Category Archives: Other News

Former ADA: All evidence in Allen case turned over

Staff Report

Former assistant district attorney Donald Dodd took the stand for more than five hours Wednesday, a day featuring heated exchanges over filing procedures and evidence disclosure in the hearing to determine if Gary Thibodeau deserves a new trial for his conviction of kidnapping Heidi Allen.

Prosecutors have tried to establish that Dodd and the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office investigators were thorough in ensuring Thibodeau’s defense attorney received all evidence in the case. The defense team, however, paints a picture of suppressed evidence and mismanaged files.

Dodd was adamant about two things: that all of the sheriff’s office investigation files were turned over to Gary and Richard Thibodeau’s attorneys — including documents related to Allen giving confidential information to investigators — and that Allen never actively worked as a confidential informant.

“Heidi Allen provided confidential information, I believe, on one occasion in 1991,” Dodd testified. “She never worked as a confidential informant.” Dodd made the distinction in line with what prosecutors have argued, that Allen provided some information to investigators but was not consistently tipping investigators off to criminal activity.

Thibodeau’s defense team, pointing to an informant identification card dropped in the parking lot of the same New Haven convenient store where Allen went missing, argues the perception of Allen as an informant gave other suspects a motive.

They also argue documents related to Allen giving confidential information were not properly disclosed to Thibodeau’s lawyer, Joseph Fahey.

Fahey testified in February he was unaware Allen was an informant and would have “raised holy hell” if he saw such documents in the middle of Thibodeau’s trial.

Cross-examining Dodd — and former Inv. Terry Whipple Tuesday — Bianco tried to establish that investigators didn’t place enough importance on Allen’s status as a confidential informant.

On Tuesday, Whipple said he was informed, “there was nothing to it,” in reference to Allen’s informant card being dropped. Dodd said he did not recollect whether the informant card itself was ever given a “lead number.” Dodd said, however, that Allen’s informant status was discussed openly in a pretrial proceeding Dec. 8, 1994, and that very day, he told investigators to provide him “the full file and record to find out if Allen at any time provided information as a confidential informant.” The next day, three investigators provided statements to Dodd revealing Allen had provided some information confidentially. Dodd said the statements were then photocopied and turned over to defense counsel.

“In fact, those documents were turned over personally to Fahey on Dec. 14, 1994,” Dodd testified.

Dodd said he spoke with both Fahey and William Walsh, Richard Thibodeau’s attorney, “on more than one occasion, to the best of [his] recollection,” about Allen providing confidential information.

Both attorneys came to the District Attorney’s office in March of 1995, where Dodd says the “entire” investigation file, including documents on Allen giving investigators information, were made available to the defense teams.

But Bianco questioned whether certain information about Allen’s informant status was not given to defense lawyers until the middle of Gary Thibodeau’s trial; Dodd said discovery was always ongoing.

Bianco also engaged in testy exchanges with Dodd over his record keeping, with both of them — and eventually Judge Daniel King — expressing frustration.

Dodd said he had no control over what items were assigned lead numbers, and made clear there was a required procedure, which included marking all original documents in the sheriff’s office case file with green ink to notify they were copied and turned over to defense counsel.

But Bianco pointed to cover letters without Oswego County letterhead, copies without green ink, or documents excluding specific references to Allen being an informant.

“They supposedly have this system where they stamp things, then they don’t,” said Bianco to King. “There’s a green marker, then there’s not.” Dodd asserted only originals were marked with green ink, and repeated that defense attorneys were shown, and given copies of, the entire case file, and received further discovery documents as time went on.

Bianco asked about a January 1995 court proceeding in which Walsh asked for more than 100 lead sheets and asked the court whether there should be a hearing on sanctions over Dodd’s sharing of evidence.

Bianco asked if Dodd didn’t think the original defense team was “entitled” to review the grand jury minutes from Richard Thibodeau’s trial.

Dodd later told Moody during redirect examination that he opposed disclosure of the grand jury minutes because the District Attorney’s Office didn’t have them completed yet, and because no indictment had been filed.

He said by law there’s no requirement to disclose grand jury minutes until after an indictment has been filed.

Bianco claimed Fahey — when asking for discovery documents in December of 1994 — was asking specifically for the confidential informant identification card.

“He was asking for the actual file and the actual file wasn’t given to him,” said Bianco.

“That’s absolutely incorrect,” replied Dodd, who said he couldn’t speak to what was in Fahey’s mind at the time, and “nor can [Bianco].” Dodd maintains Fahey asked for any information related to Allen providing confidential information, and a week later received everything the sheriff’s office had in the file at the time.

There was also some testimony on Michael Bohrer, with Dodd saying investigators ran a national criminal background check on Bohrer, which showed no record of any convictions or active warrants.

He did acknowledge to Bianco, however, that “you could still have a criminal record with an agency not entering it into the national system,” he said.

Dodd said investigators ran the background check on Bohrer because someone with a similar name — Michael Bort — was on Thibodeau’s lawyer’s witness list.

Dodd called Bohrer “part of the overall investigation,” saying he had been interviewed by the sheriff’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Dodd said it “absolutely” would have been significant for him to know Bohrer’s criminal record if he had one, just as it’s important for him to know information on “any suspect as part of the investigation.” But Dodd said he did not think “that was the case here,” and Bianco, after attempting to once again introduce more details of Bohrer’s 1981 false imprisonment conviction, was told to change her line of questioning by King.

King still needs to rule on whether to hear testimony from the victim in Bohrer’s 1981 conviction, and also whether to allow questions to Dodd regarding trial discussion of Allen’s fingerprints.

The hearing resumes today, from 8:45 a.m. to noon. After this week, the proceeding con-tinues April 7.

New pizza place coming to Valvoline building

Pictured is the former Valvoline Express building on S. Second Street in Fulton. The vacant facility is now being renovated into a pizza shop. Matthew Reitz photo
Pictured is the former Valvoline Express building on S. Second Street in Fulton. The vacant facility is now being renovated into a pizza shop.
Matthew Reitz photo

By Matthew Reitz

The former Valvoline Express building on S. Second Street in Fulton will soon be looking a lot different.
Pathfinder Bank, the owner of the property, has hired Rowlee Construction to repurpose the vacant property into a pizza shop, which will also feature a drive-up Pathfinder ATM kiosk on the site.
Dennis Merlino of the Fulton Planning Commission said the project has been “completely approved” by the commission.
“They answered all questions and addressed parking, landscaping, and signage (concerns),” Merlino said. “They want it to be an attractive, appealing property to enhance the look and feel of Fulton.”
Taber Rowlee, of Rowlee Construction, said the project is underway and will take approximately three months to complete.
Rowlee said the construction has “started on the inside with infills and structural modifications.” The project will “dress-up the building as it sits there now,” according to Rowlee.
Plans include stonework on the exterior wall base and the addition of a façade on top of the building to give it curb appeal.
The project will also be “adding new landscaping” and cleaning up the area, according to Rowlee.
Rowlee mentioned that a “national chain” would be moving into the building, but added that he was “not at liberty to say more.”

John C. Dreiling

Dreiling, JohnJohn C. Dreiling, 41 of Fulton passed away Monday at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. Born in Spain, John had lived in the Fulton area since 2006. He was the current assistant manager at Advanced Auto Parts and was working at U-Haul, both on Erie Boulevard, Syracuse. John cherished the time he spent with his grandson. John will be greatly missed and forever loved by his wife, Candace; his children, Charles (Samantha Makley) Briggs Jr., Tyler Parry and Mark Parry; his father, Charles; his mother, Chris; his sisters, Liz and Monica; his grandson, Nicholas; nieces and nephews. Calling hours will be 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 14, at Foster Funeral Home, 910 Fay St., Fulton. There are no funeral services.

Ruth Welch Palmer

Ruth Welch Palmer, 88, of Fulton, died Sunday, March 8, 2015. A native of Granby, she was a life resident of Fulton. Mrs. Palmer was a member of First United Church of Christ in Fulton, Elizabeth Chapter 105 Order of the Eastern Star, Fulton and Ilderim Temple 50 Daughter of the Nile, Syracuse. She was predeceased by her husband, Lawrence “Tom” Palmer, who died in 1987 and five siblings. Surviving are her children, Ernest (Sandra) Loveland and Lesa (Michael) Lawrence all of Fulton; six grandchildren; 15 great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. Calling hours and a funeral service were Thursday, March 12 at Foster Funeral Home, 910 Fay St., Fulton. Burial will be in Jacksonville Cemetery, Lysander.

Edna M. Mistretta

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEdna M. Mistretta, 95, of Fulton, passed away Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Edna was born in New York City in 1919 and lived most of her life in Volney and Scriba.  She was a communicant of The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Fulton and St. Paul’s Church in Oswego. She was predeceased by her husband, Sebastian B. Mistretta in 1977, a daughter, Ann Marie Mistretta in 1974, and by her siblings and their spouses, Grace (John) Zagame, Santina (James) Ferlito, Antoinette (Joseph) Pappalardo and Paul (Josephine) Belfiore. Edna was hardworking throughout her life. She worked side by side with her husband on the family vegetable farm. Nothing was more important to Edna than her family. After her father died, she cared for her mother in her home until her death in 1969. She provided the same level of care for her husband after he suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on one side.  Edna loved her home and life on the farm. She was known for the beautiful flowers that she planted and cared for. Edna especially loved sharing her home during the holiday season. Her children, nieces and nephews have many fond memories of wonderful holiday celebrations. Surviving are her children, James A. Mistretta of Syracuse, Anthony J. Mistretta (Pamela) of Albany and Linda A. Mistretta of Syracuse; two grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. A calling hour will be 10 to 11 a.m. Monday, March 16 in the Atrium at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, corners of South Third and Rochester streets, Fulton. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 11 a.m. Burial in the spring will be at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Fulton. The family requests that any contributions be made in remembrance of Edna to the charity of your choice.

Juanita J. Kandt Prior

???????Juanita J. Kandt Prior, of Hannibal passed away, Tuesday, March 3. She resided with her daughter and son-in-law in Middleport, Ohio. Juanita was born in Oswego Town, a daughter to the late Henry C. and Amanda Yeara Kandt. She retired from Andrew Michaud Nursing Home where she had worked as a nursing assistant. She enjoyed crocheting, cooking, scrapbooking, camping and listening to country-western music. She also enjoyed watching Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, Judge Judy, The Food Network and Country Western videos. Juanita was predeceased by her husband of 58 years, Harold L. Prior, who passed away July 30, 2011; seven sisters, a brother and an infant sister and brother. She is survived by her children Brian (Mary) Prior of Fulton and Sharon (David) Smith of Middleport, Ohio; a brother, David (Eileen) Kandt of Odenton, Md.; three grandchildren, Naomi McKenzie of Columbus, Ohio, Steven (Jessica Durham) Smith of Middleport, Ohio and Joshua (Candice) Prior of Lancaster, Ohio; eight great-grandchildren; several nieces and nephews. A calling hour will be 12 noon to 1 p.m. Saturday at with a 1 p.m. service to immediately follow at Foster Funeral Home, 837, Cayuga St., Hannibal. Burial in the spring will be at Fairdale Rural Cemetery.

Betty T. Ruetsch

Betty RuetschBetty T. Ruetsch, 96, of Phoenix, N.Y., passed away on Tuesday March 10, 2015 at Michaud Residential Health Services, Fulton, NY. Born in the town of Granby (South Granby) to her late parents, Emma Harriet (Butler) and Harry Bennett Turner on January 7, 1919, Betty was a 1937 graduate of Phoenix High School and a fine homemaker. Betty was an active member of Phoenix United Methodist Church. She was involved with the United Methodist Women, Sunshine Circle and other activities. She also was the surviving charter member of the Enterprise Fire Co. Auxiliary, past president of the Mothers Club, and the Amaranth chapter all in Phoenix. She was predeceased by her husband, Charles D. Ruetsch on July 3, 1988; her brothers, Staff Sgt. Earl B. Turner on April 10, 1944 in the Central Pacific, WWII, and Donald H. Turner on September 6, 2011; and her sister-in-law, Bette Turner on September 4, 2012. Surviving are her son Douglas Earl Ruetsch and his wife Elizabeth “Ann” Ruetsch both of Phoenix; her daughter Pamela Betty (Ruetsch) English and her husband Bernard English both of Liverpool; three grandchildren Michael (Trisha) English, Charles Ruetsch, II, Douglas (Nancy) Ruetsch, II; three great-grandchildren, Sara Ruetsch, Lily Emma English, and Benjamin Kabot; several nieces, nephews, and cousins.  Calling hours are on Saturday March 14, from 11 a.m. until noon, followed by a funeral service all in the Allanson-Glanville-Tappan Funeral Home, 431 Main Street, Phoenix, NY. The Rev. Marion Mae Moore-Colgan will officiate the service. Spring burial in Phoenix Rural Cemetery at the convenience of the family. Contributions in Betty’s memory should be made to: Phoenix Fire Dept. Auxiliary, 457 Main St., Phoenix, NY 13135.

Fulton’s Josh Batstone advances on “The Voice”

The Voice - Season 8
Fulton’s Josh Batstone performs on NBC’s “The Voice” during a segment broadcast Tuesday evening. He has now advanced into the season-long competition. Photo courtesy of Tyler Golden/NBC

By Colin Hogan

Fulton native Josh Batstone stepped into the spotlight on NBC’s “The Voice” this week, having made it through the first round of blind auditions and securing his place with the vocal coach of his choice.
The 18-year-old singer was featured on the program Tuesday, March 3 in a 30-second clip singing “Amnesia” by Australian pop-rock band 5 Seconds of Summer. The clip then shows celebrity coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton vying to have Batstone on their teams, with him ultimately choosing Levine.
Speaking to The Valley News from Los Angeles Thursday, Batstone said, regardless of what happens in the competition moving forward, getting through the blind audition has given him all the validation he needs as a performer.
“It’s an incredible feeling getting this far, at all,” Batstone said. “Not a lot of people get to make it this far. It’s an incredible feeling of accomplishment and validation for all the hard work that I’ve put into this… If I was to go home today, I would be beyond happy with my results so far.”
Batstone has been involved with music since he first fell in love with singing in church as a seventh-grader. As a high school freshman, he decided to get involved with school’s choir, and later started taking lessons from his local voice teacher, Carol Jacobe of Baldwinsville. But it was later in his teenage years when he became a home-schooled student that he says he really hit his stride with music.
“If I didn’t make the choice to be home-schooled, I don’t think I would be where I am today,” Batstone said. “I would spend hours and hours alone in my room singing and playing guitar, and listening to people and being inspired, and learning and writing. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I was in school.”
Few moments in life can match the feeling Batstone had when Levine and Shelton were battling it out for his pick, he said. While he went into the competition hoping to land a place on Team Adam, he said after his performance he had to put some thought into it before making his final decision.
“I definitely contemplated choosing Blake because of the nice things he was saying, but Adam brought it around and said what I could improve on, which was exactly what I was looking for,” Batstone said.
Beyond his place in the television spotlight, though, Batstone says “the coolest feeling ever” was seeing himself on the iTunes charts after his performance. Downloads of him singing “Amnesia” on the show are currently available on iTunes for $1.29.
As he progresses through the competition, Batstone will “continue to dabble” with songs in the same vein as “Amnesia,” but he said he would also like to stray a bit from the pop-rock realm and perform some acoustic singer/songwriter-style tunes.
While the show is designed as on ongoing competition, Batstone said when he’s backstage with his fellow contestants, the competitive nature is nowhere to be found.
“The first thing we do is say ‘good luck,’ and ‘break a leg’ and ‘have a great time,'” he said. “Whatever happens we’re still gong to remain best friends. There’s no competitive nature at all. We all hang out and jam and sing together because we’re all doing what we love… We’re really a family.”
And his support system doesn’t end there. Batstone’s actual family is also in Los Angeles providing round-the-clock encouragement. He said its through their continued support, and having them with him now, that he’s found the confidence he needed to get over the first hurdle.
“It’s really great to have my family here. I don’t know if I could do it alone,” Batstone said.
You can see more of Batstone in future episodes of “The Voice” this season, Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.