By JOSEPH MALLIA email@example.com
Nearly four decades after a Ronkonkoma teenager was found stabbed to death near her upstate university campus, police are once again seeking the public’s help in solving the case.
Police have put Katherine Kolodziej’s picture on a billboard facing a busy two-lane highway, not far from where her half-clothed body was found in 1974.
“If the person who did this is still alive, I want him to know we haven’t forgotten what he did,” Schoharie County Sheriff Anthony Desmond said last week.
“It’s been 38 years, but we’re putting it out there again, continually hoping a lucky break will come our way,” he said.
A Connetquot High School graduate, Kolodziej disappeared on Nov. 2, 1974, after dancing with friends at The Vault, a Cobleskill Village bar. Her body was found weeks later, on Thanksgiving. She had been stabbed seven times, laid on a stone wall in a wooded area and covered with a red coat.
Over the years, police have questioned potential local suspects and investigated possible links to serial killers, including Ted Bundy, but got nowhere.
Now state troopers say they are taking a different approach: They aim to identify and interview every person who was in the bar that Friday night and early Saturday morning.
Kolodziej’s parents died several years ago, but her uncle, Charles Szydlowski of West Islip, said last year that he hasn’t lost hope that the killer can be caught — and the story behind the slaying revealed at last.
“If they can be sure, I certainly would like to know,” said Szydlowski, whose sister Hedwig Kolodziej spent the rest of her life mourning her daughter. “And in my prayers, I will tell my sister what happened.”
Szydlowski couldn’t be reached for comment on the latest developments.
The billboard near Cobleskill is an appeal for help: “1974 Unsolved Homicide. Katherine Kolodziej. 17 yr. Old SUNY Cobleskill student. Last seen leaving bar alone. Body found in field . . . Cash Reward up to $2,500. Anyone with information Please Call.”
Though investigators through the years have interviewed hundreds of people — including the entire student body at SUNY Cobleskill — they still hope to find new leads, Desmond said.
“There’s always somebody we might have missed, or someone who was reluctant to talk,” he said.
The billboard space was donated by a businessman whose father was the Schoharie district attorney in 1974. The sign is on Route 7 west of Exit 22 of Interstate 88, about six miles from campus. The reward is offered by CrimeStoppers.
State Police are leading the investigation, with the aid of the FBI, the Cobleskill and SUNY police, and the sheriff’s and district attorney’s offices.
Please share any memories you have from that time. What do you remember of the news reports, what was said on Campus, among your friends, local gossip or as a friend or aquaintance?
Sometimes, in the course of writing/posting to this blog I get the privilege of corresponding to the family and friends of people I write about. Many people have responded to my posts regarding the unsolved murder of college student Kathy Kolodzej. I lived in the same town, and was an acquaintance of Kathy’s, and her untimely death haunts me. My good friend Ramona was a close friend of hers.
Sherrie Anne Carville’s sister Susan, and I started a correspondence regarding my posts about Kathy. She was kind enough to share some memories about Sherrie, which I’ll post further on. Sometimes the focus is about how someone died and we forget the joy of simply having the person, however briefly, in our lives. Sherrie was a lovely young woman, much-loved by her family. She did not deserve to die.
From her sister Susan, “I am the younger sister of Sherrie Anne Carville. She was abducted, tortured, raped, and brutally murdered by John Hopkins. He left her in the woods on his parent’s property where she was found over seven months later. I have vivid recollections of that time in my life. I was 12 when Sherrie went missing. There were police and reporters continually flowing in and out of our home. After Sherrie was found and Hopkins was arrested one reporter had the audacity to hold a microphone to my Mother and ask if we thought it was an appropriate use of the taxpayer’s money to provide a prosecutor for my sister Sherrie’s case.”
Susan says, “My parents had to fight for representation and push to (have an) investigation into my sister Sherrie’s case as well as for Cecilia Genatiempo. Through research on their own accord, my parents brought the similarities up to the police and reporters on numerous occasions regarding the case of Joanne Pecheone , Kathy Kolodziej and many others that occurred as far away as Colorado, while John Hopkins was stationed there. Unfortunately it took over thirty years for someone ELSE to look into the connection between the cases.”
She adds, “While visiting family in Utica, NY a few years ago, my parents mentioned the possible connection to the Pecheone case to my cousin, who was and is currently an Assistant DA in Utica. Only through his actions was the case reopened and investigated.”
Those who have experienced the tragic murder of a loved one are particularly affected and have a fine-tuned empathy for others who have experienced similar tragedy. As Susan states, “My heart goes out to the Pecheone family, that of Kathy Kolodziej , those in Colorado and I’m sure many others. If my parents could connect the cases over 30 years ago why couldn’t the police? Why has nothing been done to bring some form of closure to the families left behind?”
When I replied to Susan’s comments on my Kathy post I asked her if she had any pictures of Sherrie or additional information she could share? She thanked me and sent two pictures of her sister, stating, ”Thank you for your reply and post. I have attached two photos of Sherrie. As far as further information I am not sure what you are looking for. My parents would be much more helpful but my Mother is in poor health and I’m not sure I want to place any undue stress on her.” I more than understand. My grandmother was murdered many years ago, when my mother was fourteen years old, and she will be seventy-six this year. She speaks very little of that time in her life and any information my siblings and I was obtained was from relatives and an old newspaper article from the Brooklyn Eagle.
“We speak of Sherrie often and even include her in regular family celebrations. A candle is lit every Christmas Eve in her memory and we all, including the family she never met, huddle in a big group hug wishing her a Merry Christmas. It always ends with twenty-two “I love you Sherrie” and lots of tears. John Hopkins nor time has erased the impact dear Sherrie had on us, our fond memories and our never-ending love for her.”
Susan comments on something that was hopefully considered by the investigators in Kathy’s case, “As John Hopkins was in the area at the time of Kathy Kolodziej’s disappearance, he was also in Colorado at the time of many murders referred to as the “Dunkin Donut Murders”. Coincidently, Cecilia Genatiempo was picked up at or near a Dunkin Donuts in Gloversville, NY. I recall my parents discussing this with local investigators at the time.”
Susan ends by saying, “After John Hopkins arrest and imprisonment his ability to torture our family did not stop. He befriended a woman who harassed my parents via telephone. She claimed to be his girlfriend and said he asked her to call them in regards to his final appeal. After he realized the appeals were over he committed suicide, or so we were told.”
In my research I found that he did commit suicide. In my thoughts I hope he is burning in Hell.
JOHNSTOWN — Oneida County authorities have closed a 1972 murder case, concluding that Fulton County’s only known serial killer, the late John W. Hopkins of Johnstown, raped and then repeatedly stabbed 19-year-old Joanne Pecheone and left her body tied to a tree along a wooded path in East Utica.
Oneida County District Attorney Scott D. McNamara issued a 13-page news release Friday detailing the evidence tying the case to Hopkins, who committed suicide in March 2000 while serving a sentence of 58 years to life for murdering two Fulton County girls in the late 1970s. He was 46 when he killed himself by cutting himself multiple times with a razor blade.
McNamara, relying heavily on two witnesses who observed a male teenager fleeing the scene, also discussed a recent analysis of DNA evidence including semen taken from the victim’s clothing.
While there was no conclusive link to Hopkins’ family DNA (a sample from a relative was compared), the report said, there was insufficient genetic material available for a finding. And, the report said, Hopkins’ DNA could not be excluded.
But, after nearly 40 years, the two witnesses told investigators that photographs of a then 19-year-old Hopkins depict the person they observed. One of the witnesses, then a 12-year-old boy, was snowmobiling on the trail that Jan. 12 when he saw the suspect run from the location of the body. The second witness saw the suspect speed off in a brownish two-tone sedan.
Also of interest in the case is a composite drawing created from witness descriptions provided to police in 1972. It shows a young man who parts floppy reddish blond hair on the right side — a rarity. Hopkins had reddish hair, and he also drove a two-tone Chevrolet Nova in 1972, matching the general description of the suspect’s vehicle.
The 12-year-old boy, who told investigators the suspect turned to look at him as he approached, described one ear being larger than the other.
Fulton County District Attorney Louise K. Sira, who began working with Oneida County investigators in 2007, said the ear abnormality is clearly visible in Hopkins’ high school graduation photograph.
Sira said the evidence is persuasive that Hopkins committed the Utica murder.
“Our fact patterns are very similar to the Utica case,” Sira said, while also citing the similarity in vehicles and the witnesses picking his photograph out of a photo array.
Sira said the composite drawing created in 1972 closely resembles Hopkins.
Investigators interviewed at least two of Hopkins’ childhood friends who were quoted as saying Hopkins did drive a vehicle matching the descriptions, that he would disappear for days, that he liked to visit college communities, and liked to carry a knife. They agreed he closely resembled the person depicted in the composite drawing.
Hopkins, who stabbed his three Fulton County victims, stood trial three times in 1980 in Fulton County Court. He was arrested the previous year after a 15-year-old female victim abducted near Northville and then taken to a wooded area in the town of Palatine survived wounds inflicted with a kitchen knife.
Oddly, he was acquitted of that attack, despite the eyewitness. He was convicted in Montgomery County Court on related charges in the same case.
In Fulton County, he was found guilty of the 1978 murder of 17-year-old Sherrie Carville, snatched while walking on Route 29 near a popular nightspot in Johnstown, and the 1976 murder of Gloversville teenager Cecelia Genatiempo, who was abducted while walking along South Main Street in that city.
Investigators working those cases at the time said they considered him a suspect in the 1974 murder of 17-year-old SUNY Cobleskill student Katherine Kolodziej, whose body was found that November in a Richmondville field.
Investigators said they had evidence that Hopkins was in Cobleskill during that period of time.
Interestingly, Oneida County authorities began investigating Hopkins as the possible killer of Pecheone at the suggestion of Sherrie Carville’s cousin, Assistant Oneida County District Attorney Todd Carville.
The Oneida County investigation was revived in 2001 when a joint task force of Utica and state police was created to re-examine the case.
In his report, McNamara noted that the assailant in both the Pecheone case and the attempted murder in Fulton County cut garments from the victim’s bodies and secured their heads during the attacks — a rope in one case and a purse strap in the other.
In both those cases, the suspect used the victim’s shoelaces to secure them. Pecheone’s shoelaces were attached to a tree limb and used to tie her hands above her head.
In his confession in the Carville murder, the report found, Hopkins admitted tying her hands behind her back.
The 15-year-old survivor was gagged with a sponge in her mouth and a piece of clothing was stuffed in Pecheone’s mouth.
[Utica, NY] – February 11, 2011 – Oneida County District Attorney Scott D. McNamara in conjunction with Utica Police Department Chief Mark Williams and the New York State Police jointly announce the following:
On today’s date, members of the Utica Police Department, New York State Police and the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office met with family members of the late Joanne Pecheone to discuss and report upon the status of their joint long term investigation into the homicide case involving Ms. Pecheone’s death on January 12, 1972. As of the present date, the investigation has yielded a great deal of information. What follows is a synopsis of the various stages of the investigation and a conclusion as to the current status of same. Witnesses will be referred to generically and not specifically identified by name:
I. The 2001 Investigation:
On January 12, 1972, the lifeless body of Joanne Pecheone, a 19 year old St. Francis DeSales student was found on a wooded pathway that intersected and ran diagonally off of South Park Drive in Utica, NY. Evidence indicated that Joanne Pecheone had been raped and also stabbed seven times. The pathway was a commonly used shortcut for residents of a nearby residential neighborhood where Ms. Pecheone lived. A massive homicide investigation by the Utica Police Department ensued. Hundreds of leads were developed and witnesses interviewed. The original investigation did not result in an arrest of any person.
In 2001, through the efforts of then-District Attorney Michael A. Arcuri, the Utica Police Department and the New York State Police, a joint task force was formed to re-investigate the unsolved 1972 killing of Joanne Pecheone.
The task force consisted of Inv. Robert Russell, Utica Police Department, Inv. John Fallon, New York State Police and Investigators James Helmer and Peter Scalise, Oneida County District Attorney’s Office.
The task force operated for more than one year, investigated several hundred leads and conducted several hundred interviews.
As a consequence of these efforts, several persons of interest were developed.
Because Joanne Pecheone had been the victim of a sexual assault during the course of the killing, numerous items of biological evidence that had been retained from the original investigation were located and submitted to the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center. It was hoped that the significant technological strides in forensic science and DNA since 1972 might yield useful, probative evidence. Additionally, some unidentified hairs from the original evidence processing were submitted to a private laboratory in Pennsylvania, in the hopes that mitochondrial DNA testing might yield information as to the identity of the source for such hairs .
As a consequence of all of the various DNA tests conducted, the only useful result developed was a partial DNA mixture profile from a semen stained area of Ms. Pecheone’s coat that she was still wearing at the scene. The DNA profile developed was consistent with the DNA of Joanne Pecheone, admixed with the DNA of at least one unknown male. The mitochondrial DNA analysis of the hair evidence revealed that the hairs came from Ms. Pecheone herself.
DNA samples were obtained from each of the persons of interest that had been developed throughout the course of the investigation. Such profiles were compared to the DNA mixture from Ms. Pecheone’s coat, and all such persons were ruled out as possible contributors.
Four suspects, including among them Bernard Hatch, were specifically excluded through DNA analysis.
The 2001 investigation resulted in no arrests and no identification of the party responsible for Ms. Pecheone’s death.
II. Further Laboratory Submissions – 2002 through 2010
In 2002, the formal Task Force dissolved. However, the case remained open as an unsolved homicide and evaluations continued to be conducted upon the items of physical evidence that had been retained.
Laboratory submissions continued in 2002, 2003 and again in 2007.
Standard DNA testing by the New York State Police Forensic Identification Center failed to yield any additional profiles, and their scientists recommended that a different type of testing – y-STR DNA testing – be conducted. y-STR DNA testing focuses analysis upon the male-specific y chromosome.
Because y-STR testing is not available at the State Police Lab, in 2010 several items of evidence were submitted to Labcorp in North Carolina for such testing to occur.
A partial y-STR profile was developed from two pieces of evidence – a cutting of a section of Ms. Pecheone’s coat lapel containing sperm and non-sperm components and an extract of a cutting from the waist area of Ms. Pecheone’s panty hose.
III. Further Developments in 2007
In 2007, Investigator James Helmer was approached by Assistant District Attorney Todd Carville and was asked if the Task Force had ever considered an individual by the name of John Hopkins as a potential suspect in their investigation. Through conversations with ADA Carville as well as subsequent research, Inv. Helmer learned the following:
That Carville’s cousin – Sherrie Carville – a former Utica resident, had been murdered in 1978 in Johnstown, NY where she was then living.
That a suspect named John Hopkins had been arrested by the New York State Police in 1979 on charges of Rape, Sodomy, Kidnapping and Attempted Murder of a 15 year white female. The crime had occurred in Montgomery County. The victim – referred to hereafter as “the 15 year old” – survived her encounter and was able to describe her ordeal.
During police questioning on those initial charges, Hopkins had also admitted to the killing of Sherrie Carville and also the abduction, rape and murder of another individual – Cecelia Genatiempo – in 1976. Both other crimes had occurred in Fulton County.
That Hopkins stood trial separately for all three criminal transactions – the attempted murder of the 15 year old, the rape and murder of Sherrie Carville, and the rape and murder of Cecilia Genatiempo.
That as to the killing of Cecilia Genatiempo, John Hopkins was convicted after trial on November 24, 1980 of two counts of Murder, Second Degree and Kidnapping, First Degree in Fulton County Court. He thereafter received a sentence of 25 years to life, imprisonment.
That as to the killing of Sherrie Carville, John Hopkins was convicted after trial on March 3, 1981 of two counts of Murder, Second Degree, one count of Rape in the First Degree in Fulton County Court. He thereafter received a sentence of 25 years to life for the murder conviction and 100 months to 25 years for the rape conviction.
That as to the attempted killing of the 15 year old female, John Hopkins was convicted after trial on August 18, 1981 of Attempted Murder, Second Degree, Assault, Second Degree and Criminal Mischief, Fourth Degree in Montgomery County Court and thereafter received a sentence of 8 and 1/3 to 25 years imprisonment.
That John Hopkins died on March 11, 2000 while confined at Great Meadow Correctional Facility. The cause of death was ruled a suicide.
a) Fulton and Montgomery County cases examined
Inv. Helmer met with representatives from the New York State Police, New York State Inspector General’s Office and Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira in the Fall of 2007. The purpose of such meetings was to examine the facts of the Fulton and Montgomery County cases against John Hopkins. Inv. Helmer was given access to the files maintained by said agencies. Upon examining the facts of the attempted murder of the 15 year old as well as the murders of Carville and Genatiempo and comparing same to the known facts surrounding the death of Joanne Pecheone, Inv. Helmer discovered the following:
i. points of similarity to present case
The 15 year old victim was a white female. Carville and Genatiempo were both white females, 17 years of age, with long dark hair. Joanne Pecheone was also a white female, 19 years of age with long dark hair.
The 15 year old victim was walking alone on a roadway when she was forced into a vehicle at knifepoint. Genatiempo was walking alone on the side of a road in Gloversville when she was forced into a vehicle at knifepoint. Joanne Pecheone was walking alone on a pathway near South Park Drive in Utica when she was attacked. Her wounds are indicative that a knife was involved.
The 15 year old victim was discovered in a wooded area, alive and bleeding. The bodies of Carville and Genatiempo were discovered in wooded areas. Joanne Pechone’s body was also located in a wooded area.
The 15 year old victim was stabbed in the back with a knife. Knife wounds were inflicted upon Genatiempo during the course of the killing. Multiple knife wounds were also inflicted upon Joanne Pecheone.
The 15 year old victim had had her shoelace removed by Hopkins. She was tied up during her ordeal. Carville’s hands were tied behind her back when she resisted Hopkins, according to his own admissions to police. Hopkins described Carville’s shoes as laced boots that were similar to his 15 year old victim’s boots. Joanne Pechone was found with her hands tied above her head to a tree. Her own shoelaces were used to accomplish this.
The 15 year old victim’s bra was cut through the front during her encounter. Her pants and underpants were removed. Joanne Pecheone was found with her pants pulled down and cut up one side, pantyhose pulled down, and no underwear. Joanne Pecheone’s bra was also cut through the front. When the bodies of Carville and Genatiempo were discovered, items of clothing had also been removed from them.
The 15 year old victim was gagged with a sponge in her mouth and rope tied around her head during her ordeal. Joanne Pecheone was found gagged with a piece of her own clothing in her mouth and a strap from her purse which was tied around her head.
All 4 individuals – the 15 year old, Genatiempo, Carville and Pecheone – were complete strangers to Hopkins.
All 4 individuals – the 15 year old, Genatiempo, Carville and Pecheone – were vaginally raped.
ii. noteworthy admissions
The Fulton County charges concerned the killing of two persons – Carville and Genatiempo – on two different dates. The Montgomery County case involving the 15 year old female was not a completed murder because she survived the encounter.
After his arraignment and while confined to the Montgomery County Jail awaiting trial concerning the Attempted Murder case, during a conversation with a corrections officer, John Hopkins acknowledged responsibility for not two, but three (3) killings. Hopkins did not provide any details on the third killing.
During the police interview that gave rise to the Fulton and Montgomery County charges, John Hopkins also provided the following by way of explanation for his actions:
“I have told this because I know I’m ill and require professional help. I don’t know the lifes of CC [Cecelia Genatiempo], Carville and caused injuries to the [15 year old] girl. The pressure builds up in me and I took the lifes of CC, Carville, and I don’t want to hurt or kill anyone else. Please help me.”
IV. Further Investigative Measures – 2007 to 2011
After reviewing the information on the Fulton County murders, Inv. Helmer obtained a high school year book photograph of John Hopkins who, having graduated high school in 1971, would have been 19 years of age at the time of Joanne Pecheone’s death.
a) Eyewitnesses revisited
Photographic identification procedures were then initiated with a relevant eyewitness who had given information at the time of the original investigation in 1972 and an additional witness who had recently come forward.
i. snowmobile operator
At the time of the original investigation in 1972, a 12 year old witness was developed who had highly relevant information including the following:
That on January 12, 1972, he was operating a snowmobile in the vicinity of South Park Drive in the City of Utica
That the witness saw a male get up from a crouching position on a wooded pathway at the location later discovered as the scene of Pecheone’s murder, proceeded to run down the pathway towards South Park Drive, lost his footing and turned back to look at the witness
That the male continued to run down to South Park Drive and got into the drivers seat of a vehicle and sped off
That the vehicle appeared to be a two tone automobile with a vinyl top that was darker than the bottom portion of the vehicle
That the 12 year old then turned back and investigated the path by driving his snowmobile back and forth and ultimately discovered a body
That the 12 year old did summon help from a passing motorist and the police were ultimately alerted
The 12 year old witness was interviewed at length and a composite sketch of the suspect was prepared on January 13, 1972 as a result of the description he gave to the police.
Inv. Helmer compared the high school photograph of John Hopkins to the composite sketch of January,1972 and noticed striking similarities including hair style, eyes and the elongated shape of the chin in each. Because of this, a photographic lineup/array was prepared utilizing the high school year book picture of Hopkins, and the witness on the snowmobile was found and his cooperation was once again requested.
In March of 2008, an identification procedure was undertaken and the witness was shown the photographic array. Prior to viewing the photographic array, the witness again described the person he saw back in 1972 noting that he had an elongated chin and his hair parted to the left side. The witness also remembered the person’s hair “flopping” as he ran. The witness selected the photograph of John Hopkins as the person he saw crouching and then running down the path the day that the murder was discovered. The witness indicated that he remembered the eyes of the person he saw. The witness stated that, because of the passage of so many years, he could not be 100 percent positive. After viewing the array, the witness looked at the composite from 1972 and confirmed that it was the same composite he had helped the police to create originally.
ii. female driver
A 20 year old female was driving in the vicinity of the homicide scene during the same time frame as the snowmobile operator’s discovery. On February 27, 2009, Inv. Helmer and Inv. Terrance Oczkowski interviewed this witness and developed the following information:
That she was driving on South Park Drive, approaching Hills Drive
That she observed a bronze, brownish car driving erratically towards her at a high rate of speed, causing her to pull off the roadway
That the other vehicle approached hers and then stopped when they were side-by-side
That she rolled down her window and stared at the face of the driver
That the driver looked directly at her and did not say anything
That the car then departed at a high rate of speed and thereafter turned onto Tilden Avenue
That the driver she saw was described as a white male, oval faced, hair straight – “Beatles style hair”, late teens or early twenties, no glasses and dark eyes – brown or hazel, no facial hair with reddish blonde hair
After providing the foregoing details, the witness was shown the photographic lineup/array containing the photograph of John Hopkins. The witness identified photograph number 3 – the photograph of John Hopkins – as the person she believes she saw operating the bronze vehicle that day. She was also shown the composite sketch from 1972 and was “shocked” to see the similarity between the composite and the photograph she had selected.
iii. deceased motorist’s statement reviewed
Inv. Helmer reviewed a statement from an eyewitness who was also operating his vehicle in the vicinity of the crime scene at about 2:30 PM on January 12, 1972. The motorist, now deceased, had provided the police with the following information back in 1972:
That he was driving his vehicle north on South Park Drive in Utica
That he noticed a person on foot approximately 200 to 250 feet up the pathway that originates at South Park Drive
That approximately 75 yards or more from the pathway on the east side of the road he observed a “1969 or 70’ish” compact automobile parking
That said auto was a “cross between gold and bronze” and was “neither a sports model nor a full size auto”
That there were no flashers activated on the auto and he could not remember if it had a black top or not
That from his vantage point, the witness observed a white male emerge from the parked vehicle and proceed to run down the middle of the roadway in a southerly direction towards the witness’s vehicle
That the male ran to the west side of the roadway and to the left of the witness’ vehicle
That the witness looked in his rearview mirror and saw the male cross back over to the east side of the roadway, jump the culvert and run up the hill into the woods in a direction that would intersect the pathway
That the white male is described as 19 or 20 years old, fair skinned, 5 feet 9 inches tall, 150 pounds, sandy colored hair, wearing a very dark waist length jacket that was either buttoned or zipped closed. The male was holding his right hand to his side as he ran, “… as if he was holding something”.
That the male was wearing boots that were either zipped or buckled shut
iv. parked vehicle sightings on South Park Drive
During the original 1972 investigation, numerous individuals reported seeing a vehicle parked in an unlikely area on South Park Drive on the afternoon of the killing. The vehicle was described as parked on the east side of South Park Drive, facing north. This would have necessarily drawn attention because it was a section of South Park Drive with woods on both sides and not immediately in front of any homes or businesses.
The section of roadway described by witnesses would have been approximately 50 yards across from the area of the pathway where Joanne Pecheone’s body was discovered.
While there were variations from witness to witness, most seemed to provide the same basic description:
A single vehicle
Parked on the east side of the roadway
Either a Chevrolet Nova or a Nova-type of vehicle
Predominant body color of brown or gold
Black or dark colored top
v. incident 8 days prior to the murder
Also reviewed was a statement from a female pedestrian, originally taken by the Utica Police on January 12, 1972, concerning an encounter that had occurred on January 4th 1972 – eight days prior to the murder of Joanne Pecheone. The witness had provided, in relevant part:
That she got off of a bus at the intersection of Tilden Avenue and the Parkway, and was walking towards Hills Drive.
That as she walked she was preparing to take the pathway off of South Park Drive when she noticed a man following her.
That she had no idea where he came from.
That the male was 25 to 30 feet behind her and never said a word to her.
That she ran up Hills Drive to the nearest house and called her father to come and pick her up. As she ran, she could hear the person behind her running, but does not know where he went.
That the man was white, approximately 5 feet 7 inches tall, in his late teens or early 20’s, shoulder length blondish hair and wearing tan pants, black army boots, a long green army-type coat and a cowboy hat that was either gray or white in color.
vi. actual physical attributes
Through investigation and examination of arrest information and records within the possession of the New York State Department of Correctional Services, the following are the physical characteristics of John Hopkins that are on file with that agency:
Height – 5 feet, 10 inches
Weight – 157 lbs.
Eye Color – Brown
Hair Color – Red
Complexion – Light
b) Background information developed
Various former friends, associates and a close relative of John Hopkins were interviewed between 2007 and the present time – February of 2011. A number of items of relevant information were developed as a consequence of these interviews, as summarized below.
i. friend and associate #1
A male individual who identified himself as a close childhood friend of John Hopkins, provided the following:
That Hopkins would get in his car and take road trips and be gone for a day or two at a time.
That Hopkins had at least 6 different Chevrolet Nova vehicles over the years.
That one such Nova was a “primered, copper-tone Nova with a black vinyl top”
That Hopkins’ father owned a vehicle repair garage and that John had access to various cars at the garage and would take them out on occasion.
That Hopkins “had a thing for knives” and that both of them bought matching knives at one time, consisting of a 7 inch blade with a black handle with red stripes in the handle.
The witness was shown the 1972 composite sketch and made the following remarks:
“That really looks like Johnny.”
“There are a lot of similarities there”
“Bears resemblance, definitely.”
“Dark eyes stand out. John used to wear his hair that way”.
The witness also provided Inv. Helmer with photographs of some of the Chevrolet Nova automobiles driven by John Hopkins over the years. In two of the photographs, John Hopkins appears in the picture with the vehicle.
ii. friend and associate #2
Another male individual who also identified himself as a close friend of John Hopkins, provided the following:
That as teenagers, he and Hopkins would travel all of the time and visit college towns.
That John was prone to taking off all by himself a lot.
That John was “ … into knives and always carried a boot knife”.
That John would always wear a green or brownish, three quarter length army coat.
That John would commonly wear “ black, buckle, BF Goodrich boots”.
That he remembered that John would pretend to be a Trooper, try to pull people over on the road and when he did so, he would wear his green army coat and cowboy hat.
The witness was shown the 1972 composite sketch .and made the following remarks:
“That almost looks like him”
After staring at the composite for several more minutes in silence, the witness further provided the following:
“Maybe I just don’t want to admit it to myself, the eyes are perfect, the eyes are a dead ringer.”
“If the chin was up a little bit, it would be a dead ringer for John … wow.”
“His high school picture, I remember, looked like this, that’s John, the more I look at it.”
“Maybe I don’t want to tell myself that it’s him. Looks like John. That’s him.”
iii. friend and associate #3
Another male individual who also identified himself as a friend of John Hopkins, and that he knew him since the 1960’s, when shown the 1972 composite sketch, made the following remarks:
“That’s how he wore his hair.”
“That’s very similar.”
“The jaw line is the same.”
“That drawing is dead on.”
A close relative to John Hopkins, gave numerous details that were significant to the investigation, providing:
That because his father owned a repair shop, John Hopkins had access to a number of different vehicles.
That John would take vehicles from his father’s garage and drive them around.
That John would leave all of the time and live out of the trunk of a car and always had clothes in his car and trunk.
That John Hopkins stated that he visited Utica “..once in a while”.
That John was in college for criminal justice and took the New York State Trooper examination.
That John would ride the NYS Thruway wearing a cowboy hat and pretending to be a Trooper. The Cowboy hat was gray and John also wore a green army jacket.
That he remembers John’s father melting down an old hickory knife that John had gotten from a tannery with a torch, because John “…had done something bad with it”.
The relative/witness was also shown the 1972 composite sketch and after viewing same, stated the following:
“I think I’ve seen this before, but don’t remember why.”
When asked how the witness could tell, the witness said: “He always had his hair that way, parted to that side. That’s my [relative], you know how I can tell? One ear is bigger than the other, one of John’s ear was bigger than the other and it’s a family trait, one of my ears is bigger than the other.”
It should be further noted that on the 1972 composite sketch that was prepared with the assistance of the 12 year old witness on the snowmobile mentioned above, the left ear of the depicted person appears to be larger than the right ear.
On January 23, 2011, the relative/witness provided some additional commentary:
“The composite drawing did it for me, it was like a photograph for me, specifically with the one ear being bigger than the other one.”
c) Additional information
Upon reviewing the original scene evidence including reports and photographs, it was apparent that a set of bootprints were noted as starting in the area of South Park Drive where witnesses had noticed the parked car. These bootprints appeared to:
Take an easterly direction from the roadway into the woods where they intersected with the pathway
Intersect the pathway at the location where there is evidence that the initial struggle occurred. There were drag marks from this point of struggle for several feet until they terminated at the location of Joanne’s body, which was found with her hands tied to a tree limb.
During the original investigation in 1972, the Utica Police brought the scene photographs of the boot prints to 4 separate shoe stores in the area. All 4 stores confirmed that the bootprints were made by B.F. Goodrich soles.
Inv. Helmer was able to locate plaster castings of bootprints that were taken at the time that the crime scene was processed in 1972. An examination of the original scene photographs of the boot tracks described above as well as the original plaster casts yielded the following information:
That the tread pattern in the photographs appears to match the tread pattern of the castings that were preserved
That the tread pattern of both is consistent with a B.F. Goodrich type of boot
That the words “B.F. Goodrich” are actually visible in the photographs and on the castings
As stated previously by “friend and associate #2” above, John Hopkins would commonly wear “ black, buckle, BF Goodrich boots”.
ii. criminal profile
During the 2001-2002 phase of the investigation, the assistance of a criminal profiler was sought. Investigative materials were furnished to the profiler and ultimately a report was issued. It is noteworthy to point out that the report, received March 17, 2002, was written five years before the John Hopkins lead was developed in the case. The report provided, in part:
That the crime scene likely involved a single offender and not multiple offenders.
The offender was most likely between the ages of 18 and 24 at the time of the crime.
That the offender is a white male.
That the offender was likely a restless type who was always on the move.
That the offender was right handed.
That the defendant would be somewhat quiet and secretive with respect to his activities and true thoughts, exhibiting a reluctance to be open and trustful of others.
That the offender may have been noted to have interest in military style knives and similar weapons designed to be carried on the person.
That the offender was not from the immediate residential community at the time of the crime.
That the offender had likely driven or ridden through the general area a number of times prior to the crime, whether actually seeking to identify potential victims, or not.
That the offender did not know his victim.
That it was noteworthy that the offender removed Joanne Pecheone’s shoelaces and used them to tie her up.
That the offender may have attended a two year college program, but it is unlikely that he would have successfully finished it.
That the offender might have attempted to secure employment as a police officer or corrections officer, most likely at a local level.
During the course of the investigation, Inv. Helmer discovered that John Hopkins enrolled in classes at Fulton/Montgomery Community College in the Criminal Justice Program and withdrew after half a semester. It was further discovered that Hopkins had previously applied for the New York State Police examination.
V. DNA Comparison
As stated previously, a partial y-STR DNA profile was developed from two pieces of evidence – a cutting of a section of Ms. Pecheone’s coat lapel containing sperm and non-sperm components and extracts from a cutting from the waist area of Ms. Pecheone’s panty hose. It was necessary to obtain the y-STR profile of John Hopkins for comparison purposes.
All males in a lineage from father to son will share the same y-STR profile. Therefore, through the cooperation of a blood relative of John Hopkins, Inv. Helmer was able to secure a swabbing that yielded the y-STR profile of John Hopkins despite his having died in 2000.
A comparison was conducted by Labcorp between the y-STR profiles developed from the evidence found upon the body of Joanne Pecheone and the y-STR profile attributed to John Hopkins’ male family lineage, and the following results were obtained (in summary):
The partial profile developed from the evidence from the body of Ms.Pecheone contained insufficient genetic information for inclusionary purposes. This means that there was insufficient genetic information extracted from the evidence to definitively identify any male contributor.
However, John Hopkins cannot be excluded from the partial profiles developed from the evidence from the body of Ms. Pecheone.
It has been 39 years since the death of Joanne Pecheone. During those years, evidence has been collected, new leads developed, forensic proof evaluated, re-evaluated and more. The case has been aggressively pursued by different generations of law enforcement. All of this has led ultimately to the development of the facts cited above.
In view of the expansive history of the case, the volume of information collected and the implications of that information, it is our opinion that John Hopkins is the perpetrator of this crime. We are therefore closing the case as solved.
Katherine Kolodziej, 17, of Long Island, was a SUNY Cobleskill freshman when she disappeared Nov. 2, 1974, and was found stabbed to death in a field about five miles away on Nov. 28, 1974, less than 90 minutes southeast of Utica. State police continue to investigate her unsolved murder, and have not yet ruled out serial killer John W. Hopkins as a possible suspect after he was recently linked to the 1972 murder of Joanne Pecheone in East Utica.
Investigators may not have heard the last of local serial killer John William Hopkins.
Hopkins may be dead, but recent revelations that the former Johnstown man raped and killed 19-year-old Joanne Pecheone in East Utica nearly 40 years ago has since prompted state police to question whether the convicted murderer also may be linked to a similar unsolved homicide in the 1970s.
More than two years after Pecheone was brutally stabbed in 1972 as she walked home from school, another teenage girl was found stabbed many times and left in the woods near Cobleskill, about 60 miles southeast of Utica.
The victim, 17-year-old Katherine Kolodziej of Long Island, had just begun her first year at SUNY Cobleskill when she was last seen walking from a popular college bar during the early hours of Nov. 2, 1974.
Her body was found just after Thanksgiving that year, and investigators would spend the next several decades trying to determine who killed her, just as Pecheone’s murder had left investigators stumped in Utica.
Taking another look
But when news broke in Utica last Friday that Hopkins was Pecheone’s killer, Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond’s eyes widened at the similarities between the two young girls’ deaths. Desmond was a state trooper when Kolodziej was killed, and he was never aware of Pecheone’s murder until now, he said.
“It jumped right out at me when I saw that because I knew the name John Hopkins,” said Desmond, who then alerted Troop G state police investigators about the news.
Hopkins was 26 when he was arrested for stabbing a 15-year-old girl in Northville, about 30 minutes north of Johnstown. Hopkins then admitted to killing three people, including Cecilia Genatiempo, 17, of Gloversville in 1976, and former Utican Sherrie Lynn (should be Ann) Carville, 17, of Broadalbin, in 1978.
Hopkins never revealed who the third victim was, but Oneida County prosecutors believe he was talking about Pecheone. Or could it have been Kolodziej, investigators in the Cobleskill area are wondering.
“I thought it is a very good possibility that Hopkins did commit this crime against Kathy Kolodziej, but I wouldn’t want to say at this time that he did it or didn’t do it,” Desmond said. “I wouldn’t want to focus on him right now and not be open to other people as suspects until we got more information concerning Hopkins.”
Now that Hopkins’s name has resurfaced, state police investigators are going to give him another look, Troop G Senior Investigator William John said this week.
“You have to be able to put Hopkins in the Cobleskill area at the time, and prove that he had the means and the opportunity to do the crime, and we’d go from here,” John said. “If you don’t have those two items, then you can pretty much rule him out.”
But some circumstances of Kolodziej’s murder are similar to how Hopkins attacked his four other teenage victims.
Years of investigation by Utica police and Senior Investigator James Helmer of the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office have revealed that Hopkins and one of his friends would frequently travel and visit college towns.
Pecheone was killed just a short distance from Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, and Kolodziej’s body was found about 5 miles from the State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill.
Kolodziej was stabbed seven times in her upper back, police said, just like the 15-year-old girl who survived Hopkins’ attack. Genatiempo and Pecheone also were repeatedly stabbed, and all five victims – including Kolodziej – were found in wooded areas.
At least one witness at the time described seeing a girl who looked liked Kolodziej get in the passenger side of a yellow Volkswagen Beetle near the SUNY Cobleskill campus, and a female was later heard screaming inside the car, police said.
Although witnesses after Pecheone’s murder described a young man driving a copper-colored Chevrolet Nova vehicle with a black top, local investigators have said that Hopkins had access to a number of different vehicles from his father’s repair shop.
When Kolodziej’s body was found Nov. 28, 1974, near Cobleskill in Richmondville, she was lying face up on top of a stone wall, Desmond said. Some of her clothes had been removed and a red coat was placed over her body up to her chin like a blanket, with rocks used to hold down the coat, Desmond said.
Both of her shoes were found along a nearby gravel road, Desmond said, and police continue to wonder whether the shoes were discarded immediately after disposing of Kolodziej’s body or placed there sometime after the murder to help police find her.
Kolodziej’s shoes were slip-on without laces, but Hopkins seemed to have a particular interest in his victims’ shoes, investigators said. Shoelaces were used by Hopkins to tie up both Pecheone and the 15-year-old girl during their attacks, and Hopkins had told police that he specifically remembered Carville wearing laced boots.
State police near Cobleskill continue to look for anyone who might know something about Kolodziej’s killer, and they hope someone will finally be comfortable coming forward with the truth so many years after her death, investigators said. No DNA evidence was recovered from Kolodziej’s body.
Two notable clues have led police to speculate that the suspect had feelings for Kolodziej: The way her body was purposely covered, and the fact that her stomach contained recently eaten food, suggesting that she shared a late-night meal with her killer, John said.
“Between that meal and where she was discovered something went horribly wrong,” John said. “A young freshman from Long Island, her first time away from home and being trusting, she had no reason not to trust someone at that point.”
By SOPHIA CHANG AND GARY DYMSKI
William John of the state troopers appealed to anyone who had known Kolodziej from Connetquot High School to contact the New York State Police.
She was found stabbed to death 36 years ago, her body carefully arranged atop a stone wall in a field near upstate Cobleskill.
Now, with the recent disclosure that a nearby decades-old killing had been solved, the unsolved murder of Ronkonkoma teenager Katherine Kolodziej is getting fresh attention.
While Hopkins had been previously named a suspect in Kolodziej’s murder, police are again exploring the possibility that he killed her.
“He was always looked at. We’re going to look at him again,” said state trooper Tom Cioffi.
Kolodziej’s parents died several years ago, but closure on the case would bring relief to her uncle Charles Szydlowski, 80, of West Islip. “If they can be sure, I certainly would like to know,” said Szydlowski, whose sister Hedwig Kolodziej spent her life mourning her daughter. “And in my prayers, I will tell my sister what happened.”When she disappeared walking home on Nov. 2, 1974, Kolodziej was 17 years old and a freshman at State University of New York in Cobleskill, where she was studying animal husbandry.
Her partially clothed body was found on Thanksgiving Day – she had been stabbed seven times, then laid upon a stone wall and covered with a red coat.
Sixty miles away in East Utica, Joanne Pecheone, 19, was found raped and stabbed to death in 1972. Her case remained open until last week, when the Oneida County district attorney announced that Hopkins was the last remaining suspect, based on DNA and witness evidence.
At the time of his arrest in 1979 for the rape of a 15-year-old girl, Hopkins had confessed to killing three women but named only two: Cecilia Genatiempo, 17, killed in 1976 and Sherrie Lynn Carville, 17, in 1978. Police now believe that Pecheone was the third.
Hopkins killed himself in 2000 while serving a prison sentence in an upstate jail.
Suspected link in cases
Schoharie County Sheriff Tony Desmond, who had been a state police trooper when Kolodziej was killed and worked on the case, believes there is a link between Hopkins and Kolodziej as well.
“Three of the victims were the same age as Kathy,” he said Friday. “And if you look at the pictures of some of these victims – the hairstyle, parted in the center, long, combed down – it’s similar. And they were all college students.”
But senior investigator William John of the state troopers said evidence leading to Hopkins was still scant.
“We’re not sure it was Hopkins. We’re looking at means and opportunities,” John said, noting that Hopkins raped his victims and there was no evidence that Kolodziej had been sexually assaulted.
He added that other men who were her college classmates are now being sought for interviews.
John appealed to anyone who had known Kolodziej from Connetquot High School to contact the state police. In particular, he said he wants to hear from “anyone that knew her back in high school or received any correspondence from her that would have a guy’s name in it.”
On the night she went missing, Kolodziej was dancing with some friends at The Vault, a popular hangout in Cobleskill at the time, Szydlowski said.
Kolodziej’s roommate told her that the group they were with was leaving, “but Kathy said to go ahead and that she was going to stay,” Szydlowski said Friday.
The morning after Kolodziej went missing, Szydlowski’s sister called him on the telephone. “She said, ‘Charlie, Kathy is laying on side of the road somewhere dead, I know it.’ ” He tried to tell his sister that her only child would turn up safe.
“I said, ‘Heddy, there are 13 million people in New York State. What are the chances this is going to affect us this way?’
“But she was right. Her first thought was her daughter was dead, and she was right.”
With John Valenti and Yamiche Alcindor
Cold Case But Not Forgotten-State Police BCI Investigator Tom Cioffi Hunts for the Killer of Katherine Kolodziej
Clues still being sought in death of college teen more than 36 years ago By BRYAN FITZGERALD Special To The Times Union Published: 12:00 a.m., Monday, January 3, 2011
COBLESKILL — The life of Katherine Kolodziej is divided into three cardboard boxes.
Her last name is written on each in black marker. Two are at the State Police barracks in Rotterdam, the other at their station in Cobleskill.
Inside are photos of the 17-year-old blonde, blue-eyed Long Island native smiling for her class picture, along with her public records and letters she received from her mother.
So is Kolodziej’s autopsy report, thousands of leads and interviews relating to her brutal murder and crime scene photographs of her body laid out on a stone wall in a field in Richmondville in November 1974.
Kolodziej’s parents have been dead for several years. She was an only child.
The only calls police receive about the status of her case are twice-yearly inquiries from a former college classmate of Kolodziej’s who lives in Florida.
If the State Police were to stop investigating Kolodziej’s death tomorrow, it’s likely not many would notice. But two law officers — a veteran State Police investigator and the only still-active police officer who worked the case when Kolodziej died — are renewing the hunt for her killer.
“I still think this case can be solved,” State Police Investigator Tom Cioffi says, “I really do.”
Around 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 2, 1974, Kolodziej left The Vault, a popular college bar on the corner of Grand Street and Main Street in Cobleskill, to make the one-mile walk back to campus alone. She was never seen alive again. Her body was found 26 days later on Thanksgiving, barefoot and naked from the waist down and carefully placed on a stone wall in the hills of nearby Richmondville.
She had been stabbed in the back seven times with two different weapons.
The investigation into Kolodziej’s murder has now lasted more than twice as long as her life.
Cioffi, a State Police investigator for 10 years, was given her case two months ago after the officer who was handling it stepped down.
A Schoharie County native, Cioffi remembers the Kolodziej case from his days at Richmondville High School.
Cioffi recently collaborated with the only remaining active police officer from day one of the investigation, Schoharie County Sheriff Anthony Desmond.
“All law enforcement officers have one case that stands out in their career, which they want solved. The Kolodziej case is mine,” Desmond says.
Next week, Cioffi and Desmond will appear on a local talk radio show to discuss the case for the second time in three months.
Desmond still talks about the case with old colleagues, swapping theories about suspects and motives as if it were that day in the fall of 1974 when her body was found.
While Desmond and the State Police were forming a search party in the area, a group of hunters approached them and said they had found a blue woman’s shoe on the side of McDonald Road in Richmondville.
Police found another shoe up the road, and then discovered Kolodziej’s body about 100 yards away.
Investigators interviewed the entire SUNY Cobleskill student body. They also talked to Volkswagen Beetle owners in the area — somebody reported seeing someone matching Kolodziej’s description getting into a yellow one after she left the bar — and anybody who had a connection to the murder of any young woman in the Northeast.
Convicted serial killers Theodore “Ted” Bundy and Lewis Lent were questioned about the case.
Donald Sigsbee and John William Hopkins, both of whom were convicted in the murders of young women in central New York, were considered prime suspects. Police could never tie either of them to the area at the time of the murder.
“It’s one of those cases where everybody who’s investigated it” has their own top suspect, Cioffi said.
Cioffi says State Police still receive about a half dozen tips a year. He would like to be able to retrace her last steps, but all investigators know is that she left the bar alone and may have gotten into the Volkswagen.
Kolodziej would be 53 years old today. She was just two months into her first semester of college when she was killed.
Police say her killer, if alive, is now likely 50 to 70 years old.
Ask people in the town about the Kolodziej case and some of them remember hearing something about a young college student found murdered in the woods decades ago.
But most of them shake their heads, having forgotten about it long ago.
“I still hope that somebody, sometime, somewhere will come up and say ‘I’ve lived with this as long as I can and I can’t take it anymore,’” Desmond says.
Homes have replaced many acres of forest in the hills of Richmondville since Kolodziej’s death.
The stone wall where her killer carefully placed her on her back is still intact, surrounded by brush that has slowly thickened over the years.
“At some point, no one may remember,” Desmond said.
Reach Bryan Fitzgerald at 454-5452 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Courtesy of CBS News
Jeami Chiapulis seemed to have lived quite the amazing life – highlighted by military combat, from Afghanistan to Iraq. He even had a photo of the elite Ranger unit he had served in.
It all appealed to single mom Leisa Hurst and her father, Lynn.
“I was impressed with him and everything else because of my military background,” Lynn Hurst tells “48 Hours Mystery” correspondent Maureen Maher.
“He seemed like a very nice man,” Leisa’s mother, Debbie Welch, agrees.
A man who sensed Leisa’s kids, Ashlyn and Tyler, were the way to her heart.
“He knew like our jokes and stuff,” Ashlyn says.
“He’d give us gifts and stuff,” Tyler adds. “And he’d get stuff for mom.”
Asked if his daughter was in love, Lynn Hurst replies, “Yeah. Oh, she was.”
MISSING: 24 HOURS
Leisa was a graduate student living in Barstow, Calif. The mother of two young girls had lived 31 years without making an enemy. That’s why, in the hours after she went missing in January 2009, it made no sense at all.
Leisa grew up surrounded by love and the safety and security of close family. Those were the gifts her parents, Lynn and Debbie, and her older brother, Valden, gave the little girl.
“[She was] happy-go-lucky, always smiling,” Lynn says. “I think what really set her off her personality was her deep blue eyes.”
Leisa’s parents describe her as more of a tomboy than a girlie girl. “She played baseball,” Lynn says. “She was very good.”
Home was the endless, starkly beautiful desert, outside Barstow. Lynn was a Vietnam veteran; a working man. Debbie worked as a medical assistant. “It was a good place to raise kids,” she tells Maher, smiling.
Debbie says her outgoing daughter wasn’t a kid for very long. “And then [she] just blossomed into a beautiful woman, I thought.”
Leisa was an adventurous teenager and struggled to manage all the new-found attention from the boys. She was unlucky at love, starting with her high school boyfriend, Jesse Pouvaranukoah.
“So when she came home and told you she was pregnant what was your reaction?” Maher asks Debbie.
“I wanted to strangle her, but I mean there’s not much you can do,” she replies. “You realize you gotta be there for your kids.”
Baby Ashlyn was born.
“I told her I’d be there,” Lynn says. “And I was.”
Leisa’s family was incredibly supportive and the teenager worked hard at being a good mom even after she and her boyfriend broke up.
“She was a little scared at first, but realized she was bringing a life into the world, and she was accepting it,” Debbie says. “She was really proud of [Ashlyn].”
There would be another relationship with cross country truck driver Ruben DeLeon. It was serious, lasting almost 5 years.
Leisa got pregnant again, with daughter Tyler. Leisa and Ruben seemed ready to be a real family.
“I thought they were going to get married,” Lynn explains. “I thought Ruben and Leisa were gonna get settled down and have a family.”
Leisa even bought a wedding dress. But, as her mother explains, that didn’t work out.
“She got really upset and it tore her apart,” Debbie tells Maher. She says Leisa was so devastated, she cut up the dress with scissors.
So in 2005, Leisa became a single mother again trying to make it all work for Ashlyn, then 8, and Tyler, who was 5.
“She was our mother and took care of us. And she taught us a lot,” says Tyler.
Under the desert sky, the three girls settled down and began repeating the precious rituals of family that Leisa had learned as a child.
“I don’t think you could find a better person for her situation, raising two girls,” Lynn says. “They were very well brought up.”
Leisa Hurst, along with her two daughters, was finally growing up. She would attend Barstow College, with plans to become a teacher.
But Debbie says life without a partner was lonely and difficult for Leisa. “She really wanted to get married, I think, and settle down and have a family – someone to actually be there for her and be part of her life.”
Then, in October 2006, at Barstow College, she met fellow student Jeami Chiapulis.
“She said, “OK, do you want to go meet my new boyfriend?” Tyler recalls.
Jeami Chiapulis was anything but a typical student. He was a 34-year-old war hero and a cancer survivor. He had a big house, a big heart – and as far as Leisa could tell – he was single and available.
“Obviously, she wanted him to be in her life,” says Debbie.
And Jeami wanted Leisa in his life. She graduated and they were set to finally become a family. The kids and their single mom were thrilled.
“I really thought she had found the right person,” says Lynn.
So in January 2009, a new life seemed to be truly dawning for Leisa and her two girls. That’s why what happened next was such a surprise to Leisa’s family.
Leisa’s abandoned car had been found 50 miles south in the town of Hesperia.
“The police department came and knocked on my door,” Lynn says. “The windows down, the keys in the ignition. I say, ‘That’s not Leisa,’” Lynn tells Maher.
“My heart sunk,” says Debbie.
A massive search for Leisa Hurst would soon begin. And another search would also start to find out who Jeami Chiapulis really was.
When Leisa Hurst vanished on Jan. 22, 2009, and police told her parents that her car had been found abandoned, her parents knew something was very wrong.
“The car was in a place that it shouldn’t have been put,” says Leisa’s mother, Debbie Welch.
Leisa’s father, Lynn Hurst, immediately called her apartment and learned from his granddaughters, Ashlyn, 12, and Tyler, 9, that Leisa had not come home the previous evening.
“She’d never leave her kids that long,” Debbie explains. “It would just be school and then home.”
So where could Leisa be? The last person to have contact with her was her boyfriend, Jeami Chiapulis, who on that Thursday afternoon of Leisa’s disappearance had picked up her daughter, Tyler, from school, while Ashlyn walked home alone.
“I said, ‘Where’s Mom?’ And he said, ‘college,’” says Tyler.
Chiapulis told Tyler that her mother was at the University of La Verne in Victor Valley, where Leisa occasionally took graduate classes.
That night, Chiapulis got the girls settled in and he even picked up dinner.
“We just started like doing normal stuff, like homework,” Tyler says. “And then he left.”
Leisa rarely left the girls home alone, but when she did, she would always call to speak with them.
“Would she have gone out with girlfriends and partied all night?” Maher asks.
“There’s no way,” Debbie replies. “Leisa’s just too responsible. …She loved those kids.”
And that’s when her two little girls got scared.
“When it was 5:00 in the morning, I started freaking out,” says Ashlyn.
Detective Keith Libby from the Barstow Police Department opened the investigation into the disappearance of Leisa Hurst.
“Her oldest daughter is the age of my youngest son. So it was pretty difficult,” Libby says of the case.
From the very beginning, everything about Leisa’s case was suspicious – from the location where her car was found to what her boyfriend, Jeami Chiapulis, told Det. Libby the first time they met.
“She had no connection to that area,” Libby tells Maher. “…He was saying that they weren’t actually engaged.”
“Was he basically denying that they had a relationship?” Maher asks.
In fact, Chiapulis dropped a bombshell, telling Det. Libby he was actually married to a woman in the Army who lived out of state.
“It just didn’t make sense,” Libby says. “When I walked out of the house I was thinking this guy’s up to something…”
That was no surprise to Jaime Tatro, a woman who dated Chiapulis a lifetime ago.
“I think it’s very possible that he hurt somebody,” says Tatro, who lives in Georgia, 2,000 miles away from Leisa Hurst. Had the two young women ever met, Jamie would have cautioned Leisa to stay far away from Chiapulis.
It was 1992, and love at first sight, says Jaime. “I was a 16-year-old girl… impressionable, young… He was beautiful, rock star. Long, long hair.”
Chiapulis said he played the guitar and had a band. Asked if any of that was true, Jaime says, “I never even seen him pick up a guitar.”
The two dated for over a year and had a child together. But the more time Jaime Tatro spent with Chiapulis, the more lies she caught him in.
“…it was all coming out who he was and who I’d been with all that time,” she tells Maher.
Who is he, really?
“I don’t even think that he knows. …he will tell a lie and he will try to live it out, and after a while you don’t know what’s true anymore.
When Tatro broke off their relationship, Chiapulis drifted west and dropped off the radar until 2002, when he joined the United States Army as an infantryman based in Hawaii. He eventually settled in Barstow, Calif.
Science major Joyce Fransson remembers meeting Chiapulis in 2005, when he enrolled at Barstow College.
“Back then, he was very popular, everyone liked him,” Joyce tells Maher. “He was in my biology class… and he had a lot of charisma.”
He also told his new classmate he was a war hero. “He told me he was a Green Beret in the Army for 14 years and he was medically discharged from war wounds.”
While Chiapulis bragged to all about his war record, there was something he kept secret from everyone – the fact that he had a wife. In 2006, Chiapulis had married Army Lt. Col. Katherine Taylor. The couple shuttled between Barstow and her base in Texas.
“She had done some time in Iraq,” Libby explains. “And that she was stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.”
With his wife away, Libby says Chiapulis had ample time to lead his double life.
“While she was deployed he was going to community college in Barstow College… he also was establishing relationships with several different women,” he says.
Including Joyce Fransson, who became much more than a friend.
“He told me he was single. He treated me like a queen,” Joyce tells Maher.
So not only was there Katherine, his wife, and Joyce – it was around this time that Chiapulis also began dating Leisa Hurst.
“Jeami Chiapulis was playing the field with many women,” says Libby.
While it is likely that neither his wife nor Leisa knew anything about the others, Joyce says Chiapulis had mentioned Leisa to her… describing Leisa as a student who had been harassing him for a date.
Over time, Leisa’s mother, Debbie, had begun to suspect something was not right with her daughter’s fiance.
“I kept telling her… ‘There’s something wrong,’” Debbie tells Maher. “‘He’s gonna hurt you.’ And we had a talk about that before all this happened.”
She says Leisa would tell her, “Mom, things are gonna be fine… we’re getting married.”
And when her daughter vanished…a mother’s intuition turned to dread.
MISSING: 3 DAYS
The evidence was piling up. When detectives searched Chiapulis’ house, they hit pay dirt – Home Depot receipts listing items Chiapulis had just purchased, including bleach, duct tape, gloves, a pickaxe, shovel and a large trash barrel.
“It doesn’t take, you know, Scotland Yard to figure out that those are items that could be used to get rid of a body,” notes Libby.
There was the marriage and the receipts and there would be one other bizarre discovery in Chiapulis’ trash – a used condom.
“It just seemed disgusting to me the way he answered it,” Libby says. “He said, ‘Well, that’s Joyce.’”
Chiapulis was with Joyce Fransson the night Leisa disappeared.
“And the last thing he said to me was, ‘Promise never to tell anybody, no matter what happens, in your life’” Joyce tells Maher.
“They had sworn to take it to their graves,” says Libby.
Four days into the investigation of Leisa Hurst’s disappearance, Detective Keith Libby knew he had his man: Jeami Chiapulis. So did Leisa’s mother.
“In my gut, I kind of felt it was Jamie,” says Debbie Welch.
But even with the discovery of Chiapulis’ marriage and the receipts showing his purchases for duct tape, gloves, a pickaxe and shovel, there was still no body.
“I was thinking definitely foul play,” Libby says. “I was thinking he could have killed her.”
Desperate for answers, they focused on the woman Chiapulis had told police he was with the night Leisa disappeared. Like Leisa Hurst, Chiapulis had promised to marry Joyce Fransson.
“I didn’t think there was anyone else,” Joyce tells Maher. “He told me that was his heart’s desire.”
But that is not what Joyce told Det. Libby when he interviewed her just four days after Leisa disappeared.
“She said she hadn’t seen him in over a year,” Libby says. “It took my pointing out to her that we’d found a condom and it might have her DNA evidence on it for her to say, ‘OK, I was there on Thursday night. And I had sex with him.’”
That is all Joyce would tell police. She failed to mention the night that Chiapulis had called her in a panic with an odd request: Could she help him get rid of a car. It also happened to be the very same night Leisa Hurst went missing.
Chiapulis said he needed to help a friend who had fallen behind on car payments. He needed someplace to dump the car so it would appear that it had been stolen.
“I never had a reason to distrust him,” says Joyce.
Joyce had Chiapulis follow her to the town of Hesperia – to a neighborhood she said had a bad reputation for crime. They left the car on a roadway with the windows down and the key in the ignition. After ditching the car, Joyce and Chiapulis drove back to his house where they had sex, and according to Joyce, that’s when he told her a truly unbelievable story.
“He told me that he had family in the Mafia and they had recently delivered him a package,” Joyce explains. “And he was being threatened to get rid of it immediately… It was a trash can… a sealed trash can with duct tape.”
So now, just hours after dumping a car, Joyce and Chiapulis then drive to a remote part of the desert where, she says, Chiapulis spent hours digging a hole to dump that mysterious package.
“You never saw what was in there?” Maher asks Joyce.
“No,” she replies. “I was in the car. I stayed there the whole time that he dug the hole. He kept telling me, ‘Don’t worry about it.’”
Joyce claims she was too scared and too confused to say no.
“Joyce, this is crazy. Did you not say, ‘No way?’ What was going through your mind?” asks Maher.
“I did say that to him,” she replies. “But I didn’t know what else to believe or what to do.”
“And did you wonder what might have been in the trashcan?” Did you think Mafia, trash can, body?”
“Everything crossed my mind.”
That is except for telling Det. Libby what she knew.
“I was scared,” Joyce says of her interrogation. “When they said there was a missing person I just totally froze. …I panicked.”
And with no physical evidence to tie Chiapulis directly to Leisa’s disappearance, the investigation came to a halt.
But Libby was about to get help from an unlikely investigator, Leisa’s brother, Valden, who had gone to Hesperia looking for his sister just hours after they discovered she was missing.
“Valden had recovered a pair of orange rubber gloves and a plastic shower cap… lying in the roadway,” Libby says. “The important thing he did was he took a photograph of them. A nice, clear, digital photograph which showed the condition that they were found.”
Valden handed the cap and gloves over to Chiapulis.
“Whether it was intentional or otherwise, he never mentioned to Jeami Chiapulis that he took the photo,” says Libby.
Chiapulis would turn them over to police 5 hours later. It wouldn’t take long for the detective to make a startling discovery – “He switched these around.”
Chiapulis had actually given police a different pair of gloves and a different colored cap. But why?
“One of the biggest items of evidence, was those gloves and the shower cap that were found near Leisa’s car, and the fact that they had been tampered with and that he had done something to try to avoid detection while driving the car, and then trying to avoid prosecution by destroying the evidence,” Libby explains.
And with that, a critical piece of the puzzle fell into place: the Home Depot receipts and Chiapulis’ bizarre double life. Now Det. Libby felt he could make a strong case against Jeami Chiapulis.
“We obviously knew we that there were gonna be some challenges without her body,” he admits. “However, we were confident that we had a good case circumstantially.”
Libby would get no help from Chiapulis, who was no longer talking because he had committed himself to a local psychiatric ward.
“Do you think he was just trying to set up an excuse?” Maher asks Libby.
“He’s probably trying to buy time by being in the hospital,” he replies, “…to set up an insanity defense.”
MISSING: 21 DAYS
Three weeks after Leisa Hurst disappeared, and on the same day Chiapulis checked out of the mental ward and into a motel, police moved in.
Jeami Chiapulis was arrested and charged with Leisa’s murder. But where was Leisa?
“I felt that his arrest might shake loose some information … leading to the whereabouts of Leisa Hurst,” says Libby.
Leisa’s family was already dealing with the painful reality that she would likely not be found alive, but they still desperately wanted to bring her home.
“We went out looking for her. And we kept looking for her,” says Debbie.
Chiapulis, however, remained silent. Soon, the entire community would join in the search… hundreds of volunteers canvassed the vast California desert looking for Leisa.
“This is almost the perfect place to bury a body,” Maher notes while flying over the desert with Det. Libby.
“If you just took the area that we’re looking at and you tell somebody to ‘go look for a body,’ then it’s just virtually impossible if it’s buried and concealed well,” he says.
To find Leisa, investigators might be forced to make a deal with the one person who knew where she was.
While the community searched for one of its own, Leisa Hurst’s family prayed that they would find the young woman they all loved.
“It just isn’t fair,” her mother, Debbie Welch says. “I need closure and so do my grandkids and family.”
Initially, right after he was arrested, Jeami Chiapulis remained silent over the whereabouts of Leisa Hurst. And without her body, Prosecutor Sean Daugherty could not seek the death penalty.
Asked how certain he was that Chiapulis killed Leisa, Daugherty replies, “I’m absolutely certain without a doubt.”
But Leisa’s loved ones had their own ideas about justice.
“He shouldn’t be able to be alive,” says Leisa’s daughter, Ashlyn.
Asked what she would like to have done, Debbie says, “Tie him down just leave him there.”
The truth was Leisa Hurst, who thought she had found the man of her dreams, had actually encountered a nightmare.
“He’s manipulative and diabolical,” Libby explains. “Jeami Chiapulis had built a life that didn’t actually exist, that he was a war hero, that he was a combat veteran. Later, I found out that he’d never seen any type of combat. He wasn’t a Ranger at all.”
“Did he tell women that he had cancer?” Maher asks.
“Yes. He never had cancer,” Libby says. “He would also come across as ‘I care. I’m the man you’re looking for in your life. I’m a good listener.’”
“And was he any of those things?”
“Not at all… I don’t know that he can ever tell the truth.”
With Chiapulis keeping quiet, there was little hope of ever finding Leisa’s body. Still, District Attorney Daugherty thought he could make his case for murder and get Chiapulis locked up for life.
“I thought it was convincing and compelling enough to take to a jury and go… this all points in one direction,” says Daugherty.
Getting Chiapulis convicted of murder was key, but so was bringing Leisa Hurst back to her family. To do so, Daugherty was forced to make a deal with the devil: In exchange for a reduced sentence, Chiapulis would admit to killing Leisa. But even more important, he would have to reveal where in the vast, hot, unforgiving desert he had buried her body.
MISSING: 260 DAYS
“When he brought us out here we were walking, he was shackled,” Libby says. “Had he not told us, we wouldn’t have found her. We were searching 50 miles south of here.”
After hours of digging under the hot sun, detectives finally found Leisa’s body as Chiapulis looked on.
“There was no remorse. There was no emotion,” Libby says of Chiapulis. “It was a feeling of relief that we’d found her. And it was also a feeling of anger that we didn’t find her without his help.”
On Oct. 8, 2009, Leisa Hurst was finally brought home.
“It was very important to me because we could pay our respects to her,” says an emotional Lynn Hurst of his daughter.
Jeami Chiapulis got his reduced sentence – only 15 years to life in a California prison.
“That’s not justice,” says Leisa’s mother, Debbie Welch.
“I had to look at the benefits of recovering the body versus a life sentence,” says Daugherty. When asked if it was worth it to offer the plea, he says, “Yes. It was worth it.”
But at least one mystery remained: Chiapulis admitted to killing Leisa, but just how had she died? It was only after Chiapulis was sentenced that he agreed to tell police his version of what had happened, claiming it was an accidental drowning.
Det. Libby: And so you guys were having sex where initially? Where did it start?
Jeami Chiapulis: In the pool.
Det. Libby: And what happens while you’re having sex?
Jeami Chiapulis: I choked her in the pool… Leisa likes to be choked. She said it made it better. …She said she was very light headed and needed a break. So I went inside to get a drink, and when I came out to the pool she was face down in the pool. I thought she was just unconscious and she started turning purple and got very cold. And then of course I realized what had happened.
Police didn’t buy it for a minute, because they say the evidence refutes it all.
Investigators believe the bleach Chiapulis bought at Home Depot was used to clean up a bloody, brutal murder.
“I believe there was probably some type of violent altercation in the garage,” Libby says. “It probably involved some type of injury that it was a loss of blood.”
Asked what she thought happened that day, Debbie tells Maher, “I really don’t know what happened. I know if there was a fight Leisa would have fought as hard as she could.”
“Do you think he was planning this?” Maher asks Lynn.
But why would the master manipulator want to kill the single mother of two little girls?
According to Libby, “His house of cards, if you will, was getting ready to fall in on him.”
Chiapulis was juggling Leisa Hurst and Joyce Fransson, two women who thought they were going to marry him. To make matters worse for Chiapulis, his wife, Lt. Col. Katherine Taylor, was about to return to California from her base in Texas.
“And I think he just had so much pressure coming with his wife showing up soon … and he knew that sooner or later the lies gonna fall apart,” says Libby.
Police now had their motive – a serial liar – a killer done in by his own conceit. But there was one more crucial question: Did Jeami Chiapulis act alone?
“She knew. She knew all along,” says Libby.
The police investigation was far from over, because Chiapulis finally revealed more about what happened the day Leisa Hurst died.
Chiapulis Police Interview: I told Joyce what had happened, and Joyce said, “Well what do you want to do?”
For the first time, Chiapulis would implicate his girlfriend, Joyce Fransson, telling cops he wasn’t alone when he buried Leisa Hurst in the desert.
With Jeami Chiapulis locked up, investigators turned their attention to his 24-year-old girlfriend, Joyce Fransson.
“If she didn’t dig, then she definitely helped him put Leisa’s body into that hole,” Det. Keith Libby tells Maureen Maher.
Investigator Libby believes Chiapulis had killed Leisa and that Joyce helped him bury her body in the desert – in a place where it would never be found.
“Yeah, she’s timid, she’s shy, but she had great motivation to keep it quiet,” Libby says of Joyce. “That was because she was saving her own butt and trying to prove her love for this guy.”
Chiapulis proved unworthy of that love. Questioned by police after his sentencing, he said that Joyce knew everything.
Jeami Chiapulis: Joyce came over that night.
Det. Libby: OK.
Jeami Chiapulis: And I told Joyce what had happened.
Det. Libby: Mm-hmm.
Jeami Chiapulis: And Joyce said, “Well, what do you want to do?”
Chiapulis said Joyce helped him to plan the cover up.
Jeami Chiapulis: So we both agreed to bury her body. Joyce said she knew of a place.
Detective Libby confronted Joyce and broke her down.
“During that conversation she admits that she took him out to the desert, showed him where to bury the trash can,” Libby explains. “She denied knowing the body was in the trash can.”
But on Nov. 24, 2009, based on what Chiapulis had told detectives, Joyce was charged with five counts, as an accessory after the fact, in Leisa’s murder.
While awaiting trial, Joyce returned to the desert with “48 Hours” and her lawyer to tell her version of what happened.
“It’s a place I never wanted to visit again,” Joyce says standing at the burial site. “He spent hours there that morning digging it by himself and he discarded the contents of the can in the hole when I wasn’t looking.”
And she would swear to “48 Hours” that Chiapulis buried the mysterious package entirely on his own.
“I remember thinking, ‘Who is this person?’ He’s not the person I’ve known for four years,” says Joyce.
Says Libby, “I’ll bet that she … definitely knew that she was in that trash can when she showed up at his house. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
“Did you have anything to do with Leisa Hurst’s death? Maher asks Joyce. “No,” she replies,
“Anything to do with her murder?” “No.”
“Or the cover up of her murder?” “No.”
“The burying of her body? The cleanup after the murder?” “No.”
“Did you know that she had been murdered?” “No.”
“How could you sit on that information for 10 months and not tell anyone?” Maher continues.
“I couldn’t,” Joyce replies. “It was the most difficult time.”
“Did you not think about her family?”
“I did think about them… I just felt horrible. I felt like a monster,” cries Joyce.
“I think she really did know and she should also have to pay for that,” says Ashlyn.
“To me, I think she just put on a good act. I’m sorry,” says Debbie.
“And you think she knew exactly what was in the trash can?” asks Maher.
“Yes, I do.”
So on July 26, 2010, prosecutors would make that case with Jeami Chiapulis set to testify against Joyce.
“Joyce Fransson helped Jeami Chiapulis dispose of a body…” D.A. Sean Daugherty tells the court.
“When you were in court did you ever go up to Joyce and confront her?” Maher asks Debbie.
“No,” she says – but she wanted to. “I wanted to shake her and slap her across the face and say, ‘What is wrong with you? Why couldn’t you say something?’”
After just one day of trial, suddenly it’s all over. The judge unexpectedly offers Joyce Fransson a plea deal.
Joyce will plead no contest to all charges. Instead of a possible 5-year sentence, she will now serve only three.
While disappointed with the outcome, Leisa’s mother finally gets her chance to confront Joyce.
“We spent 10 months looking for her. And all you had to do is say, ‘I’m scared. Help me,’” Debbie tells her. “…You didn’t even ask for help. I can’t forgive you for what you did. I just pray that God can forgive you.”
“As close as we could get, justice was done,” says Daugherty. Yet no one seemed satisfied.
“It just makes me sick,” Lynn Hurst says, “‘cause they’re getting’ away with it.”
But Ashlyn and Tyler would rather focus on the mother they had and the future she was working so hard for.
“What do you think she would want for you and your sister when you get older?” Maher asks Tyler.
“To get a good career and go to college,” she says. “I feel she’s right there with me… and it feels like she’s watching me.”
While in prison, Jeami Chiapulis allegedly tried to hire a hitman to kill Joyce Fransson, Det. Keith Libby and Leisa Hurst’s two daughters.
Chiapulis will face murder-for-hire charges on Feb. 16, 2011.
Police say Chiapulis’ wife, Army hero Lt. Col. Katherine Taylor, had no knowledge of his double life. She annulled the marriage in December 2009.
Ashlyn and Tyler are being raised separately by their fathers.
This transcript of the show was
Produced by Jonathan Leach and Jamie Stolz ©MMXI, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. If I give credit I hope it is OK to post here. They did a great job with this show.
Leisa Hurst was reported missing to the Police Department after the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department discovered her orange/rust colored Honda Element abandoned in the area of Olive Street and Second Street in Hesperia.
Her cell phone records show it was last used 10:54 p.m. on a Thursday night near the area of a cell tower at 11500 Mariposa Road in Hesperia. Hurst had not been seen or heard from since.
Jeami Chiapulis, a 36-year-old Helendale, CA resident, had a romantic relationship with Hurst. But he had been living a double life, dating Joyce Fransson, a woman he met while attending Barstow college. He also had a wife, in active duty in the military, who was due back home soon. His house of cards was about to fold.
Exactly what happened that fateful night will probably never be known. Video from Home Depot, and receipts in Jeami’s possession show the purchase of rubber gloves, a shower cap, and bleach, among other things. Two searches of Chiapulis’ home by Barstow Police led investigators to believe that he was connected to her disappearance, but they did not name him as a suspect at that time.
Chiapulis checked himself the psychiatric ward of a VA hospital on Jan. 26. He remained a patient there for several weeks. When Detectives spoke to Fransson, she stated she knew nothing.
After leaving the hospital, Jeami R. Chiapulis was arrested by Barstow Police detectives at a Starlite Motel in Redlands after his discharge from the hospital on February 13, 2009.
On February 18, Chiapulis pleaded not guilty in a Barstow courthouse with Hurst’s family, friends and neighbors present. He was held at West Valley Detention Center, pending trial for Leisa’s murder.
On June 5, Barstow Judge Cheryl Kersey ruled that Jeami Chiapulis would stand trial for the murder of Leisa Hurst, in the first-degree. If convicted he would face 25 years to life in prison.
Searches for Leisa’s remains were conducted along the Mojave River and desert regions south of Chiapulis’ home in Silver Lake Community. The search revealed nothing, and in the end, searchers were off the mark by about 50 miles.
In October 2009 Jeami Chiapulis entered into an agreement with the district attorney’s office during a pretrial hearing to receive 15 years to life in prison for second degree murder in exchange for revealing the location of Leisa Hurst’s body
Chiapulis led detectives and authorities to an area near Newberry Springs, where human remains were found. The remains were positively identified by the San Bernardino County Coroner. On October 30, Leisa was laid to rest at Sunset Hills Memorial Park in Apple Valley, CA.
Jeami Chiapulis was formally sentenced to 15 years to life in prison in Novemeber 2009. Leisa’s family and friends filled the courtroom and took the opportunity to talk to the court during the victim impact statements portion of the proceedings. Leisa’s daughters walked toward the front of the courtroom together and took turns speaking.
Chiapulis sat still watching each person as they spoke, no hint of emotion on his now-aged face. The Judge, Steven Mapes asked if Chiapulis would like to make a statement, as he believed the family would appreciate a comment from Chiapulis. The coward, through his attorney, said that he did not wish to give a statement.
In November, Joyce Fransson was arrested in connection with Leisa’s murder. Police believe that Fransson not only helped Jeami Chiapulis abandon Leisa’s car, but also acted as a lookout while Chiapulis buried Hurst in the desert. By her own admission, Chiapulis had woven a story about his family being in the Mafia, and the Mafia had sent him a package to dispose of. She claims to not know what was in the package, a large garbage can. This smart college-educated woman jumped in the car, and together they disposed of the body. She never asked any questions, and claimed to be scared. So scared, that when the police questioned her, she offered no information that could have led to finding the remains for months. In fact, she only offered information after Chiapulis implicated her in the cover-up. She went about her every day life while the family suffered for months not knowing where Leisa Hurst’s remains were buried.
After two days of jury trial, Joyce Fransson made a deal with the court to plead no contest to accessory to murder charges and received three short years for her part in the murder.
Fransson’s attorney, Frank Peterson, said that Fransson was very sorry for what happened and that she should have “put things together” when police interviewed her in April of 2009 but did not cooperate because of her feelings for Chiapulis. She will likely serve 18 months of her sentence after receiving “day for day” good behavior credit.
In an separate investigation conducted in three California prisons, detectives learned that Chiapulis paid a sum of money as down payment to a fellow inmate for the murder of Barstow police Detectives Leo Griego and Keith Libby, Fransson, and Hurst’s two daughters. Nice guy. He struck a deal that got him 15 years to life in exchange for showing detectives where Leisa Hurst’s body was buried, but hopefully this scheme will ensure he never sees the light of day. On September 17, 2010, the Kern County District attorney’s office filed five counts of solicitation to commit murder against this convicted murderer.
Detectives believe Chiapulis wanted the detectives and Fransson murdered to prevent their testimony at future appeals hearings. In case his appeals scheme failed, he wanted Hurst’s daughters killed so that they would not be able to provide victim impact statements at parole board hearings. During his arraignment Chiapulis pleaded not guilt to all five counts. A trial date is now pending. I hope he fries. And Joyce should fry with him.
Leisa Hurst was a single mother trying to raise her two daughters. She had not a single enemy. She was a good and loving person, seeking what each of us strive for; a good life, completed by the love of a caring partner. What she got, and what her family and children must live with for the rest of their lives, was a never-ending nightmare, caused by a depraved demon.
My 1st email to email@example.com
I went to my local Sprint store to complain, once again, about the 3rd phone line I was pressured into buying. I received a phone call in March 2008 from a Sprint rep located, I assume because of the heavy accent, in India. After quite a while on the phone he convinced me to get a third line. 631-41X-XXXX. I already had 631-38X-XXXX and 38X-XXXX. I basically took the extra line because this guy would not let me off the phone. I was told that I could cancel at any time if I was not happy with the phone. When I called to cancel I was told it was too late. Maybe I misunderstood? That is possible since the guy I spoke to had a heavy accent. I figured, “Oh well, they got me.” I called off & on to complain but never got any satisfaction. In November I was speaking to my son’s future mother-in-law & she said the same thing happened to her. That started me getting angry about the whole thing again. I called & the rep added 1000 text messages to my son’s phone number, I guess to shut me up. Then I went on line and noticed I’ve been paying for Vision I never ordered since May of 2008. I asked the rep to remove the charges & she said I could only dispute up to 60 days. She took off 2 months of charges. Now I’m more unhappy than ever. My 631-38X-XXXX phone expires 3/10/09. I’ll let the contract die a natural death. Next my son’s number expires 631-38X-XXXX, that, too will die a natural death. Lastly, the phone I never wanted, never used and just absolutely hate 631-41X-XXXX will finally expire & I will be finished with Sprint for the rest of my natural born days. Except to tell anyone who will listen never to get Sprint as a carrier as the service is terrible and the company uses under-handed tactics to trick people into getting phones they do not want. So, Dan, your employee told me you were the last stop in the complaint department and this is probably a too-familiar story. Do you have a solution? Thank you in advance for any you can give. I am blind copying everybody I know. And if I get some satisfaction, I will copy them with your solution also.
Thank you for taking the time to write. We’ll be looking through all the ideas and feedback we receive.
This will, of course, take some time. I appreciate your patience until
we can get you a response. A representative from my office will be
contacting you in about a week.
In the meantime, I encourage you to visit www.sprint.com to learn more
about the significant savings available to individuals and families
through Sprint’s Simply Everything and Sprint’s Everything Family plans.
Or, through our Ready Now program, make an appointment with a store
representative to learn more about how to use your device.
Once again, from all of us at Sprint, thank you. Dan Hesse CEO
So they call me from an unidentified line:
I apologize for any inconvenience your may have experienced. I would like to speak with you regarding your billing concerns. I did attempt to contact you on (631)38x-xxxx, but was unable to reach you. Please respond indicating the best time to call. You may also contact me on (757)223-3761. Sincerely,Melaine H.(757)223-3761 Sprint
So they call me from an unidentified line again:
Thank you for returning my call. I did attempt to contact you this morning on both (xxx)xxx-xxxx and (xxx)xxx-xxxx, but received your voicemail. Please respond indicating the best time to contact you. I can also be reached on (757)223-3761.
Per our conversation today, you did indicate that you did not request to add the data service to phone number (xxx)xxx-xxxx. I understand that you are requesting additional credit for this service as well as the cancellation of (xxx)xxx-xxxx with no penalty. I am currently reviewing your account and will follow up with you once a resolution is reached.
Please contact me on (757)223-3761 if you have any questions.
End result? I did finally speak to her…..She was NOT helpful, and basically said, “tough luck.” I still have the phone-no credit given, except for a Vision Pack they snuck in a year ago. They gave me 3 months worth of credit for that.
From Newsday July 2008
The case of People v. Tankleff is over.
The decision by the special prosecutor, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, ends the prosecution of Martin Tankleff for the 1988 murder of his parents. But it does not remove the cloud of suspicion.
Cuomo’s staff said that there’s evidence of Tankleff’s guilt, but not enough to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And they said there’s no clear evidence to prosecute those identified by Tankleff’s defense team as the real killers.
So Jerry Steuerman, a business associate of Tankleff’s father, Seymour, will not be prosecuted. Nor will Joseph Creedon or Peter Kent, described by Tankleff’s lawyers as paid hit-men. They all move on with their lives.
Sitting with his suit jacket off and his tie loosened in the Garden City law office of his attorney Bruce Barket, Tankleff reflected on his long journey to what he called “essentially” the finish line Monday. But with every step he takes toward freedom he said there is lingering resentment over the anguish he has been forced to endure for more than half of his life.
“The more people learn about the case, the more they say, ‘Why has it taken so long?’” said Tankleff, who was “cautiously optimistic” as he entered a Riverhead courtroom Monday to learn his fate. “After 20 years of legal hurdles and ups and downs, you never know what to expect.”
Tankleff said he can now focus on bringing what he called the real criminals in his case to justice, now that he expects state Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle to make the dismissal of his own charges official in three weeks. Although Cuomo’s chief trial attorney, Benjamin Rosenberg, suggested that there is not enough evidence to pursue charges against other suspects, Tankleff said his father’s former business partner, Jerry Steuerman, and the two hired hit man that Tankleff believes carried out the killings will not get away with murder.
“It’s not possible — not with my family and me behind it,” said Tankleff, who added that he also looked forward to Suffolk police and prosecutors having to pay for their role in his conviction. “Hopefully someone will make them answer.”
Tankleff said he has no immediate plans to pursue a civil case against authorities for what he said was his wrongful imprisonment, or against his half-sister, Shari Mistretta, to recoup his inheritance.
“One day at a time,” Tankleff said. “Before I could even think about anything like that, I had to get to this point first.”
Tankleff said he was unfazed by Mistretta’s steadfast opinion that he is guilty, and called her the “outsider of the family.” Being joined by dozens of family members from both sides of his family in court Monday was “all that matters. . . . My family has supported me for 20 years and they know every piece of this case.”
With the weight of worrying about a second trial off his shoulders, Tankleff said he hopes to get on with his life, first by finding “gainful employment.” He said he wants to finish his studies at Hofstra University and then pursue a legal career fighting for the wrongfully convicted.
More immediately, Tankleff planned to celebrate his legal victory with friends and family in Westbury. But he said any champagne-drinking would be tempered with the solemn reality at the heart of his case.
“My parents were murdered 20 years ago. I was wrongly prosecuted. And the killers are still out there,” Tankleff said. “It’s really not that type of celebratory day. It’s a day of relief that it’s finally, essentially, over for me. But the killers are still roaming the streets.”
But it’s unlikely that the fascination with the case, or the strong opinions on either side, will fade soon.
Tankleff was the son of a wealthy family, and many found it credible that he had killed his parents for denying him what he wanted. Even his half-sister, Shari Rother, believed him guilty. But many others who knew him well, including other relatives, felt he couldn’t have committed such violent crimes. And many who knew the criminal justice system in Suffolk, where confessions were the key evidence in a suspiciously large percentage of cases, didn’t believe Tankleff’s confession was genuine.
Still, a jury believed it in 1990. From then on, Tankleff never stopped working to prove his innocence, through a long new-evidence hearing to an appellate court ruling last year that he should get a new trial.
Cuomo’s office gave the case as dispassionate a review as possible, and soon, a judge will likely grant his motion to dismiss the charges. Then we all have to begin to accept the reality that our justice system is far from perfect, and perfect certainty is sometimes beyond its ability to deliver.
God Bless everyone who worked so hard to get to this point.
Decided on December 18, 2007
APPELLATE DIVISION : SECOND JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
APPEAL by the defendant, by permission, from an order of the County Court (Stephen L. Braslow, J.), dated March 17, 2006, and entered in Suffolk County, which denied, after a hearing, his motion pursuant to CPL 440.10(1)(g) and (h) to vacate two judgments of the same court (Tisch, J.), both rendered October 23, 1990, convicting him of murder in the second degree (two counts; one count as to each indictment), upon jury verdicts, and imposing sentences.
OPINION & ORDER
RIVERA, J.P.,On the instant appeal, the primary issue presented is whether the County Court erroneously denied, after a hearing, the defendant’s motion pursuant to CPL 440.10(1)(g) and (h) to vacate two judgments of the same court, both rendered October 23, 1990, convicting him of murder in the second degree (two counts; one count as to each indictment), upon jury verdicts. For the reasons that follow, we grant that branch of the defendant’s motion pursuant to CPL 440.10(1)(g) which was to vacate the judgments based upon newly-discovered evidence, vacate the judgments and the sentences imposed thereon, and remit the matter to the County Court, Suffolk County, for a new trial.
A. TRIAL AND INITIAL APPELLATE PROCEEDINGS
On September 7, 1988, Seymour Tankleff and Arlene Tankleff (hereinafter the victims or the Tankleffs) were fatally attacked in their home in Belle Terre, New York. Upon the arrival of the police at the crime scene, the defendant, the victims’ son—who was then 17 years of age—repeatedly and consistently asserted that Seymour Tankleff’s business partner, Jerard Steuerman (hereinafter Jerry Steuerman), committed the murders. The defendant was taken to the headquarters of the Suffolk County Police Department in Yaphank, where he was questioned extensively. James McCready, one of the lead detectives in the investigation and interrogation, utilized a ruse wherein he falsely advised the defendant that his father was alive and had accused the defendant of the crimes. During the questioning, the defendant asked, “[c]ould I have blacked out . . . and done this?” and “could I be possessed?” At that point, a second detective, Norman Rein, responded, “Marty, I think that’s what happened to you.” The defendant then confessed to both killings and almost immediately thereafter recanted.
At the ensuing, highly-contested jury trial, the prosecution’s evidence consisted primarily of this repudiated confession. The defense’s theory at trial was that Jerry Steuerman, not the defendant, killed the Tankleffs. Jerry Steuerman had been present at a card game at the Tankleffs’ residence which lasted until approximately 3:00 A.M. on the morning of September 7, 1988. Furthermore, evidence was elicited at the trial that Jerry Steuerman owed Seymour Tankleff a substantial amount of money and that, one week after the Tankleff murders, he staged his own death, changed his appearance, and suddenly fled to California. Moreover, at trial, Detective McCready denied that he knew Jerry Steuerman prior to this case, testimony that would become a point of contention over the ensuing years.
After seven days of deliberations by the jury between June 21, 1990, and June 28, 1990, the defendant was convicted of murder in the second degree (intentional murder) with regard to Seymour Tankleff and murder in the second degree (depraved indifference murder) with regard to Arlene Tankleff. On October 23, 1990, he was sentenced to two consecutive terms of incarceration of 25 years to life. The defendant remains incarcerated to date, having served more than 17 years in prison.
The defendant appealed from the judgments of conviction. On his direct appeal, he argued, inter alia, that the police subjected him to custodial interrogation in violation of Miranda v Arizona (384 US 436), and that his confession should have been suppressed because it was the product of a police-orchestrated ruse. In a sharply divided 3-to-2 decision and order, this Court affirmed the judgments of conviction (see People v Tankleff, 199 AD2d 550). The Court of Appeals affirmed this Court’s decision and order (see People v Tankleff, 84 NY2d 992).
On February 7, 1996, the defendant filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 USC § 2254 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. On January 29, 1997, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Platt, J.), denied the defendant’s petition (see Tankleff v Senkowski, 993 F Supp 151). On February 28, 1997, Judge Platt granted the defendant a certificate of appealability (see Tankleff v Senkowski, 993 F Supp 159).
In an order dated January 12, 1998, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (hereinafter the Second Circuit) found, inter alia, that the defendant had been in custody, and was thus entitled to Miranda warnings, prior to the time when he was finally advised of his rights (see Tankleff v Senkowski, 135 F3d 235). Accordingly, the Second Circuit found that the County Court should have suppressed the defendant’s inculpatory, pre-Miranda statements. However, since the Second Circuit characterized those statements as “brief and substantially the same as some of his later, admissible confession,” that court ruled that this error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt (id. at 245). Relying upon the United States Supreme Court’s holding in Oregon v Elstad (470 US 298), the Second Circuit wrote that “it does not follow that the[ ] later statements must be suppressed as fruit’ of the original Miranda violation” (id. at 244).
Notably, the Second Circuit acknowledged that the New York Court of Appeals has declined to follow the rule of Oregon v Elstad, adding, “it is not for us to say whether [the defendant] might or might not have any claim based on state constitutional law as a result of our holding that [the defendant] was, under Miranda and its federal progeny, in custody at the time of his first’ confession” (id. at 246).
Subsequently, the defendant’s petition for rehearing in the Second Circuit, as well as his motions for reargument in this Court and the Court of Appeals, were denied (see People v Tankleff, 93 NY2d 1034).
B. THE OCTOBER 2003 CPL 440.10 MOTION IN THE COUNTY COURT
On October 3, 2003, the defendant moved in the County Court, Suffolk County, to vacate the judgments of conviction pursuant to CPL 440.10(1)(g) and (h), on the grounds of newly- discovered evidence and actual innocence. The defendant also argued that the Second Circuit’s decision “materially altered the law” on the issue of whether he was in “custody” at the time of his initial confession. He urged the County Court to re-examine the “custody issue” in light of the Second Circuit’s decision. Moreover, he asserted that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel.
In support of his motion, the defendant proffered, inter alia, the affidavits of Karlene Kovacs, sworn to August 10, 1994, and Glenn Harris, sworn to August 29, 2003. These affidavits constitute the first component of his claim of “newly-discovered evidence.”
1. AFFIDAVIT OF KARLENE KOVACS
In her affidavit, Kovacs averred that, after the Tankleff murders, she and her friend John Guarascio went to the house of John Guarascio’s sister, where they “smoked a joint” of marijuana. Kovacs asserted that, while there, “Joe [referring to one Joseph Creedon],” admitted that he was “involved in the Tankleff murders in some way.” Kovacs recalled Creedon saying “something about hiding behind trees and bushes at the Tankleff house during the time of the murders” and that he was with someone named “Steuerman.” As Kovacs explained it in her affidavit, Creedon described to Kovacs how, after the murders, “they had to make a quick dash to avoid being caught.”
2. AFFIDAVIT OF GLENN HARRIS
In February 2002 Glenn Harris was contacted by representatives of the defense. Thereafter, he corresponded with, among others, both the defendant and the defendant’s retained investigator, Jay Salpeter. In one letter to Salpeter, Harris wrote: “What took you so long and who put you on to me? At this point, that is not important what is important is that Mr. Tankleff be released as soon as we can prove it. He has suffered enough!” (emphasis in original). Essentially, in the correspondence, Harris contended that he drove Creedon and another individual, Peter Kent, to the Tankleffs’ residence on the night of the murder.
In a letter dated July 8, 2002, and delivered to Salpeter, Harris wrote: “I lied, fabricated, concocted the whole . . . story.”
Subsequently, however, Harris provided Salpeter with an affidavit, sworn to August 29, 2003, wherein he related in great detail how he drove Creedon and Kent to the Tankleff residence on the night of the murders. In that affidavit, Harris specifically averred that, in early September 1988, he ran into Kent and Creedon. He stated that, after smoking crack, he drove Creedon and Kent to a house in Belle Terre because Creedon knew that there was a “safe” at that house. Harris asserted that he parked his car on the street near that house. He averred that Creedon and Kent exited the car and walked towards the Tankleff house. According to Harris, approximately 10 to 30 minutes later, Creedon and Kent came running back to the car. Harris asserted that Creedon had gloves in the left-hand pocket of his windbreaker, and told him “lets [sic] go.” According to Harris, Creedon and Kent were “both” nervous and Kent was “winded.”
In his affidavit, Harris stated that he thereafter drove Kent to Kent’s mother’s house. Harris asserted that, once there, he observed Kent burning his clothing. At this point, Harris “realized that something more than a burglary occurred.” He averred that he later heard on the radio that “something happened to an elderly couple” in Belle Terre. Harris explained that he was “on parole” at that time and was “afraid to go to the police.”
C. THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S INVESTIGATIVE REPORT
An investigation was conducted by the Suffolk County District Attorney in 2003 regarding the defendant’s claim that “new evidentiary materials” established his “actual innocence.” In a report authored by the Assistant District Attorney in charge of the investigation, Leonard Lato, dated December 17, 2003, Lato concluded that the defendant was not entitled to a new trial or a hearing because the evidence that he presented was not “newly discovered” and did not establish his “actual innocence.” Lato found Harris to be incredible and stated that Harris “may be suffering from a mental disease or defect that renders him incapable of differentiating between reality and fantasy.”
D. THE CPL 440.10 HEARING
On May 12, 2004, the People consented to a CPL 440.10 hearing, on the condition that Harris not be granted transactional immunity. The hearing commenced on July 19, 2004. At the hearing, the defendant’s case consisted of a total of 23 witnesses. The People presented 16 witnesses. Several of the witnesses who testified admitted that they had criminal histories and/or had abused drugs. By way of general background, brief portions of the testimony elicited at the hearing are described herein.
1. THE DEFENDANT’S CASE
a. Salpeter’s Investigation
In June 2001, Jay Salpeter, a former detective who had retired from the New York City Police Department, and who was at the time a self-employed private investigator, was retained by the defense. In the course of his investigation, Salpeter reviewed the files of the defendant’s prior counsel. He came across certain reports relating to Kovacs and learned that, in 1994, Kovacs had provided the defense with an affidavit implicating Creedon. Prior counsel’s files also included a police report indicating that Harris and Creedon were accomplices in the burglary of a bagel store owned by Jerry Steuerman. In January 2002, Salpeter contacted Harris, who, at that time, was an inmate at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York.
In March 2002, Salpeter personally interviewed Harris. Salpeter testified at the hearing that, during this interview, in substance, Harris told him that Creedon and Kent committed the Tankleff murders.
On March 21, 2004, upon Harris’s release from the correctional facility, Harris and Salpeter traveled together to Belle Terre. Salpeter testified that, during that visit, Harris was able to “pick out the [Tankleff] house” and showed him where he stopped the car, where Creedon exited the car, and where Creedon disposed of a “pipe.” Thereafter, Salpeter returned to this location and found a rusted, “weathered” 36-inch-long cylindrical metal pipe.
In the course of his testimony, Salpeter observed that although Kovacs had no connection with Harris, both had independently named Creedon as the killer.
John Trager, who had lived for 32 years at the property in Belle Terre where the pipe was recovered, described the area where the pipe was found as “heavily wooded” and “[n]ever touched.” Trager testified that, in “all the years” he had resided at this location, he did not recall seeing the pipe and did not know how or when the pipe was placed there. He stated that he did not place or deposit the pipe at this location.
b. Creedon’s Criminal Activity
Creedon testified at the CPL 440 hearing pursuant to a subpoena and while represented by counsel. In the course of his testimony, Creedon admitted that, from 1986 to 1991, he generated “some” of his income “through criminal activities.” In this regard, Creedon “collected money” for Todd Steuerman, Jerry’s Steuerman’s son, who was a known drug dealer. Creedon also allegedly extorted money from other drug dealers.
According to Creedon, Todd Steuerman conducted his “drug business” from the Strathmore Bagel store on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook, a store owned by Jerry Steuerman. Creedon stated that he knew that there were “large sums of cash” in the bagel shop. Creedon testified that, in December 1988, he and Harris tried to “break into the safe” in the Strathmore Bagel store. However, Creedon and Harris were unsuccessful. Instead, they stole a Strathmore Bagel truck and “rammed it through a wall at a Fayva shoe store” in order to steal the safe maintained at the shoe store.
Creedon testified that, in April 1989, Todd Steuerman asked him to collect a $60,000 drug debt for him. According to Creedon, Todd Steuerman also stated during this conversation that his father, Jerry Steuerman, wanted to “cut[ ] out” the defendant’s tongue. Creedon averred that Todd Steuerman suggested to him that he speak with Jerry Steuerman regarding “cutting out” the defendant’s tongue. Additionally, Creedon asserted that Todd Steuerman wanted to hire him to “whack” or murder someone for the sum of $10,000. Creedon allegedly “blew [this offer] off.”
Creedon admitted that he had an extensive criminal history, including assault, rape, and attempted grand larceny. He also admitted that, in the past, he had lied to the police and other law enforcement authorities.
c. Creedon’s Violent Propensities
Creedon testified that, in the course of his drug debt “collection” activities, he sometimes resorted to the use of physical violence. One witness acquainted with Creedon testified that Creedon did “whatever he had to do” if someone was not willing or able to pay money owed to Creedon, including “[b]eat him up, shoot him.” More than one witness testified at the hearing that Creedon’s nickname was “Joey Guns.”
Several witnesses described Creedon’s violent propensities. For instance, Teresa Covias, who lived with Creedon from 1986 to 1994, and bore him a son and daughter, testified that Creedon stated that he would “torture” individuals, including lighting their faces or hands on fire with gasoline. John Guarascio, Covias’s brother, testified that Creedon “terrorized” his family and abused Covias.
d. Creedon and Jerry Steuerman’s Alleged Involvement in the Tankleff Murders
Although Jerry Steuerman testified at the defendant’s trial, he did not testify at the CPL 440 hearing.
Creedon, however, testified at the CPL 440 hearing that he never met Jerry Steuerman or spoke with him. Further, Creedon denied ever admitting to others that he was involved in the Tankleff murders. According to Creedon, he never killed anyone. In addition, he claimed that he had never been to Belle Terre.
In contrast to Creedon’s testimony, the following witnesses implicated Creedon and/or Jerry Steuerman in the Tankleff murders:
i. Karlene Kovacs and John Guarascio
In the 1990s, Karlene Kovacs dated John Guarascio. On one occasion during that period, John Guarascio invited Kovacs to the home of Creedon and Covias for Easter dinner. At some point during that evening, Creedon suggested that Kovacs and John Guarascio join him in smoking a “joint” of marijuana. While these three were smoking, Creedon stated that he had been “at the Tankleff house with a Steuerman,” that his adrenaline was “flowing,” that “they [sic] had to get rid of their clothes,” and that “they” [sic] were leaving for the Carolinas because “they [sic] had to move out of town.”
Kovacs testified that she was “absolutely 100 percent certain” that Creedon told her that he was “there when the Tankleffs were murdered.” She stated that she did not have “any doubt at all” regarding Creedon’s statements to her that he was hiding in the bushes outside of the Tankleff home and that “a Steuerman” was present at the time of the murders.
John Guarascio testified that, during his Easter visit to Creedon’s home, he, Kovacs, Creedon, and one of Creedon’s friends smoked a marijuana “joint.” John Guarascio recalled that Kovacs and Creedon engaged in a conversation, wherein Creedon “was talking about being in some bushes.” According to John Guarascio, Creedon also mentioned that he was “watching a card game” and was “pumped up” at that time. John Guarascio had “no idea” that Creedon was referring to the Tankleff case and thought that it was “another one of his robberies and drug deals.”
According to their testimony at the hearing, Kovacs and John Guarascio had not spoken to each other since the two of them stopped dating in 1991.
ii. Joseph Guarascio
Joseph Guarascio (hereinafter Joseph) is the son of Creedon and Covias, and was 17 years old at the time of the hearing. Joseph testified that he lived with Creedon until he was six years old, at which time he moved with his mother, sister, and stepfather out of New York.
Joseph testified that, during a visit with Creedon, he asked, “Dad, did you really do [the Tankleff murders]?” According to Joseph, the “seriousness” with which Creedon responded “[y]es, I did it,” was “scary.”
Joseph then relayed the following details as allegedly told to him by Creedon: Todd Steuerman and Jerry Steuerman had been waiting outside of the Tankleff home and signaled Creedon. Creedon and Kent entered the house through a window, while Harris remained outside. Creedon choked Seymour Tankleff with a bicycle brake-line stripped of the plastic and hit him on the head with a .38 special handgun. Kent stabbed Arlene Tankleff. While inside the Tankleff home, Creedon and Kent looked into the defendant’s room and saw him sleeping.
As Joseph recounted to the hearing court, Creedon and Kent left the Tankleff home, but Creedon returned through the back door to retrieve a piece of metal pipe. As Harris drove them away, Harris threw the pipe out of the car window. Harris, Creedon, and Kent then went to their friend’s house, where Creedon and Kent burned their own clothing in the basement.
According to Joseph, Creedon told him that he is still in touch with Jerry Steuerman. Further, Joseph testified that Creedon stated to him that “he [Creedon] paid a hundred thousand dollars [to Detective James McCready] to keep his [Creedon's] name out of it.”
iii. Gaetano Foti
Gaetano Foti testified that he and Creedon discussed the Tankleff murders. Foti told Creedon that he thought that the defendant was innocent. According to Foti, Creedon responded, “he is innocent because I did it.”
iv. Joseph Graydon
Joseph Graydon, one of Creedon’s associates in selling drugs and robbing drug dealers, testified that in either July or early August 1988, Creedon told him that he was offered the sum of $25,000 from a partner in Strathmore Bagels to kill the other partner because one partner owed money to the other partner. According to Graydon, Creedon told him that the partner who was going to be killed would be at the bagel store on a Sunday and that it had to look like a robbery. Graydon stated that Creedon agreed to split the $25,000, plus the proceeds of the robbery, with him.
Graydon further testified that he went with Creedon, who was carrying a gun, to Strathmore Bagels on a Sunday but that it was closed.
v. William Ram
William Ram testified that, on the night before the Tankleff murders, Creedon told him that he was working for someone in the bagel business and that Creedon wanted to pay Ram to “rough up” or “straighten out” the partner or business associate of the person who had hired Creedon. According to Ram, Creedon told him that the victim lived in an upscale neighborhood, Belle Terre, and was a “Jew in the bagel business.” Ram testified that he declined to participate in the planned attack because he did not believe in bothering “innocent” people.
Ram testified that Creedon asked to borrow his car because Harris’s car was old and would “stick out” in the upscale Belle Terre neighborhood where the prospective victim resided. Ram denied Creedon his permission to use the car.
Ram stated that, on the day after his discussion with Creedon, Harris came to Ram’s home and told him that he thought “they” did something bad and were “going to be in trouble.” Ram quoted Harris as saying, “[t]hey came running out of the house. They had blood on them. Peter [Kent] was white as a ghost. Something bad happened. They drove away. And after that, they went and burned their clothes.”
As Ram recounted it, later that day, he saw reports of the Tankleff murders on the news and “put two and two together.” He believed that Creedon, Kent, and Harris had gone to Belle Terre and killed the Tankleffs.
vi. Bruce Demps
Bruce Demps met Todd Steuerman in the late 1980s and again in or around 1991 or 1992. Demps testified that Todd Steuerman told him that Jerry Steuerman had a “beef” with the Tankleff family and hired some guys to take care of business, more particularly, to “put a hit on them.” As Demps recalled it at the hearing, Todd Steuerman also told him that, although the defendant was convicted of the murders, he did not commit them “[b]ecause [Todd's] father sent someone to do it.” Demps recounted Todd Steuerman’s statement to him that the problem that Jerry Steuerman had with the Tankleffs was that he owed “them money” and “couldn’t pay” them.
vii. Neil Fischer
In the spring of 1989, Neil Fischer, a cabinet maker, was doing work for Jerry Steuerman in one of the bagel stores. As Fischer recalled it, he was installing shelves underneath the counters, when he overheard Jerry Steuerman arguing with a man and telling the man “he had already killed two people and that it wouldn’t matter to [Jerry Steuerman] if he killed him.” Fischer “assumed” that Jerry Steuerman was speaking about the Tankleffs. He stated that he “knew the whole story from the media.”
As set forth above, Harris provided an affidavit placing Creedon, Kent, and himself at the Tankleff residence on the night of the murders. However, when called to testify at the CPL 440 hearing, Harris asserted his right against self-incrimination, secured to him by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and thus refused to testify.
The defense, however, presented the testimony of Father Richard Lemmert, the Catholic chaplain at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York, who provided Harris with individual counseling services while Harris was incarcerated there on offenses unrelated to the Tankleff murders. Harris authorized Father Lemmert to disclose their conversations.
As described by Father Lemmert, during one of these conversations, Harris told Father Lemmert that he had been with two men who told him to drive late at night to a “very wealthy looking house” on Long Island, presumably to rob it to get money for drugs. According to Father Lemmert, Harris stated that he drove there, but stayed in the car as the other two men entered the targeted house. Father Lemmert averred that Harris revealed to him that the two other men returned to the car some time later in a “visibly agitated” state, and with blood on them. As recounted by Father Lemmert, Harris told him that, on the day after this occurred, he realized that they had been at the Tankleff home, but feared telling the police because he was on parole. Father Lemmert asserted that Harris feared “for his own life and the safety of his children.” Further, Harris feared that he would be held responsible for the murders.
Father Lemmert stated that Harris told him that he was not going to testify at the hearing because other inmates threatened his children. Harris also told Father Lemmert that an investigator from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office told him that he would spend the rest of his life in prison because of his involvement in the crime “if this were to ever be revealed.”
Father Lemmert admitted that Harris had a “long psychiatric history.”
f. The Alleged Relationship Between Jerry
Steuerman and Detective James McCready
Leonard Lubrano testified, at the hearing, that in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he had owned a wholesale baking business and had purchased products from Jerry Steuerman for use in that business. Lubrano then became familiar with Detective James McCready in the mid-1980s, when McCready frequented a restaurant operated by Lubrano.
To the best of his recollection, Lubrano stated that, during that period, McCready told him that he was doing a project for Strathmore Bagels. Lubrano averred that he had no doubt that he had seen McCready previously in the Strathmore Bagel Shop in Stony Brook. Lubrano also testified that he saw McCready in the bagel shop prior to 1988.
g. Creedon was Not a Suspect at the
Attorney Robert Gottlieb represented the defendant at the trial. At the CPL 440 hearing, Gottlieb admitted that he did not call Creedon as a witness at the trial. Gottlieb explained that he did not view Creedon as a suspect during the defendant’s trial because “the heart” of the defense was that Jerry Steuerman was involved in the murders. Moreover, Gottlieb stated that in April and September of 1990, he did not have any information that Creedon had admitted to others that he had murdered the Tankleffs, or that Harris drove Creedon to the Tankleff residence. Gottlieb asserted that, had he possessed this information at the time of trial, Creedon would have become a suspect and that, in Gottlieb’s opinion, these facts would have made a difference to the jury at the trial.
h. Seymour Tankleff’s Business Problems with
Paul Lerner, who testified that he socialized with the Tankleffs quite often, recalled that, in the spring or summer of 1988, Seymour Tankleff told him that Jerry Steuerman owed him a lot of money and was not making payments on the debt. Lerner stated that, several weeks after learning of the debt, Seymour Tankleff told him that he was going to call in Jerry Steuerman’s debt and probably foreclose “on the bagel stores and put [Jerry Steuerman] out of business.”
Ron Falbee, the defendant’s maternal cousin, testified that he was the executor of the Tankleffs’ estates, and was the defendant’s legal guardian as well. According to Falbee, Arlene Tankleff explained to him that the Tankleffs were having a great deal of trouble with Jerry Steuerman, and that she was getting frightened of the relationship between Jerry Steuerman and the Tankleffs. Falbee further testified that Seymour Tankleff also told him that the partnership with Jerry Steuerman was ending.
Falbee stated that, after the murders, he found an unsigned letter on the desk of Seymour Tankleff, dated June 29, 1988, and addressed to Jerry Steuerman, demanding payment in the sum of $50,000 on a 1986 note that Jerry Steuerman had executed in favor of the Tankleffs. Falbee admitted that Jerry Steuerman’s debt was not forgiven after the Tankleffs’ deaths, but that the Tankleffs’ estates reached a settlement with Jerry Steuerman. Falbee acknowledged that the defendant was the primary beneficiary under the Tankleffs’ wills.
2. THE PEOPLE’S CASE
a. Peter Kent
At the hearing, Peter Kent admitted that he had committed crimes with Harris and Ram, but denied doing the same with Creedon. He also denied any involvement in the Tankleff murders. According to Kent, Harris implicated Kent in the Tankleff murders to “get back” at him because, in 2000, Kent had a sexual relationship with Harris’s wife.
Kent stated that Ram contacted him the day before he testified. According to Kent, Ram told him that Ram was getting paid the sum of $10,000 for his statements to help the defendant and that Salpeter set up an account for Kent to receive the sum of $50,000.
b. Thomas McDermott
Thomas McDermott, a retired Detective Investigator for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, testified that no one named in the affidavit sworn to by Kovacs confirmed her version of events.
McDermott further testified that he interviewed Creedon on January 4, 1995. According to McDermott, during this interview, Creedon told him that Todd Steuerman wanted him to cut out the defendant’s tongue and that Jerry Steuerman would pay a lot of money if Creedon did so.
c. Robert Trotta
Suffolk County Police Detective Robert Trotta testified that, on October 14, 2003, Gaetano Foti, one of his confidential informants, contacted him after reading about the Tankleff case in the newspaper. According to Trotta, Foti related, to him, the substance of a conversation between Foti and Creedon, in which Creedon allegedly claimed to have knowledge that the defendant did not commit the murders because Creedon was himself at the Tankleff home on the night of the crimes. Trotta stated that Foti had cooperated with the District Attorney’s office in the past and had provided it with information on drug cases in exchange for reduced sentences. Trotta agreed that he had described Foti to Assistant District Attorney Lato as a “reliable source.”
d. Walter Warkenthien
Walter Warkenthien, a retired homicide detective working for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, was assigned to this case on September 30, 2003. Warkenthien interviewed Kovacs twice. According to Warkenthien, Kovacs told him during the first interview that she was outside smoking marijuana when Creedon arrived at the house she was visiting, but stated during the second interview that she was in a bedroom when Creedon arrived. Warkenthien asserted that Kovacs made no mention of blood during the first interview and only discussed it during the second interview after Warkenthien himself mentioned it.
Warkenthien also recounted his interview of Harris and Harris’s statements regarding the murders. Warkenthien testified that Harris told him that, after Harris drove to the Tankleffs’ neighborhood shortly before the murders, he parked the car near the bluffs, which Warkenthien measured as 6/10 of a mile from the Tankleff house. According to Warkenthien, Harris stated that Kent and Creedon came back to the car less than 10 minutes after exiting it, and that between 5:00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. on September 7, 1988, Harris first heard about the murders on the radio.
Warkenthien recounted how he told Harris that his statement was inconsistent with his prior sworn statements, and informed him that if the statement he gave to Salpeter were true, Harris could be “changing places” with the defendant.
Warkenthien testified that, on August 25, 2004, he went to the Trager’s home to look at the real property where Salpeter found a metal pipe. Warkenthien stated that he found two rusty pipes that day and then returned two days later, at which time he found two additional pipes. According to Warkenthien, the pipes, which were discovered in plain view, fit the same size and description of the pipe recovered by Salpeter. Warkenthien testified that the pipes he recovered had the same diameter as the one discovered by Salpeter, but were much longer than that pipe. Warkenthien explained that, of the pipes that he recovered, the one closest to the location at which Salpeter discovered the first pipe was 13 feet away from that location.
In an order dated March 17, 2006, the County Court denied the defendant’s motion in its entirety on the following grounds:
a. Due Diligence
The County Court found that the defendant did not exercise due diligence in moving for a new trial.
The County Court determined that statements purportedly made by Creedon to “nefarious scoundrels,” many with “extensive criminal histories that included illegal drug use and sales, burglary, robbery, assault and other similar crimes,” were hearsay and not admissible as declarations against penal interest.
The court also found that the witnesses who testified about Creedon’s confession were shown to be “unreliable, incredible, contradictory, and possibly motivated to harm Creedon by having him convicted of these murders.” For example, the court concluded that Creedon’s statements to Kovacs would not be admissible at a new trial since she “lacks reliability and credibility.” Similarly, the court stated that Foti’s testimony was “equivocal and not reliable.”
The court analyzed the admissibility of the affidavit sworn to by Harris. It held that “the affidavit provided by Harris would not be admissible at trial since it lacks trustworthiness and reliability, and even were he to testify at a new trial, it would appear that his testimony would lack any credibility.”
c. The Pipe and McCready’s Credibility
The County Court held that the pipe introduced by the defendant as the actual murder weapon had no probative value because there was no physical evidence connecting it to the murders, and because the People’s investigator found other pipes in the same location.
The court also found that Leonard Lubrano’s testimony relating to the alleged relationship between McCready and Steuerman would not be admissible at a new trial.
The court concluded “the bulk of the evidence which the defendant seeks to have presented at a new trial would be inadmissible, and that what is left would be insufficient for a jury to render a different verdict.”
d. The Claim of Actual Innocence
The County Court rejected the defendant’s claim of actual innocence.
On May 25, 2006, this Court (Rivera, J.), granted the defendant’s application for a certificate granting leave to appeal from the order dated March 17, 2006, denying his motion pursuant to CPL 440.10(1)(g) and (h) to vacate the two judgments convicting him of two counts of murder in the second degree.
On appeal, the defendant contends that the County Court committed numerous errors of law and fact that warrant reversal. The defendant argues that the evidence proffered at the CPL 440 hearing proves his actual innocence or, at a minimum, entitles him to a new trial.
The People counter that the County Court properly found that the defendant failed to establish that his motion was “made with due diligence after the discovery of such alleged new evidence” (CPL 440.10[g]). Further, they assert that the County Court properly rejected the defendant’s evidence because it was inadmissible hearsay and incredible as a matter of law. Finally, the People contend that the defendant failed to prove his actual innocence.
It is abhorrent to our sense of justice and fair play to countenance the possibility that someone innocent of a crime may be incarcerated or otherwise punished for a crime which he or she did not commit. A motion pursuant to CPL 440.10 is a vehicle which “enables convicted defendants to fully vindicate their rights” (34 NY Jur 2d, Criminal Law § 3047, at 838).
“Prior to the enactment of [CPL 440.10] New York had no statute for collateral attack on a judgment of conviction” (Preiser, Practice Commentaries, McKinney’s Cons Laws of NY, Book 11A, CPL 440.10, at 203). Motions to vacate a judgment, which are now codified in CPL 440.10, were “designed collectively to embrace” non-appellate post-judgment motions and other remedies, namely (1) applications for a writ of error coram nobis; (2) motions for a new trial on the ground of newly-discovered evidence; (3) State petitions for a writ of habeas corpus; and (4) Federal petitions for a writ of habeas corpus (State of New York Temporary Commission on Revision of the Penal Law and Criminal Code, Proposed New York Criminal Procedure Law, Staff Comment at 289-290; see People v Crimmins, 38 NY2d 407, 413-414).
A. CPL 440.10(1)(g)
CPL 440.10(1)(g) provides as follows:
“1. At any time after the entry of a judgment, the court in which it was entered may, upon motion of the defendant, vacate such judgment upon the ground that:
(g) New evidence has been discovered since the entry of a judgment based upon a verdict of guilty after trial, which could not have been produced by the defendant at the trial even with due diligence on his part and which is of such character as to create a probability that had such evidence been received at the trial the verdict would have been more favorable to the defendant; provided that a motion based upon such ground must be made with due diligence after the discovery of such alleged new evidence.”
CPL 440.10(1)(g), which permits vacatur of a judgment of conviction based upon newly-discovered evidence, “is the successor to subdivision 7 of section 465 of the former Code of Criminal Procedure, which provided for application for a new trial on similar, but somewhat more stringent, grounds” (People v Crimmins, 38 NY2d 407, 413). As explained by the Court of Appeals in People v Crimmins (38 NY2d at 413), “[u]nlike a post-conviction application for a new trial under the code, which had to be made within one year after judgment, no time limitation is prescribed for a motion to vacate judgment under CPL 440.10.”
The power to vacate a judgment of conviction upon the ground of newly-discovered evidence and concomitantly grant a new trial rests within the discretion of the hearing court (see People v Salemi, 309 NY 208, 215, cert denied 348 US 845). While the Court of Appeals has no power in a noncapital case to review the exercise of such discretion (see People v Crimmins, 38 NY2d at 415), this Court is not bound by the hearing court’s factual determinations and may make its own credibility determinations (see e.g. People v Wong, 11 AD3d 724, 725-726).
“Upon an appeal to an intermediate appellate court from a judgment, sentence or order of a criminal court, such intermediate appellate court may consider and determine any question of law or issue of fact involving error or defect in the criminal court proceedings which may have adversely affected the appellant” (CPL 470.15). In this regard, this Court has a “broad, comprehensive scope” of review (Preiser, Practice Commentaries (McKinney’s Cons Laws of NY, Book 11A, CPL 470.15, at 529). Thus, this Court’s jurisdiction is not limited to reviewing errors of law, but extends to the power reverse or modify a judgment on the facts and as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice (see CPL 470.15; People v Cona, 49 NY2d 26, 33; People v Coppa, 45 NY2d 244, 249).
Where appropriate, this Court may “review the facts and substitute its discretion for that of nisi prius even in the absence of abuse” (People v Rickert, 58 NY2d 122, 133).
1. Newly Discovered Evidence—The Six Criteria
” Newly-discovered evidence in order to be sufficient must fulfill all the following requirements: 1. It must be such as will probably change the result if a new trial is granted; 2. It must have been discovered since the trial; 3. It must be such as could have not been discovered before the trial by the exercise of due diligence; 4. It must be material to the issue; 5. It must not be cumulative to the former issue; and, 6. It must not be merely impeaching or contradicting the former evidence’” (People v Salemi, 309 NY 208, 215-216, cert denied 348 US 845, quoting People v Priori, 164 NY 459, 472; see People v Richards, 266 AD2d 714, 715; People v Reyes, 255 AD2d 261, 263; People v Taylor, 246 AD2d 410, 411; People v Yoli, 150 AD2d 741; People v Lavrick, 146 AD2d 648, cert denied 493 US 1029; People v Rivera, 119 AD2d 517, 518; People v Latella, 112 AD2d 321, 322; 34 NY Jur 2d, Criminal Law § 3063, at 862). At a hearing on a motion pursuant to CPL 440.10(g)(1), the defendant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence every fact essential to support the motion (see CPL 440.30; People v Tucker, 40 AD3d 1213, 1214, lv denied 9 NY3d 882).
2. DUE DILIGENCE REQUIREMENT
With regard to his motion to vacate the judgment of conviction on the basis of “newly-discovered evidence,” the defendant was required to show that the motion was made “with due diligence after the discovery of the alleged new evidence” (People v Boyette, 201 AD2d 490, 491, quoting CPL 440.10[g]). The County Court found that the defendant failed to make this motion with due diligence. We disagree.
“[T]he due diligence requirement is measured against the defendant’s available resources and the practicalities of the particular situation” (34 NY Jur 2d, Criminal Law § 3064, at 866; see People v Hildenbrandt, 125 AD2d 819, 821). Under the unique facts of this case, the defendant should not be charged with a lack of due diligence in finding the multiple witnesses who implicated Creedon and/or Jerry Steuerman. The defendant’s investigation resulted in a body of new evidence which required time to accumulate. He should not be penalized for waiting to amass all of the new evidence and then presenting it cumulatively to the County Court. Such conduct avoided separate motions upon the discovery of each witness, obviated the squandering of resources, and preserved judicial economy.
3. THE EVALUATION OF THE EVIDENCE
A review of the record on appeal reveals that the County Court’s determination amounted to a misapplication of its gatekeeper function relative to the evaluation and admissibility of the proffered “new evidence.”
The resolution of the inquiry into whether the evidence adduced at the hearing “is of such character as to create a probability that had such evidence been received at the trial the verdict would have been more favorable to the defendant” (CPL 440.10[g]) is dispositive of a court’s determination of a motion pursuant to CPL 440.10(1)(g). In carrying out this task, the hearing court is obligated to conduct a critical analysis of the evidence. It cannot merely engage in the mechanical exclusion of such evidence.
The County Court completely disregarded a crucial fact which is pivotal to our determination. Namely, many of the witnesses who testified at the CPL 440 hearing were unrelated to each other, and their genesis as witnesses was separated by both space and time. For instance, there is absolutely no connection between Kovacs, Foti, Demps, Fischer, Joseph, and Ram. Notably, although clearly not connected to one another, each of those witnesses implicated Creedon and/or Jerry Steuerman in the Tankleff murders.
Moreover, a court must view and evaluate all of the evidence in its entirety. In its determination as to the “impact of evidence unavailable at trial, a court must make its final decision based on the likely cumulative effect of the new evidence had it been presented at trial” (Amrine v Bowersox, 128 F3d 1222, 1230, cert denied 523 US 1123).
In this case, the County Court failed in this regard. Instead, it erroneously applied both a narrow approach and methodology in evaluating the evidence. It appears that the County Court never considered that the cumulative effect of the new evidence created a probability that, had such evidence been received at the trial, the verdict would have been more favorable to the defendant.
The County Court, in effect, applied a blanket disqualification of all of the defendant’s proffered evidence. It viewed almost all of the defendant’s witnesses as questionable, untrustworthy, or unreliable. It dismissed, outright, the possibility that witnesses with criminal records, drug addictions, and/or psychiatric issues may nevertheless be capable of testifying truthfully. A witness’s “unsavory background” does not render his or her “testimony incredible as a matter of law” (People v Smith, 302 AD2d 615, 616; see People v Toro, 272 AD2d 351). As noted by my learned colleague, the Honorable Gabriel Krausman, at the oral argument before this Court, the People “use [such witnesses] all the time” (see e.g. People v Brown, 41 AD3d 261, 264, lv denied 9 NY3d 873; People v Smith, 302 AD2d 615, 616; People v Louis, 294 AD2d 377).
Similarly, the County Court dismissed as incredible the testimony of certain witnesses on the ground that they were biased against Creedon. We cannot conclude that multiple witnesses who admittedly expressed fear of or contempt for Creedon perjured themselves in order to implicate Creedon in the murders.
On a related topic, we reject the People’s assertion, made at the oral argument of the instant appeal, that certain witnesses came forth because this was a highly-publicized case. The claim that intense media coverage somehow played a role in this case and the implication that this prompted individuals to testify falsely is sheer conjecture and speculation.
Additionally, the County Court disparaged the testimony of several witnesses on the ground that it would constitute inadmissible hearsay. “Implicit in th[e] ground for vacating a judgment of conviction is that the newly discovered evidence be admissible” (34 NY Jur 2d, Criminal Law § 3963, at 863; see People v Boyette, 201 AD2d 490, 491).
At this juncture, there is no basis to conclude that all of the subject evidence is inadmissible. In fact, significant competent evidence in admissible form was elicited at the CPL 440 hearing from disparate and wholly unrelated sources. This evidence warrants a new trial.
At the original trial, the defendant’s repudiated confession was the most compelling evidence elicited by the prosecution. Arguably, it was the linchpin of the prosecution’s case. The Miranda aspects of this case have been extensively litigated and will not be revisited. However, when the evidence presented at the CPL 440 hearing is evaluated against the backdrop of the trial evidence, including the defendant’s confession, how the confession was obtained, and the fact that the defendant almost immediately recanted the confession, the newly-discovered evidence is “of such character as to create a probability that had such evidence been received at the trial the verdict would have been more favorable to the defendant” (CPL 440.10[g]).
B. CPL 440.10(1)(h)
Nonetheless, the County Court properly denied that branch of the defendant’s motion pursuant to CPL 440.10(1)(h) which was to vacate the judgments of conviction on the ground of actual innocence. The defendant did not establish entitlement to this relief. In making our determination, we do not decide the contention, advanced by the defendant, that New York recognizes a free-standing claim of actual innocence that is cognizable by, or which may be addressed within the parameters of, CPL 440.10(1)(h).
Accordingly, the order dated March 17, 2006, is modified, on the law, the facts, and as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice, by deleting the provision thereof denying that branch of the defendant’s motion pursuant to CPL 440.10(1)(g) which was to vacate the two judgments rendered October 23, 1990, based upon newly-discovered evidence and substituting therefor a provision granting that branch of the motion; as so modified, the order is affirmed, the two judgments rendered October 23, 1990, and the sentences imposed thereon are vacated, and we remit the matter to the County Court, Suffolk County, for a new trial, to be conducted with all convenient speed.
In light of our determination, we need not consider the defendant’s remaining contentions.
KRAUSMAN, FLORIO and DILLON, JJ., concur.
ORDERED that the order dated March 17, 2006, is modified, on the law, the facts, and as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice, by deleting the provision thereof denying that branch of the defendant’s motion pursuant to CPL 440.10(1)(g) which was to vacate the two judgments rendered October 23, 1990, based upon newly-discovered evidence and substituting therefor a provision granting that branch of the motion; as so modified, the order is affirmed, the two judgments rendered October 23, 1990, and the sentences imposed thereon are vacated, and the matter is remitted to the County Court, Suffolk County, for a new trial, to be conducted with all convenient speed.
James Edward Pelzer
Clerk of the Court
This is what we do to our allies. I’m wondering if we got the right guy? God Help us. Thank you to www.bushflash.com
01.20.09 and counting
Dr. Phil’s Marty show to air January 9th
They finally put it on the schedule for Tuesday, January 9th. The show is syndicated, which means it’s on different channels at different times in different cities.
In New York City it will be on at 3:00 p.m. on WCBS, Channel 2.
In Riverhead, it will be on at 5:00 p.m. on WLNY, Channel 55.
To find the show in your area, click here:
Last fall Dr. Phil’s producers taped an interview with Marty, then taped a show in L.A. before a studio audience. It was a show about false confessions but ended up being in large part about the Marty Tankleff case.
Participating in the show in person were private investigator Jay Salpeter; Joseph Guarascio, son of Joey “Guns” Creedon; Marty’s aunt Marianne McClure and her daugher, Jennifer; and Steve Drizin of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University.
During the program, the producers got Detective James McCready, who took Marty’s “confession,” on the phone, and there was a heated exchange between McCready and Salpeter.http://www.martytankleff.org/Gui/Content.aspx?Page=Home2
Free Marty Tankleff
After a firestorm of criticism, Fox News Corp. says it has canceled its plans to publish the O.J. Simpson book If I Did It. The book’s release was to coincide with a two-part television special featuring an interview with Judith Regan.Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., which owns Fox, says it was an “ill-considered project.”Some Fox affiliates said they would not show the two-part TV special that was supposed to air next week, in advance of the Nov. 30 publication of the book by ReganBooks — a publishing imprint owned, via HarperCollins, by News Corp.
Simpson’s need to be in the limelight has been thwarted for now.
UPDATE: The Goldman family has received rights to the book and it has just been released. They say they will use the profits to help abused women. I’m going to buy it, not read it, and then burn it.
Kind of convoluted, huh? And what are we, a bunch of idiots? IF he did it? He’s publishing a book that will “explain” how he would have killed Ron Goldman and Nicole if he was going to kill them? And there will be a TV show prior to publication to generate interest… I don’t know what this world is coming to but I hope the Goldman’s get every penny he earns, ( and I use the term “earns” loosely). Some newspaper accounts quote Judith Reagan as saying that the money being paid to OJ is going through a third party ensuring Simpon’s children eventually get it. Reagan also stated that she’s publishing the book because SHE was an abused woman-now that’s convoluted and I fail to make the connection there. Border Books is going to contribute any profits made from the sale of the book to charity. Barnes and Nobles is keeping their profits, so if anyone is tempted to buy this trash, and I hope their not, but if you are, take the lesser of two evils and go to Borders.
Simpson should do everyone a favor and step in front of a train. He cannot find it in himself to ride quietly into the sunset and live a quiet life of reflection while raising the children of the woman he murdered. He seems to have some perverse need to keep himself in the spotlight.
Instant Karma’s gonna get you.
I got my mother into politics when she was about 60 years old. She’s 71 now. The first time she voted was when Bill Clinton was running for president. She’s been a die-hard Democrat ever since and no one can say a bad word about Mr. Clinton as she defends him to the hilt. That being said, yesterday she called me at work to tell me the exciting news:
“Ronald Dumbell resigned! We won, we won!”
I really had to laugh because it was an astute observation and she didn’t even know it.
SCHOHARIE, NY — Police investigators are looking for new leads in a nearly 25-year-old murder case — Schoharie County’s oldest unsolved homicide.
Katherine Kolodziej was a 17-year-old freshman at the State University College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill when she disappeared the night of Nov. 2, 1974. She left her friends at a Cobleskill bar and wasn’t heard from again.
On Nov. 28 of that year, her body was found five miles away in a Richmondville field. She was naked from the waist down and had been stabbed repeatedly in the back.
After years of fruitless investigation, police held a press conference Wednesday in Schoharie in an attempt to drum up new leads and finally solve Kolodziej’s murder.
“The purpose of this is to heighten awareness of what occurred, hopefully to develop the one lead that would break this case,” said Maj. Bart Johnson, Troop G commander. “This also reinforces the fact that (unsolved) homicide cases never close.”
Since Kolodziej’s death, more than 3,000 people have been interviewed, Johnson said, including the entire student body of Cobleskill Tech. The initial investigation revealed the following:
On the night of Nov. 2, at about 1:30 a.m., Kolodziej left a Main Street bar called the Vault (no longer in existence).
Partway between the bar and the campus, an elderly woman looking out a second-story window observed a woman matching Kolodziej’s description climb into the passenger side of a yellow Volkswagen Beetle.
About 15 minutes later, a delivery man at Agway near the campus saw a yellow Volkswagen Beetle in the parking lot and heard a woman yelling inside.
Police conducted a nationwide search of cars matching the description, but found nothing.
“We’ve been unable to identify the yellow Volkswagen or even that those events did take place,” Johnson said.
Soon after her disappearance, police were notified that a shoe matching a description of one belonging to Kolodziej’s was found on McDonald Road in Richmondville. On Nov. 28, 1974, police found Kolodziej’s body a half-mile from the shoe, in a field, on a low stone wall lined with trees and bushes.
“She was right on top of the rock wall,” said Investigator Peter Scotti.
No murder weapon was recovered, but police said she had been stabbed repeatedly with several different types of knives. Her wounds were in the back, back of her neck, and shoulders.
Police would not comment whether Kolodziej had been sexually assaulted. But police have DNA evidence of an unspecified type.
Serial killers such as Theodore “Ted” Bundy and Louis Lent were even interviewed in connection with Kolodziej’s death.
“It was determined they were not responsible and had nothing to do with the disappearance or homicide,” Johnson said.
Senior Investigator Michael Guiry said friends described Kolodziej, a Ronkonkoma native, as friendly and popular.
“I would say she was just an average 17-year-old girl,” he said. “She seemed to be happy-go-lucky.”
Her parents, Edward and Hedwig, still live on Long Island. The renewed push to solve the murder has raised painful emotions with her mother, Guiry said.
“Her father, his attitude was, it’s been 25 years. Forget about solving it. It’s not going to happen,” Guiry said. “But they’re 100 percent behind this.”
I submitted this article to A & E’s Cold Case File. Maybe they will investigate. I went to Connetquot High School with Kathy. I didn’t know her well but my friend, Ramona did. Ramona would visit Kathy’s parents. They lived a few blocks from me. Her mother always had roses growing along the fence and in the yard. I think one or both of her parents may still be alive.
Kevin K. Singer
The Daily Star
Thank you to all who have posted comments and memories. If any one has information regarding Kathy’s murder, or perhaps you were one of the students who was never interviewed, but have information, please contact the New York State Police as noted, below.
|If you have any information, please call:
In their latest effort to clear Martin Tankleff of his parents’ murders, the Belle Terre man’s defense team has provided new evidence in an attempt to discredit the alibi of one of the men they say actually committed the crimes.A motion filed yesterday seeking to vacate Tankleff’s 1990 conviction includes a sworn statement by a convicted felon from Moriches who disputes Peter Kent’s alibi that the two were together when Arlene and Seymour Tankleff were killed in 1988.Tankleff’s attorneys have long maintained that Seymour Tank- leff’s business partner, Jerry Steuerman, paid Kent and Joseph Creedon, both of Selden, to commit the murders.
“I cannot account for Peter Kent’s whereabouts at the time of the murder of the Tankleffs,” said Kent’s one-time alibi, Daniel Raymond, 37.
Raymond said that while he did commit two robberies with Kent on the night of Sept. 7, 1988, he was not with him during most of the daytime hours – when the Tankleff murders occurred.
While Raymond was serving a prison sentence in 2004 for a grand larceny conviction, Kent came to visit him, appearing “very nervous, rambling and … sweating heavily,” he said in his statement. Kent begged Raymond to be his alibi and said, if he did not go along with his story, Raymond’s family would be in danger from Creedon and Steuerman, according to the statement.
Raymond said that, after being released from jail later that year, he decided he did not want to become involved in the Tankleff case. But during hearings on Tankleff’s motion to have his conviction overturned, prosecutors met with him and encouraged him to go along with Kent’s alibi. He said Assistant District Attorney Leonard Lato made “a subtle threat” regarding Raymond’s parole status. Raymond never testified in the hearings.
Tankleff’s attorney, Bruce Barket, of Garden City, said the new evidence is “one more brick in the wall.” Barket said the defense team had been trying for some time to persuade Raymond to testify for them, and he finally agreed.
“Sooner or later, there is a tipping point, even in Suffolk,” Barket said. “They’ll have to admit they have the wrong person.”
Lato said Raymond’s affidavit starkly contradicts what he said during their November 2004 meeting. According to a report written by Lato at the time, Raymond said, “there was no way that Kent was anywhere” but with him at the time of the Tankleff murders. Lato added that more important than Raymond’s drug-clouded recollections are parole records that back Kent’s alibi.
Suffolk County Court Judge Stephen Braslow rejected Tank- leff’s bid for a new trial in March. Braslow rejected a second motion based on testimony from new witnesses just a month later.
From Newsday, October 18, 2006
By Alfonzo A Castillo
Newsday Staff Writer
Once again: Will justice ever prevail?
The more I read and find out about the Marty Tankleff case the madder I get so I went to stickerjunkie.com and ordered 100 bumper stickers that say “FREE MARTY TANKLEFF”. They’ll come in 2-4 weeks. Maybe people will say “Who is Marty Tankleff and what’s the story?” I think there will be 100 people willing to post them on their cars or other surfaces, don’t you?
Silence, they say, is the voice of complicity.
But silence is impossible.
Silence is a message,
just as doing nothing is an act.
Let who you are ring out & resonate
in every word & every deed.
Yes, become who you are.
There’s no sidestepping your own being
or your own responsibility.
What you do is who you are.
You are your own comeuppance.
You become your own message.
You are the message.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse-Leonard Peltier
Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of 9/11. The link above is a reminder to never forget.
I was at work on 9/11. It was just another ordinary day on Long Island. My mother called to tell me that a plane had just hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. She asked if I had access to a T.V.? I said that there was one in the cafeteria. She said go look at the news and hung up. I walked the short distance, thinking a piper cub had hit the tower. I don’t know why I thought it would be a small plane but I couldn’t imagine anything else. As I stepped in front of the T.V. I saw the second plane hit. I thought it was a re-run of the first plane, but was astounded that it was a jet. My mind could not wrap around the enormity of what was happening. Other employees joined me in front of the T.V. as we came to the realization that this was no small matter. I ran back to my desk and told the others what was going on. We rushed to the cafeteria, panic rising. Then we heard about the Pentagon. We were evacated shortly after. I work in a Federal facility. God Bless those who died, those who gave their lives trying to save others, the NYFD, the NYDP, the medical community, Mayor Guiliani and the countless others who stepped in and became heros that day and all the subsequent days since 9/11.
In a second trial, Andrea Yates was found not guilty, by reason of insanity, of drowning her five children. She suffered from pychotic postpartum depression. The procecutor’s stance was that she knew the difference between right and wrong but it appeared that even though she may have been able to describe what a good versus a bad action may be, she was still compelled, because of mental defect, to take the action. One can only imagine the horror her children went through, especially her oldest son, who fought very hard for his life. I find it difficult to defend Yate’s actions but it appeared that she was severely mentally ill at the time of the murders and I think the jury came to the correct verdict. Yates will now be remanded to a State mental institution. They will evaluate her and, I assume, make recommendations as to her ability to function in society. Her husband, Randy Yates, of course, has moved on but still considers Andrea his “friend”.
For information on postpartum depression follow these links:
My mother called this morning to tell me that my cousin, Cathy, spent the night in the hospital with my Uncle Cando. I’ve learned over the years that she likes to be the first to call with the bad news. She usually starts with, “Guess what?”, and her voice drops a register. That’s how I know bad, i.e. death, tragedy or shocking information, is coming.
See ”Finding a New Bodega or How I Get Information Out of My Mother“, posted earlier.
Cando, according to my mother, has only hours to live. Very dramatic. She says he is in alot of pain, that maybe, paybacks are a bitch. Very resigned. This is as far as she will go as a condemnation of Candos’ sins. These sins include the general verbal abuse of his wife, my Aunt Lucy,a “saint” in the family’s eyes because she put up with his crap for years. The sexual abuse of my mother’s sister, Aunt Felice, who Lucy and Cando took in after her mother’s murder. The verbal and possible sexual abuse of Cousin David, another stray they took in. The verbal abuse his son Andy took over the years, maybe for being too soft spoken and effeminate. And the sexual abuse of Peter, his great nephew, that I witnessed that day I stopped in to visit him.
For years I didn’t believe he had molested Aunt Felice because she was crazy, just like her murderous father. She had lived in a fantasy world for years. I remember when she lived with us. She had the room accross from me and my sister, Carmen. Aunt Felice would be getting ready to go out with her girlfriend, Peggy. She’d be listening to the radio, dancing and pretending that she was talking to someone. I guess you wouldn’t categorize this as mental illness, but as subsequent events unfolded, it was, to me, a precursor. Later, when she really went crazy, I would think back to the time she lived with us and I would conjure her up in my mind, dancing in her girdle and bullet bra. Me and my sister would just look at each other and wonder who the Hell she was talking to, but it was out of our relm of experience. Sometimes I swore there must be someone in the room with her, but there wasn’t, because I’d peek around the corner and look. Sometimes I would just ask her, flat out, who she was talking to. I always got the same answer, no one, so I eventually gave up this line of questioning. It was just her imaginary friend, which at age 25 or so, she was too old to have. I would tell my mother that Aunt Felice talked to herself and she would respond that it was a wonder everybody didn’t talk to themselves with kids like us around. She always had a smart-ass answer, and I thank my lucky stars I inherited that from her. I like to say I was taught by a master. I can only remember once or twice in my life when I didn’t have a sarcastic response handy.
Anyway, I feel like a citizen of France, waiting for the word that the king is dead. Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi!
The Andrea Yates trial has started.
I hope the jury finds her not guilty of murdering her children by reason of insanity.
Of course, Tom Cruise doesn’t believe in post-partum depression or medication. He probably could have “cured” her with Scientology. Hopefully, neither his wife nor new-born child will suffer from any afflictions serious enough to need medical attention.
A few weeks ago I told my mother about a bodega near my job. I said we'd try it out so today, after we went to the Attias Flea Market so she could buy my Grandfather a pocket watch for Father's day, we went went there and picked up some lunch. You can't eat there so we brought it back to my house.
On the way home I asked her why Aunt Felice went to live with her cousins, Uncle Cando and Aunt Lucy. We always called our older cousins "Aunt and Uncle". She said that at first, after her mother was murdered, they all lived with Uncle Cayo and Aunt Carmen in their large apartment in Brooklyn. In the same building, I guess, where they lived when her mother was murdered by her boyfriend, the father of Aunt Felice and Uncle Jr.
Uncle Jr. was a wild child. He wet the bed and was unruly. In those days they didn't know about ADHD or even that the trauma of their mother being murdered could cause a child to act out. Aunt Carmen would make him wash his own sheets and generally punish him-all to no avail. He was probably about five years old at the time.
Uncle Albert, who shared a father with my mother was also wild. He would stick his fingers in electric sockets and he burned my mother with an iron.
My mother probably acted as the mother of the other three kids. She was fourteen. Uncle Albert was eleven. Uncle Jr. about six or seven, and Aunt Felice was three or four years old.
Uncle Louie, my mother's older brother was in the Army. When he got out he went to live with Cayo and Carmen also. He didn't like it that my mother would go out with her friend, Elsie once a week, and somehow they all were sent to the country, out on Long Island. My mother lived with Uncle Augie and Aunt Marcel in Smithtown. Uncle Cando and Aunt Lucy took Felice to live with them in Farmingville. Uncle Albert went to Saint Charles and Uncle Jr. went to Maryhaven or a place like it.
I asked my mother why Cando and Lucy took Aunt Felice and my mother said probably so he could molest her. Many years later, Aunt Felice had a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. She said Cando had molested her for years. At the time we didn't know whether to believe her or not because she had never said anything and because she was crazy. My mother and Aunt Angie debated it for years. I didn't know if it was true or not but wondered why she would lie about something like that. But then again, she did have a vivid imagination. When she lived with us, my sister and I would hear her talking to people who weren't there while she played music and danced in her room, which ajoined ours.
My mother said that Aunt Felice's friend, Peggy, told the story of how Cando and Lucy took in a foster daughter and how she complained that Cando was touching her and she was removed from the home. They also took in my "cousin", David. He and Felice stuck together. David doesn't talk to Cando anymore, but I don't know what happened. He and Felice have remained close through all her travails with mental illness.
My mother wondered why Felice never told anyone and she and Peggy wondered why Felice continued to live at Cando and Lucy's until she was in her early twenties. Who knows? Maybe she felt like she couldn't get away.
I asked my mother why Aunt Felice didn't come to live with her and Daddy? She said that they tried to get Felice to live with them when my mother was pregnant with my sister, Carmen. We were stationed in MA. at that time. My mother says Cando asked how my father could be trusted around a young girl and he wouldn't let her go. Even though I came to believe Felice's story a few years after her hospitalization, this, in itself, was proof enough, I told my mother. Then I told her how I knew Cando had molested Felice all those years ago.
After Aunt Lucy died Cando sold the house in Farmingville and moved to a smaller place in the same town. The house sat atop one of the highest places on Long Island, off Blue Point Road. It was pretty secluded up there. One day as I was passing through I decided to stop and see Cando. I pulled in the driveway. I honked my horn but got no response. I walked up the two steps to the front door, leaned over to look in the window to see if anyone was home and Cando was laying on the couch. He was being given a blow job by his fourteen-year-old great nephew, Peter. Peter's mother, Hilda, who was slightly mentally retarded, had died of a heroin overdose a few years before and Peter stayed with Cando occasionally. Peter has been in and out of jail. The legacy continues.
My mother was born in 1935. Her mother was already on her second marriage and would go on to a third union. My Uncle Louie was the product of her first marriage; my mother and my Uncle Albert from the second marriage and Aunt Felice and Uncle Junior from the third union.
Getting information out of my mother is like pulling teeth. Getting information from my other relatives is not an option-most are dead and even if they weren’t, they were master secret-keepers, too. Here’s what I’ve pieced together over the years from my mother and Aunt Angie, Uncle Louie’s wife (now deceased).
My grandmother married my Uncle Louie’s father and had Uncle Louie. I don’t know anything about him. Then she may or may not have married my grandfather, but she had my mother and Uncle Albert. After that she hooked up with Juan Cosme, the father of Aunt Felice and Uncle Junior. One night my grandmother was cooking dinner. She needed to go down to the bodega to get milk and left my mother watching the food and the kids. When she didn’t come back my mother went upstairs to Uncle Leo and told him her mother wasn’t back, as she wasn’t allowed out on the street. He went to look for her. He found her dead on the stairs on a lower landing of the apartment complex. My mother was fourteen years old. This happened, as far as I can approximate it, in November 1949. Her stepfather killed her mother. I don’t know if he stabbed her, but this is my recollection. He may have strangled her. His nickname was “the Indian”, because he was dark-skinned. He was also “crazy” according to my mother. This may be true since both his children, Aunt Felice and Uncle Jr. are schizophrenic and have spent time in mental institutions. Of course, subsequent sexual abuse may have contributed to their psycological problems. Anyway, Juan went to prison and the kids were dispersed to the family. Uncle Louie was in the Army. My mother went to Uncle Leo and his wife, Carmen. Aunt Felice, who was about three years old, went to Uncle Cando and his wife, Lucy. Uncle Albert, age 11, and Uncle Jr., age five, went to Port Jefferson, NY to Saint Charles Hospital, which was a place kids were sent to when no one wanted them, I guess. I’ve asked my mother why no one took them but she never gave a reasonable answer. My mother says Uncle Albert was “hyperactive”, the term used then, and I don’t know why no one took Uncle Jr. He later contracted polio and is in a wheelchair. Maybe the boys were of no interest to the relatives? I know my mother loved Uncle Leo and Aunt Carmen and kept in contact with them, and after they died, kept in contact with their children.
Scant facts. I’ve tried for years to find out the details of what happened. I’ve used the internet to perform research, to no avail. I’ve asked my mother all I could. I have to be careful with my inquiries because she gets angry and wants to know why I want to dredge up this stuff. I know it’s painful to her, but maybe if everything wasn’t a secret in this family I wouldn’t be so curious. So I continue my search/research for the details of the murder of Felicdad Santiago Rosa Mejias Cosme’s death in Brooklyn in 1949.
New York magazine has an article in the May 2006 issue about pedophile teacher, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, who has allegedly been abusing Brooklyn children since at least the 1970′s. It seems that the Jewish community is twenty years behind the Catholics in addressing sexual abuse of children in their care in schools, summer camps and the community at large. Twenty years behind the Catholics is pretty scary since progress on that front is minimal, at best. One of the major problems facing survivors of sexual abuse is that, often times, the statute of limitations for bringing the pedophile to the criminal court system expired many years ago. Although there may be no recourse through the criminal courts, filing suit in the civil courts against the alleged pedophile has been a somewhat viable alternative for some. Many survivors may feel, as I did, that things are better left unsaid and may figure, as I did, that at least they made it through. Remember the slogan about the AIDS crisis? Silence=Death? In sexual abuse, Silence=More Abuse. If you can, speak up. Name names. Help protect the generation of children who will be next in line to experience what happened to you and to me.
Martin Tankleff was 17 when he was arrested for killing his parents, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff, in their home on Long Island. He had confessed following hours of interrogation by police. Martin was convicted and has served 16 years of a 50 year sentence. It was September 7th, 1988 and Martin was getting up and preparing for the first day of his senior year in high school. He discovered his parents stabbed and bludgeoned. His mother, Arlene Tankleff, was dead. His father, Seymour Tankleff was unconscious but alive. Martin called 911. He was given instructions to give first-aid to his father. Martin told the police that he suspected Jerry Steuerman, his father’s business partner at Strathmore Bagels. Steuerman owed his father hundreds of thousands of dollars and Seymour had recently demanded the money. Steuerman had allegedly threatened his parents earlier in the summer, and was the last guest to leave a poker game in the Tankleff home the night before the murders occured. Shortly after the attacks, as Seymour lay unconscious in the hospital, Steuerman faked his own death and fled to California. Oddly, he has never been considered a suspect by the Suffolk County police although the missing person report filed when he disappeared stated that he was heavily interrogated prior to his disappeance. It would appear that Steuerman had both the motive and the opportunity to commit the crime. Tankleff was interrogated by Detective James McCready who took the teenager to the police station and began an interrogation that lasted for hours. Detective McCready faked a phone call and lied, which is a standard interrogation technique, and told Martin that his father had come out of his coma and identified Martin Tankleff as the killer. Martin confessed at that point. McCready then read Martin Tankleff his rights and drafted a confession document. Tankleff never signed the confession. The confession was later recanted by Tankleff. Years later, in an interesting twist, Detective McCready had been found to have perjured himself by the NY State Investigation Comission in a previous murder case. Tankleff’s Aunts and Uncles believe that Martin Tankleff is innocent. Marty’s half-sister, Shari, who supported Marty at first, later stated she believes he is guilty. In 2001, Jay Salpeter, a former New York City homicide detective and now a private investigator on Long Island, agreed to assist Tankleff in his fight to prove his innocence. The story becomes a little muddy at this point. Steuerman’s son and a friend, Joe Creedon, are accused of selling drugs out of the bagel stores. Events seemed to lead them back to Seymour Tankleff’s business partner, Jerry Steuerman. Over the years, Creedon has bragged to many people about being involved in the Tankleff murders. Creedon’s arrest records show he allegedly had been caught trying to burglarize one of the bagel stores. His accomplice was a man named Glenn Haris. Salpeter tracked down Harris, who told the investigator that on September 7, 1988, he was the getaway driver for what he thought at the time was a burglary of a home on Long Island. He said he drove Creedon and another man to the home and watched them go into the house as he waited in the car. Twenty or so minutes later they were back and told Harris to get them out of there. Later Harris would say he saw one of them burning his clothes. When he heard the radio reports about the crime, Harris knew that something more than a burglary had taken place. Based on this evidence, Tankleff’s attorneys filed a motion for a new trial. A Suffolk County judge ordered an evidentiary hearing, which lasted seven months, ending in March, 2005. Coverage in the NY Times, Newsday and on CBS’s “48 Hours,” has been heavy through the years. It has been reported that Tankleff has proclaimed his innocence for years, as has some of his family and many supporters. It has always bothered me when the media reports that a convicted felon is proclaiming his innocence, as if that were enough to prove innocence. What has a convicted felon got to lose? But that is neither hear nor there. A trial seems to be called for in this case. If for nothing else but to find out what happened that night in 1988. Tankleff is currently imprisoned in a maximum security prison in Comstock, New York. If you would like more information follow the link, below. http://www.martytankleff.org/Gui/Content.aspx?Page=Home