Margaret A. Lambert, 90, of Granby, passed away Monday, Feb. 9, at Loretto. She was born in Split Rock, N. Y., a daughter to the late James and Margaret McNally, and lived most of her life in Granby. Margaret was a devoted mother and homemaker. In addition to her parents, she was predeceased by her husband, Robert W. Lambert; sons, Robert B. Lambert and Patric L. Lambert and by a son-in-law, Peter Loughlin. Margaret is survived by her children, Diane Loughlin, Cliff (Darlene) Lambert, Gloria Lambert and Paul (Kelly) Lambert; she is also survived by several grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Margaret’s family would like to extend a sincere thank you to their mother’s special caregiver and friend, Steve Prince. Funeral services are private. Burial will be in the spring at Fairdale Rural Cemetery, Hannibal. Foster Funeral Home, has care of arrangements.
By Colin Hogan
Wheels are in motion for Fulton to upgrade Recreation Park this summer with a new kayak launch and playground.
The project comes thanks to $50,000 in state funds acquired through state Sen. Patricia Ritchie (R-Oswegatchie). Officials said those funds, coupled with a discount on playground equipment arranged through KaBOOM! — a national nonprofit that specializes in establishing parks in high-need communities — should cover the full cost of the endeavor.
Fulton Parks and Recreation Superintendent Barry Ostrander said restoring the 28-acre park, which sits next to G. Ray Bodley High School along the eastern side of Lake Neatahwanta, is one of many steps on the path to revitalizing the lake-area’s recreational use.
“We’d like to eventually restore that whole area, including the Stevenson Beach area, back to how it was years ago before all of the issues with the lake,” Ostrander said.
Lake Neatahwanta has sat mostly dormant for years due to a high concentration blue-green algae. Clean-up efforts are currently underway by committees in both Fulton and Granby, which include dredging silt from the lake’s basin.
Ritchie, who also acquired major funding for the lake clean-up efforts, stated in a press release Wednesday that she was pleased to be able to help with the park project.
“Whether they are for families or individuals, quality outdoor recreational opportunities are key to any strong community,” said Ritchie. “I’m pleased to provide this funding, which will give children a safe place to play and also build upon efforts to revitalize Lake Neatahwanta.”
Ostrander said Ritchie “has been instrumental” in helping Fulton move forward with its lake-area projects.
“I can’t thank Sen. Ritchie enough, because with out her help these things would’t be possible. We’re very fortunate to have her assistance,” he said.
The park’s roots can be traced back to the early 1920s when leaders at the American Woolen Mills factory decided to establish recreational facilities for their 1,500 employees. Fulton then adopted the site a city park in 1961.
Kelley Weaver of Friends of Fulton Parks said her organization will be seeking input from students at both G. Ray Bodley and Fulton Junior High School on what kinds of playground equipment they’d prefer to have on the site, as they will likely be using it most often.
“There’s no playground equipment there geared toward the 13-and-older age group, so we want their input on what we can put there that will be most useful to them,” Weaver said.
The kids’ input on the equipment will be key to ensuring that the park doesn’t go unused, according to Ostrander.
“That’s what you need. You have to get what the kids want to use, otherwise it’s just going to sit there,” Ostrander said.
Weaver said improvements like these are exactly what Friends of Fulton Parks aims to accomplish, and thanked the senator for her support.
“Here in Fulton, we are continually striving to make our community a better place for those who live here,” said Weaver. “A big part of that is making sure there are family-friendly opportunities for people to get outside and get active. Our organization’s main goal is to increase the well-being of others by improving our local parks. We are truly grateful that Sen. Ritchie recognizes how important parks are to enhancing local communities and we are thankful for her support.”
The kayak launch, which will be handicap-accessible, will be the only one of its kind on the lake. Ostrander said once the next round of lake clean-up begins this spring, he will have a better idea of where they can place the launch, provided it doesn’t interfere with any of the dredging efforts.
While the state funds should cover the entire cost of the project, Fulton will have to pay up front and be reimbursed by the state after the work is complete. The Common Council authorized city clerk/chamberlain Dan O’Brien Tuesday to establish a $50,000 capital account for the project.
Second Ward Councilor Daniel Knopp said improving Recreation Park could also be a boon to the Fulton’s lake clean-up fundraising.
“Anything we do to improve the area along the lake is just going to draw more attention to the lake, and hopefully bring more funds to the clean-up project,” Knopp said.
Knopp also gave special thanks to Ritchie “for the interest she’s had in the city of Fulton and helping us with this project.”
By Colin Hogan
Next month, the Fulton Common Council will be considering raising the city’s parking fines, which officials say are outdated and not compliant with state mandates.
The council will hold a public hearing on proposed changes to the parking ticket structure, which would alter both the initial fines for violations and how unpaid fines increase over time.
The city’s current structure applies $15 and $25 for basic parking tickets, and $50 for a handicapped parking violation.
From there, unpaid fines on basic tickets increase every 10 days to a maximum of $65 on an initial $15 ticket, or up to $75 on a $25 ticket.
The recommendation for the new structure comes from Fulton Police Chief Orlo A. Green III, who said it’s been more than two decades since the fines have been updated.
“I’ve been here 21 years and it hasn’t been changed since before I was chief,” Green said.
Green proposes raising all basic parking fines to $30, which would then double after 30 days, rather than accrue gradually 10 days at a time. He says that would make the violations easier to track and enforce.
Green said there is also a state-mandated $30 surcharge that is supposed to be imposed on all handicapped parking violations. He said Fulton has never been compliant with this mandate, and proposes raising those fines to $80 to include the state’s surcharge.
“We wouldn’t be getting any more money from that, but the state would get its charge,” Green said.
Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said Fulton is the only municipality in the area that isn’t compliant with that mandate, and said he believes a portion of those funds go to local agencies that assist people with disabilities.
“The handicapped (parking) fines are something we really need to do something about,” Woodward said.
Green said, because the city currently has to order new tickets from its supplier, the time is right to make the change.
The proposal also includes changes to city’s law regarding unregistered vehicles. Currently, the law only allows for tickets to be issued on vehicles that are being “operated” without a valid registration. Green is proposing an addition to the law that would include prohibiting unregistered vehicles from being parked on any city streets, as well.
The public hearing will be held at the beginning of the March 3 Common Council meeting at 7 p.m.
A crucial witness in the ongoing hearing as to whether convicted kidnapper Gary Thibodeau deserves another trial for the 1994 disappearance of New Haven teenager Heidi Allen took the stand Friday — and denied ever saying anything.
Jennifer Wescott was recorded speaking to Tonya Priest on a phone call in 2013, implicating Roger Breckenridge, James Steen and Michael Bohrer in the kidnapping. Wescott, an ex-girlfriend of Breckenridge, said on the recorded call that Allen’s abduction was related to cocaine, and her body was burned in a wood stove outside of a cabin on Rice Road in Mexico.
Federal public defender Lisa Peebles, Thibodeau’s attorney, called Wescott as her final witness, and presented various receipts of Facebook conversations, text messages, sworn statements made to police and a transcript of the recorded phone conversation to Wescott.
Wescott made very few concessions over the course of the day’s questioning, but she did testify that she was a cocaine user around the time of Allen’s abduction and that she met Breckenridge some time in 1994.
District Attorney Greg Oakes offered Wescott immunity for any statements she might make, freeing her from the fear of being prosecuted for perjury.
“Did you say cocaine was the reason Heidi Allen got abducted?” Peebles asked.
Wescott asserted on the stand that what she was saying was that she did cocaine.
“All I said was I was young and on cocaine,” she said.
According to Wescott, she turned 18 on Feb. 18, 1995, what she called her “eight ball birthday.” “We went and bought an eight ball of coke and sat there and sniffed it,” she said.
According to both Breckenridge and Wescott, it was the date their romantic relationship began.
Wescott also said she used to babysit for Breckenridge’s five children with his wife Tracey, and would sometimes be paid in cocaine.
On the cross examination, Oakes asked why Wescott answered in the affirmative in her conversation with Priest when Priest began mentioning Allen.
“I lied to Tonya a lot in this conversation,” she said. “I told Tonya a lot of lies.” Wescott painted Priest as a woman demanding of attention, and said she would agree with Priest to placate her.
In reference to Facebook conversations with a friend named Carl Robinson, in which Wescott indicated that she didn’t want to be the next one to turn up dead, Wescott said the messages sent from her account were someone else.
“Several people have access to my account,” she said. “I have children. I have multiple friends.” During his cross-examination, Oakes asked Wescott if she had any information that could potentially free a man who served 20 years of a 25 to life prison sentence.
Wescott said she had no information, and had shared everything she knows. She said, as a mother of three, she would gladly share any information that would lead to the discovery of Allen’s body and bring any potential accomplices or anyone who committed the crime instead to justice.
The hearing will resume the week of March 23, when Oakes begins calling witnesses.
During Thursday’s arguments over whether Gary Thibodeau deserves a new trial for his 1995 conviction of kidnapping Heidi Allen, witnesses again implicated other men, with one witness claiming to identify Allen in a photo with two frequently named suspects.
Several individuals have implicated James “Thumper” Steen, Roger Breckenridge and Michael Bohrer in Allen’s kidnapping, murder or the disposal of her body. In seven days of testimony, some have said they heard incriminating statements about the men or directly heard them boasting of involvement in Allen’s disappearance.
Under oath, the three men have each denied any involvement in her kidnapping from the D&W Convenience Store in New Haven in April of 1994.
Jessica Howard, a 29-year-old woman who has known Breckenridge for 12 years, testified Breckenridge once told her Allen would never be found.
“He said it’d be a waste of the government’s time to try to find her,” Howard testified, adding Breckenridge called Allen, “a rat” whose disappearance was connected to drugs.
She told District Attorney Greg Oakes during cross-examination, however, that Breckenridge never said he was involved in Allen’s disappearance.
Howard also identified Allen, Steen and Breckenridge in an old photo together, saying she found the photo on a community Facebook page and showed it to investigators during an interview Wednesday night.
The photo was not mentioned in a letter from Oakes to Thibodeau’s lawyers Thursday morning detailing Howard’s statements to investigators.
The photo only entered into testimony after arguments from assistant federal public defender Randi Bianco led to Howard being recalled to the stand. But acting Oswego County Court Judge Daniel King said there was no way to positively authenticate the photo, saying it could have been edited and that he wasn’t convinced of Howard’s identification.
Oakes did not specifically ask
Howard who posted the photo on Facebook, but Howard said the poster claimed it was Allen.
Howard, who was only 9 years old when Allen went missing, said she knew Allen for two years, and was positive she was in the picture, along with Steen and Breckenridge.
“How do you know it’s Heidi?” asked Oakes.
“‘ Cause I know,” was all Howard said.
King said he was inclined to deny the photo as evidence, but he said he’d allow the defense time to try to authenticate the photo.
Christine Neff, 43, of Scriba, claimed to be in the photo, according to Syracuse.com. Neff told Syracuse.com that neither Allen nor Breckenridge are in the photo, which she said was taken in 1988 or 1989 at the Sheep Ranch in Palermo.
Attempts to reach Neff to find out more about the photo failed by press time.
Oakes asked Howard about her depression and anxiety, with Howard testifying that her medication could impact her memory of times and dates. In response, Bianco established Howard was not on medication when she previously tried to reach out to law enforcement with information on the case in 2004 and 2011.
According to the written statement of Wednesday’s interview with investigators, Howard told authorities she had been investigating the Allen case and believed she may have recently seen someone removing Allen’s body from a closed saw mill on old county Route 1.
Also included in Oakes’s filing was a report from Jan. 19 that Howard called 911 due to depression and anxiety, with the police taking her to the hospital to be treated and prevent harm to anyone. She testified she was in the hospital for mental health reasons for nine days.
Chris Combs, a 34-year-old paving contractor who occasionally worked with Breckenridge, testified that at some point Breckenridge informed him he was involved in the disposal of Allen’s body.
He said he never took Breckenridge’s claims to heart, echoing statements from Steen that Breckenridge “was full of hot air.” Combs told Oakes during cross-examination that Breckenridge mentioned the name Thibodeau when he talked about Allen, but he couldn’t remember if Breckenridge was referencing Thibodeau’s involvement in a crime or innocence.
Deborah Vecchio, a 58-year-old woman who lives on Rice Road in Parish, testified that her father’s girlfriend rented a trailer to Jennifer Wescott’s mother sometime in the early 1990s.
Wescott, who is expected to testify today, was recorded by investigators in 2013 telling Tonya Priest that she had knowledge of Allen’s disappearance, and that Breckenridge and others had scared her from coming forward. She later denied knowing anything about Allen’s kidnapping.
Vecchio said Wescott and Breckenridge, who she said had frightened her, frequently stayed at the trailer near her property, but she asked them to leave sometime in 1993 or 1994.
Oakes repeatedly tried to get Vecchio to remember the specific timeframe, and also questioned her on whether Wescott and Breckenridge actually ever lived in the trailer.
Vecchio also testified she worked with Bohrer, who is also named as a potential suspect by others. Peebles asked her if she had ever noticed Bohrer’s girlfriend with physical injuries; the defense has tried to establish Bohrer had a history of violence with women.
But similar to earlier in the hearing, King disallowed the line of questioning due to prosecution objections over relevancy.
During Tuesday’s continuation of the hearing to determine if Gary Thibodeau deserves another trial after other suspects have been implicated in Heidi Allen’s 1994 disappearance, two witnesses testified they were told authorities convicted the wrong man.
In 1995, Thibodeau was convicted of kidnapping the 18-year-old Allen from the parking lot of a New Haven convenience store in 1994.
In six days of testimony, James “Thumper” Steen, Michael Bohrer and Roger Breckenridge have been named as suspects by several individuals who claim they heard incriminating statements connecting the men to Allen’s disappearance.
Some witnesses have testified Bohrer, Breckenridge and Steen boasted of involvement in the crime; others said they heard incriminating statements second-hand.
In direct testimony during the hearing, however, Bohrer, Breckenridge and Steen denied involvement in Allen’s disappearance, and also denied making any incriminating statements.
Carl Robinson, a 32-year old man who worked in the early 2000s as a computer technician at Medspars — Bohrer’s small business — testified Tuesday he knew Breckenridge and his former girlfriend Jennifer Wescott.
Robinson says during a barbecue nearly 10 years ago, the Allen case came up in conversation, and Wescott told him authorities had the wrong man in jail.
Wescott’s name has come up frequently during the hearing. She was recorded in a 2013 phone conversation with Tonya Priest connecting Breckenridge, Steen and Bohrer to the crime and saying she was afraid to come forward. She told investigators afterward she knew nothing about Allen’s disappearance.
Robinson testified he exchanged Facebook messages with Wescott in 2014, but acting Oswego County Court Judge Daniel King disallowed detailed questioning on the messages because they were impossible to authenticate.
Wescott is still expected to testify, and further discussion of her conversations with Robinson is likely, according to federal public defender Lisa Peebles.
During cross-examination, District Attorney Greg Oakes established Wescott never told Robinson any specific information on Allen’s whereabouts or why she believed Thibodeau was innocent. Robinson said Wescott, Steen, Bohrer and Breckenridge never mentioned to him any involvement in Allen’s disappearance, murder or disposal of her body.
Robinson also testified he saw Bohrer sell marijuana to both Breckenridge and Steen between 2002 and 2004.
Oakes objected several times to Peebles’s questioning, with prosecutors arguing the marijuana sales by Bohrer were so long after Allen’s disappearance that Robinson’s testimony was irrelevant.
Allen’s status as a confidential informant — mentioned as a motive for other suspects by Thibodeau’s defense team — remains a contentious issue in the case.
Prosecutors downplay Allen’s role as an informant and note Thibodeau was in jail on a drug charge not long after her disappearance, giving him a potential motive. Thibodeau’s trial lawyer, now Onondaga County Judge Joseph Fahey, testified Tuesday that authorities told him Allen was never used as an informant.
Ronald Clarke, a Mexico man who said he’s known Steen for 35 years, testified Tuesday that Steen once told him he knew more about Allen’s disappearance than the sheriff’s office.
Steen said Allen was “long gone in Canada,” according to Clarke, who said Steen occasionally worked for his father. Clarke said at the time he was outside his house, trying to convince his sons to stay home instead of going out for a bike ride, when Steen approached, asking about work.
Clarke said Steen told the boys to stay in, be careful and be mindful of what happened to Allen.
Clarke told Oakes during cross-examination that Steen never said he was actually involved in Allen’s kidnapping, murder or disposal of her body.
Steen is in prison serving two life sentences with no chance of parole after murdering his wife and another man in 2010.
Evidence turned over to Peebles recently included recordings with Doug Labreck, who was housed in jail with Thibodeau in 1994. Labreck gave a written statement to the sheriff’s office on Dec. 12, 1994, “setting forth various oral admissions he allegedly heard from [Thibodeau],” including that Thibodeau asked him “if teeth could burn.”
Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd took the stand during Tuesday’s continuation of the hearing to determine if Gary Thibodeau deserves a new trial.
Todd, who was undersheriff when Heidi Allen was kidnapped in 1994, testified he had limited involvement in the investigation in 1994 and 1995, relying on his sergeants and lieutenants to investigate. But he said for as long as he was sheriff, the Allen case would remain open until the mystery of her whereabouts was resolved.
“[The case] will always be open,” said Todd, “until I bring her home.”
Multiple individuals have come forward over the last few years implicating others in Allen’s 1994 disappearance. Thibodeau was convicted of kidnapping Allen in 1995, and lost an appeal in 1999.
Federal public defender Lisa Peebles asked Todd pointed questions about his office’s protocol for signing up confidential informants. Todd said that at the time of Allen’s abduction, there was no official procedure, and that individual investigators handled their informants.
The defense team has maintained Allen was a confidential informant, and that her informant card was dropped in 1992 in the parking lot of the store where Allen worked and went missing.
Thibodeau’s defense team argues this gives a motive to individuals connected to drugs in the area, in particular newly named potential suspects James “Thumper” Steen, Roger Breckenridge and Michael Bohrer. All three men have denied involvement.
Pressing Todd again about the process for signing up confidential informants, Todd repeated there was no procedure back in 1994.
“Is it your testimony that you’re completely clueless?” asked Peebles, who was cut off by an objection from District Attorney Greg Oakes and chief assistant district attorney Mark Moody, which was quickly sustained.
Todd later testified that subordinates told him Allen was not actually an informant. He also said her card being lost in the lot — which was found 26 months before Allen went missing — was “no big deal because nothing happened.”
Todd said he continued hearing about leads on the case after 1995, and that his investigators followed the leads.
“My goal was to find Heidi Allen and follow up on every lead possible,” he said.
Peebles asked the sheriff three questions about a potential lead, a report of “Heidi Allen was a snitch” written on a bathroom wall.
“I didn’t see that one, no,” Todd said. “They may have told me early, but do I have any information on it, no.”
Peebles asked if Todd was advised on a lead in February of 2013, regarding new information from Tonya Priest. Priest has come forward saying she had heard incriminating statements from Steen; earlier this month, she also said Breckenridge and Bohrer made incriminating statements linking them to the crime.
“They would keep me advised to what she testified to,” said Todd, “and every time she changed that story,” he’d be advised as well.
Moody objected to the line of questioning, with Peebles pressing Todd on his knowledge of the case.
“He is the head of the office and the (District Attorney’s Office) themselves have called into question the investigation,” said Peebles.
“So the whole purpose of this is to embarrass the sheriff?” asked Moody.
Peebles said that was not her goal.
“My job isn’t to go out and investigate,” said Todd. “My job is to supervise and make sure they do their job, and they did.”
The defense team has stated the sheriff’s office investigation was faulty and the District Attorney’s Office “dumped” evidence on them just days before the hearing began.
Acting Oswego County Judge Daniel King said he was not pleased about the late release of evidence, but denied a motion from Peebles earlier this month to dispense with the hearing over the matter.
During Todd’s cross-examination, Moody established through the sheriff that there are different types of informants; confidential informants who help on drug busts or some who simply provide information on a confidential basis.
During redirect, Peebles asked Todd the protocol if someone’s status as a confidential informant is ever breached.
“To be honest with you we’ve never had it happen,” testified Todd, saying as far as he knew, no one’s identification as a confidential informant has ever been released.