, the alarm activated but the police were accidentally sent to a neighboring business. Because of this error, the patrols found no burglary and were sitting on Wright Avenue talking when a person allegedly identified as Gonzales walked by them, eastbound on Wright Avenue toward Route 19.

The police recognized Gonzales but had no cause to stop him. Once the patrols were advised they were sent to the wrong business, they checked the correct business and located the burglary along with a fresh set of footprints in the snow eventually leading to a wooded area. The footprints were followed and led to the discovery of both the stolen safe and what appeared to be the perpetrator's jacket buried in the snow.

Both were recovered and the footprints were again followed, which led to the same location and direction on Wright Avenue that Gonzales was seen traveling earlier. The footprints led toward a rooming house on Lake Street, in which Gonzales was living at the time. The same footprints were then found on the property of the rooming house.

Eventually enough cause was developed to petition Gonzales to appear in Genesee County Court for a court-ordered DNA test, which was granted in July of 2018. The DNA was secured and compared to DNA evidence found in the jacket buried in the snow and allegedly matched.

During the investigation, Gonzales left New York State twice but returned the first time to surrender his DNA and then returned this past time to turn himself into the Le Roy Police Department and face the charges.

Gonzales was charged with one count each of the Class D felonies of burglary in the third degree and grand larceny in the third degree. He was arraigned in Le Roy Town Court and released under supervision of Genesee Justice.

April 10, 2019 - 12:43pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, GCC, luau, GCC Nursing Program, education.

The Alumni Affairs Office at Genesee Community College has invited the entire community to a Luau being held on Friday, May 10, at 6 p.m. in the College's Richard C. Call Arena.

The Luau is being thrown by GCC's Nursing Program Alumni Committee and all proceeds from the event will go to GCC's Nursing Alumni Scholarship, which helps to eliminate financial obstacles ensuring every qualified Nursing Program student can and will succeed.

Tickets to the Luau cost just $30 per person and include appetizers, dancing and chances to win big with door prizes and a cash raffle! A cash bar will also be available. Tickets are only on sale until May 3 -- so contact the Alumni Affairs Office at [email protected] today. You can also get your tickets and RSVP online here

Guests are encouraged to dress in their finest tropical attire for a chance to win Best Costume, which will be awarded at the end of the evening. Emceeing the event will be Scott Gardner, GCC Class of '98 Alumni Hall of Fame inductee who will introduce guest speakers Shari McDonald, GCC Class of '79, current vice president and chief nursing officer at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, and Claire Gardner, future GCC Class of '19 and Presidential Scholarship recipient.

In addition to attending the luau, there are opportunities to sponsor the scholarship at a number of levels. The sponsorship opportunity detail is available here and includes commitments of $100 - $3,000 and includes in-kind support for those wishing to customize their sponsorship. All sponsorship levels include a variety of benefits from free advertising to photos, and GCC Foundation recognition.

All sponsorships must be submitted by April 20 for full recognition.

"Without the support of these community members, so many students would not have the opportunity to reach their educational goals," said Assistant Director of Alumni Affairs Jennifer Wakefield. "These scholarships mean the difference between going to college or not for some of these students." 

The Nursing Program Alumni Committee is honored to receive scholarship support from:

Our Silver Level Sponsor:

  • Corfu Veterinary Clinic

Our Titanium Sponsors:

  • Advanced Auto Collision
  • Michelle and Karl Grohs

Our Bronze Sponsors:

  • Hart's Insurance Agency
  • Trini Kuzmicki
  • Sinclair Pharmacy
  • Summit Family Dental, Warsaw

Our In-kind Supporters and Donors:

  • Amber Lantern
  • Alyssa Cutcliff, LMT
  • Assessment Tech Institute
  • Barb's Barber Shop, Warsaw
  • Bud's Deli
  • Dr. Dale Deahn
  • Daniels Family Chiropractric
  • East Hill Creamery
  • Envision Salon
  • First Choice Travel
  • Genesis Salon, Warsaw
  • Harrington's Produce and Market Café
  • Healing Hands Massage and Spa Warsaw
  • Jeffery E. Erickson Law Firm
  • Laurel Sanger
  • Lindsay Gerhart
  • Laurie's Restaurant
  • Michael Tomaszewski
  • Morluski's Polish and Italian Cuisine
  • Perry Shopper
  • Revival Salon
  • Stellar Spirits and Wines
  • Tompkins Bank of Castile, Warsaw
  • Tops Friendly Market, Warsaw
  • Vertical Café, Warsaw
  • Warsaw Penny Saver
  • WCJW Radio
  • WGCC Radio
  • Yancey's Fancy
  • Yummies
April 9, 2019 - 8:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, batavia.

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A tractor-trailer hauling Clorox failed to stop in time to avoid hitting another truck on Ellicott Street just north of Cedar Street, Batavia, at 6:37 p.m.

The load of the trailer shifted and some containers of Clorox broke open causing a spill of the chemical.

Firefighters used low-flow water pressure into the bed of the trailer, under the pallets to dilute and wash out the Clorox and then water on the street to dilute and wash away the bleach.

Firefighters also used absorbent to clean up engine fluids from the roadway.

No injuries were reported.

City fire and Batavia PD responded to the scene and the northbound lane was blocked for more than two hours.

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April 9, 2019 - 5:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Sheriff's Office, news, notify, jerry brewster.

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Jerry Brewster likes to talk.

He could probably talk the tail feathers off a pheasant.

He's certainly talked a few people into admitting to things they would have rather have kept quiet, such as burglaries, rapes, arsons, and even murders.

Brewster said getting confessions is one of the most satisfying parts of being a criminal investigator, a job he's held since 1988 as part of a 44-year career with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office that ends this week.

"When I was actively investigating cases, I would get a lot of confessions and come Tuesday when there's a grand jury, I might be going into a grand jury four, five, six times talking about different cases that I investigated and they all had confessions," Brewster said. "I remember one day I was in there and at the end of the grand jury proceeding there is an opportunity for the grand jurors ask questions. After about the fifth time I was there one afternoon, ... the district attorney asked if there were any questions and a guy raised his hand and said, 'I don't have any questions (about the case) but I want to know, how does he get those people to talk to him?' "

How many confessions has Brewster coaxed out of reluctant suspects? He couldn't tell you.

"I just never thought about it," Brewster said. "I just don't know. I do what I do and then I move on. I never did the chalk-mark-on-the-wall kind of thing."

However many cases Brewster has cracked, it's surely not bad for a kid from Oakfield who was a math/science major with an eye on a career as a pharmacist when he got a job offer under the Comprehensive Employment Training Act program for an emergency dispatcher position.

He was 22 years old and had worked for Agway and Montgomery Ward.

"The economic situation being what it was, I was doing a balancing act in my mind," Brewster said. "You know, here's a job where the money and benefits are good or going into the unknown. I just had to go into the job at the Sheriff's Office. I didn't know if I was going to like it. It wasn't anything that I had thought about that much but it just kind of grew on me. And apparently, I must have had some skills or was somewhat adept at it so and it ended up being a good fit."

From dispatcher to deputy working in the jail, to road patrol, Brewster's early career moved on quickly.

Road patrol, that was something he liked. It wasn't long before he was promoted to sergeant. But it was also on road patrol where he discovered that he liked helping victims get answers but he also learned that the cases that took the most work -- usually felonies -- were often handed off to investigators.

Brewster was hooked both on helping victims and coaxing confessions when he helped an Oakfield resident, a person he knew, recover a stolen canoe.

"I only had a description of the canoe," Brewster said. "We didn't have serial numbers or anything like that. I happened upon a car over in Four Corners in Byron and here was a canoe that kind of looked like the one we were looking for, and I started talking to (the driver) about it and he had some answers that weren't quite adding up and eventually was I able to get a confession roadside from him."

That experience helped convince Brewster to accept a position -- even though it was a step down from sergeant -- as an investigator. Six years later, in 1994, Brewster was promoted to chief deputy in charge of investigations.

Patience, Brewster said, is the key to being a good investigator. You also need to be intelligent, educated, willing to listen.

"You have to be a good judge of character," Brewster said. "You have to be able to use the eyes in your head and your senses to try and figure out when somebody is not being truthful. Let's face it, in this position in this career that we have chosen, most people don't tell you the truth."

It's interesting, Brewster observed, that most parents teach their children to always be truthful, except when dealing with cops.

"You're in a backseat when dad gets pulled over for speeding and the first thing he says is, 'I wasn't speeding,' Brewster said. "So, it was OK to lie to the police and it kind of pervades today, which is OK. We understand. We're not angry about that. We just realize that most people, when we ask them the first time, they're not going to tell us the truth."

Early in Brewster's career as an investigator, he was called on to look into the death of a woman who was beaten to death inside her home on Route 77 in Indian Falls. After her death, her husband tried to take his own life. He didn't succeed and he was hospitalized. He was in critical condition at first and couldn't be interviewed. On Christmas Day, Brewster learned the man could finally talk so, taking time away from his family, he went to the hospital and interviewed the man for five hours.

He confessed to the murder.

"It was quite obvious that he was not being truthful because, on one hand, he would say he didn't remember and you'd ask him what was on television you could tell exactly what was on television," Brewster said. "So those sorts of things he seemed to remember OK. So we narrow this thing down. (Now it's) 'I remember everything that happened up until this moment' at which point it's a matter of working on that moment."

Much about investigating crime has changed since 1988. Back then, DNA evidence was new and uncommon. Now it's used in many cases. And of course, people didn't have cell phones that could be tracked, and certainly not phones that could easily take video. There was, in fact, very little video evidence. Now, Brewster said, it's hard to convince a jury a suspect did the crime without video evidence. Computers now also finding dots and connecting them much easier.

"Our capabilities are just tremendous," Brewster said. "In cars today, there are computers and they can tell us a lot of stuff about you and your car before an accident. We didn't have that before, or cell phones. They can tell us a lot of stuff.

"Of course, then you have the rights groups saying, 'well I don't want you to know where I go; I don't want you to know who I talk to or where I've been.' But if we need to, we get to work by valid search warrant, and we're doing a lot of search warrants these days, and we can get that information and we are using that sometimes to solve crimes or to exonerate people."

The key to solving any criminal case, Brewster said, is knowing who to look at as a person of interest. Once you determine that, you can figure out a possible motive and know what questions to ask.

"It makes my job a lot easier if I knew who to look at," Brewster said. "Sometimes I would have informants and I would tell them, 'look it, I don't want you to come forward and testify; I just want you to tell me who did it' and then I could start working and I might be able to find a witness who said they saw him there. If I don't know what to look at, it makes a lot harder. Fingerprints can do it. DNA is helping us. It's just like that guy pointing his finger back in the day. I needed to know who was most likely to have done it and then I could solve the case."

But the danger for any investigator, Brewster said, is to approach a crime with a preconceived notion. You can't put the pieces together if you don't see the whole picture. Tunnel vision can kill an investigation.

One of his roles as chief deputy, he said, was to listen to his investigators, let them paint a picture, and then tell them what they were missing.

"Maybe I have a little bit of a luxury as chief deputy because I have the investigators out there doing the digging and the interviews and they're coming back to me and telling you what's going on," Brewster said. "I'm already a little bit detached. Many times I haven't even been out to the scene so things will start clicking in my mind. I'm more of a visual person and if you describe what that scene looked like and then you start talking to me about it, even if I haven't been there, I can say, 'Yeah but what about that? Well, take a look at this. How do you explain what this guy said he saw?' And then they start questioning him. So that's one of the roles I see myself in here."

Brewster's other role, he said, is to stay on top of both changes in technology and in case law. That involves a lot of reading but he doesn't want to see a criminal case get crossed up because an appeals court has changed how evidence can be gathered and cases built.

If you're not current on case law, Brewster said, "you're fishing in the dark and you don't know what you might be doing wrong. What was OK six months ago isn't OK to do now. We need to know that because we might make that mistake."

Solving cases that don't run afoul of Constitutional protections for citizens is critical to good police work, Brewster said.

"If we can't do it legally there will always be another time," Brewster said. "If we don't have it, there will always be another time. For a police officer, time is always on our side. We just have to be patient. These guys that are screwing up will continue to screw up. If we don't get them somebody else will."

With that in mind, Brewster's advice to Joseph Graff, the next chief deputy in charge of investigations, is: read. Read a lot.

Also, be prepared for how demanding the job is. There is no downtime. When you go out with your family, your wife and kids need to be prepared to find their own way home because dad has to go to a crime scene. And the cases you get involved in can be draining emotionally.

"It's pretty hard to detach yourself emotionally from that we do," Brewster said. "That's the hardest part of the job."

That, and leaving the job at the door.

"You have a personal life, too, but when your job is chief deputy you're on the phone and you're working all the time," Brewster said. "There are things that need to be addressed around the clock, 24/7. I've been on call 24/7 since 1994 and it takes its toll on you. When I walk out that door at 4 o'clock, it's pretty hard to detach that. When you talk to the spouses and families of police officers they're all going to tell you the same thing. It's pretty hard for them to leave that at work."

What makes the job worthwhile, Brewster said, is helping people but sometimes even that isn't enough.

"I think that a lot of the things that we do, we have to put up a wall when we get there," Brewster said. "There may be all sorts of death and mayhem and all sorts of gruesomeness and we don't really see that. We're just there to do a job. But we do see how it impacts the people there and their families. We see that and it bothers us a little bit in the back of our mind and eventually, some of this does come back and, you know, it's like a profound sadness for all those people, all those things that you saw that you really couldn't help them with. Maybe you took care of the person that was responsible for causing all this death or mayhem but that doesn't really bring anyone back."

When you talk with Brewster long enough about criminal investigations, it's clear he's not all that ready to give up the work of solving crimes.

"I am going to miss it," Brewster said. "I'm going to miss getting up in the morning with a purpose in mind that I've got this interview, I've got this to do, we're going to get this general order in line for today, you know, those sorts of things. There's a feeling that I'm not useful anymore or valuable anymore but I'll get into it. I'll do fine."

Brewster, who has three adult children from his first marriage and two stepchildren from his second marriage, is 66 now and figures he'll tinker. He's got a new barn at his home in Alexander. He has a boat. He's going to renovate an old pickup for his stepson. There's a neighbor across the way who has an old car that hasn't run in years that Brewster figures he can get running again. 

"I've got a lot of projects," Brewster said. "My wife is pretty good at giving me things to do, which I appreciate. I'm not going to be sitting around. Not at all. If I get bored I'll probably go find something to do."

One thing Brewster doesn't figure to do is sit around thinking about the cases he hasn't solved. You might think the unsolved murders would eat at him but he says that's not the case.

For one thing, many of them won't go unsolved much longer, he said.

Brewster listed off the open murder cases he expects will be closed soon: Bill Fickle, Kisha Sullivan, Anne Lee, Eddie Freson, and Deborah Maniace.

In some of these cases, DNA will play a role, perhaps, even, the use of family tree websites that match DNA among family members (used last year to arrest the suspected Golden State Killer in California). There is also new witness information in some cases. Perhaps there will even be a confession.

"As I'm going out of here there are some major developments coming in some of those cases already due solely to technology," Brewster said. "As I said, it's one of the things where you have to be patient. You are going to see something happening here. I think it will be everyone but one case we've got something, some poker's in the fire. Those cases aren't just sitting in a box rusting away and nobody is looking at them or thinking about them. If you go down the hall to each one of these guys, there are different cases that they're working beside a regular caseload.

"So, yeah, stay tuned."

Those cases, in fact, the whole investigative department, is being left in good hands, Brewster said, with Graff taking over.

"I'm walking out of here with a replacement for myself as the first guy that I've seen in the 20 some years that I've been doing this who I can say, 'Yeah he can take my place,' " Brewster said. "This place is not going to miss a beat with Joe Graff."

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