Archive for April, 2007

Writer’s block

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007
Tyler Murphy

Sometimes when I’m trying to get myself out of a little writer’s block I’ll write short catch phrases to try and motivate myself. (Like pulling the cord on a lawn mower) I was trying to get a different blog idea moving but it didn’t happen. Here are some random things I’ve used to start my mind (or heart) on a number of things I’ve written. I did not copy them from anywhere and as far as I know they’re all my own.

“A life without freedom is a most painful death.”

“Just because you lived a long time doesn’t mean you lived well.”

“Flags should not be flown at churches and dogma should be taken out of government buildings.”

“Separation of church and state is more important than ones freedom of religion.”

“Liberty lost rightly breeds aggressive dissent.”

“Fear is a less predictable means of compliance than respect but far simpler to obtain.”

“True accomplishments are in what we create and not in what we destroy.”

“Population growth and the value of life should not be related.”

“Survival is priority only for the desperate and the ignorant.”

“Violence has solved some problems and created many.”

“When loyalty and integrity disagree it’s often encouraged by a desire for self respect.”

“Love is delicate and people are not perfect.”

My neighbor’s garage puked on me, and all I got was this stupid shirt

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007
Michael McGuire

I almost got killed the other day.

That means it must be garage sale season again.

People don’t realize the impact off-loading their junk can have on a neighborhood. It’s like in 1980 when Fidel Castro unleashed thousands of Cuban prisoners and mental patients onto the U.S. after he opened-up Mariel Bay, so “political refugees” could live their dreams in America. He basically dropped a bomb on us.

Same goes for any garage (i.e. basement, bedroom, living room, bathroom) sale.

It’s Saturday. It’s sunny. It’s quiet. It’s wonderful.

A far of voice then whispers to your neighbor, “If you build it (a tent covering four folding tables filled with 25 years worth of stuff you no longer care about), they will come.”

KA-BOOM!

Mayhem ensues.

People for forty square miles turn into flesh-eating zombies – and they show-up in droves.

Nearby lawns turn into outposts and access roads for the eager hordes. Cars get jacked sideways in the street because – even though there aren’t any legitimate parking spots left – they don’t care, “there might be a velvet Elvis chess set in there.”

Clusters of automatons walk down the middle of the street adoring their “Easy Rider” lunchboxes, oblivious and unyielding to oncoming traffic. Then, once they get into their cars to leave, they’ll pull out blindly into the road, cutting-off passing motorists and cyclists, nearly causing horrible accidents, all while clutching their “new” 4×16 Indian dream catcher and shouting “Veni, vidi, vici!”

Meanwhile, you become a prisoner in your own home. You can’t drive – the streets are blocked. You can’t walk – you may get trampled and robbed. You can’t call for help – a sale goer has commandeered your telephone (right after commandeering your bathroom) to call and confer with their significant other to find out if $10 bucks for a ripped “slip n’ slide” is a good deal.

What a nightmare.

When the dust finally settles, it looks like your neighborhood caught on fire and someone put it out with an ax.

Whatever happened to the Salvation Army? Whatever happened to the side of the road? Whatever happened to sending enormous goodwill packages to unsuspecting pen pals?

Be a good neighbor and don’t have garage sales. Build a high fence around your property and pile everything in the backyard.

Autism on the rise

Monday, April 23rd, 2007
Jessica Lewis

This week I wrote a story on Otselic Valley’s Third Annual Autism Awareness Walk. After the story ran in the paper, which only went out a few hours ago, I have received several e-mails from concerned individuals regarding what causes autism.

For years, scientists and doctors have been trying to discover the cause of autism, with little success. Many swear it is genetic, while others blame environmental factors (i.e. vaccines that contain mercury), and some claim it is a combination of the two, with environmental factors causing hundreds of genes to mutate and affect the way the mind operates.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m certain that more attention needs to be given to this growing problem. As was stated in today’s article, statistics show that in the United States, 1 out of every 150 children will be diagnosed with Autism. Autism is more prevalent in boys than girls, and 1 out of every 94 boys will be diagnosed with the disorder.

While there are services in place for children with this disorder, today, someone pointed out that services for adults with autism are severely lacking, and as more and more children reach adulthood, the country may encounter a real problem. The number of children diagnosed with autism is increasing and we need to determine what is causing it and what can be done to stop it.

April’s been a tough month

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007
Michael McGuire

My mom pointed out Tuesday that April, particularly this week in April, has historically seen its share of horrific events.

Monday’s massacre at Virginia Tech being the most recent.

In years past my family would have been in Myrtle Beach this week – where 75 percent of Norwich is currently – and heard the awful news. But being by the beach with a heavy heart is a place we’ve been before.

Three events standout more than others.

April 19, 1995 – Oklahoma City bombing, 168 killed, 800 injured.
April 14, 1997 – Norwich High School student Jesse Scott dies in car accident.
April 20, 1999 – Columbine High School Shooting, 12 students and one teacher killed.

There’s no reason all these events occurred in April.

There’s no reason why they happened at all.

They just did.

Regardless, April will always mark a tough month. It’ll remind me of sad times I saw as a teenager, and now again as an adult.

All of us, like Cho Seung-Hui, could impose our will on others if we ever felt the need. And rather than blame the school or security, I can’t help but be angry with the shooter more than anything. Whether he was disturbed, scared, or whatever – his real problem was that he was selfish.

Other infamous happenings in April:

April 14, 1865 – Abraham Lincoln assassinated.
April 18, 1906 – San Francisco earthquake and fire – killed 3,000 over 4 days.
April 15, 1912 – Titanic sinks, killing 1,500.
April 4, 1968 – Dr. Martin Luther King assassinated.

Second round draft of infamy

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007
Tyler Murphy

Last week I posted a list of all the people charged with a homicide or attempted homicide. (Except Kevin Begeal he just happen to be getting sentenced the day I blogged, unlucky for him.) Unfortunately there have been several high profile sex crimes taking place behind the scenes that haven’t gotten enough attention because of this freakish surge in crime. It’s very likely they would have been headlines of their own if not for the timing of it all. So here are those accused of rape and more, some of them I feel are just as bad if not worse than the homicides. Again I couldn’t resist my personal take on things but not much is yet known about most of these cases.

Jonathan “Joe” Elwood, 29, Ashcraft Road, Norwich, has been charged predatory sexual assault (Class A-II felony), first degree burglary (Class B felony), first degree rape (Class B felony), first degree robbery (Class B felony), first degree criminal sexual act (Class B felony), first degree criminal use of a firearm (Class B felony) and petit larceny.

Stephen R. Ohl, 24, Cunningham Lawrence Road, Sherburne allegedly the second suspect in the crime was arrested on identical charges but has not yet been indicted on any charges. However the grand jury is literally meeting as I type this to consider his case. I will update his charges once I get the report later today or tomorrow.

Allegedly Elwood and Ohl broke into a home at around 11:30 p.m. armed with a gun and attacked a 58 year-old-woman inside striking her in the head and face repeatedly. Allegedly their original plan was only to included robbery and assault but once in the process of those crimes they decided to forcibly rape and beat the woman, threatening to kill her. The two men left the scene after being at the home “for a considerable amount of time” said police. They were at large for nearly 4 months before DNA evidence lead to their arrest.

My Take: Still in early proceedings, not a lot of hard evidence yet released. Police say they have their DNA at the scene. Honestly with everything else happening I’m just beginning to discover things about this case. The victim has been severely traumatized by the ordeal.

If it turns out they are guilty I reserve absolutely no mercy for these men. My first impulse is to condemn a harsh and cruel punishment. I don’t endorse torture and these two would certainly test my resolve in that belief. It seems all they didn’t do was kill her. I can see a trial coming.

Dean M. Sacco, 48, 148 Randolph St., Jersey City, New Jersey, is charged with three counts of 1st degree rape (Class B felony), three counts of 2nd degree rape (Class D felony), committing a criminal sexual act and 1st degree course of sexual conduct, all of them, felonies.

Accused of repeatedly forcing a girl under the age of 13 to have sex with him over the course of one or two weeks. Allegedly sought and planned the encounters. Had to use coercion or force to get the young girl to comply with his demands on at least three occasions. Police started an investigation some time after the alleged crimes happened. Child services interviewed the girl and reported the incident which lead police to Sacco. Police were forced to extradite him from New Jersey.

My Take: This again is new to the legal scene and little has yet to be released. The charges of first degree rape indicate some very depraved and repeated abuses of this young girl.
Again I have an inclination towards violence for this man if guilty. I have to reserve any kind of judgment though, until more comes forward.

Lance J. Mills, no age given, Columbus, is charged with first degree rape (B Felony) and predatory sexual assault ( A-II Felony).

Mills is a registered sex offender with a prior conviction of first degree sexual abuse in 1997. He is accused of attacking a female, who he is familiar with, and forcing her to have sex with him. Allegedly the woman pleaded with him to stop and he threatened to harm her further if she did not comply.

My Take: I know more about this case than the others and ironically I can’t share much with you because of the personal link between the victim and the assailant. It would be very difficult to explain the circumstances without identifying the victim which is a moral taboo even for a journalist. I will say that his prior sex offense could be the nail in his coffin. However this case doesn’t appear to be as straight forward as the other rape cases and Mills has good defense representation, so only time will tell.

Felonies are rated A through E. Degrees are also use to measure severity of an offense and vary greatly; first degree is always the worst offense possible for that particular type of crime. The consideration in qualifying the level of a charge depends on the individual crime but the general terms of punishment are as follows.

Felonies
A – Life imprisonment
B – Maximum 25 years
C – Maximum 15 years
D – Maximum 7 years
E – Maximum 4 years

LexisNexis. (2005). New York Criminal Statutes and Rules.

Winter weather….again

Monday, April 16th, 2007
Jessica Lewis

Maybe it was a dream. I’m not really sure, but I thought we had temperatures that were close to 70 degrees just a couple of weeks ago. I vaguely remember getting out my bike and watching my husband struggle to change the inner-tube in my bike tire. But that couldn’t have possibly happened since the temperatures are now back to the mid-20’s and a snow storm just dropped nearly a foot of snow on us.

I’m trying to look at the up-side of having a massive, winter storm in the middle of April, but to the best of my knowledge, there aren’t any. It’s cold and wet and icky at a time of year when it should be mildly warm and sunny outside.

This late season snow storm stinks, but instead of just complaining about the weather, I’m going to address all the stupid things people do in the nasty weather that really irk me.

1. Driving a white car in a white out with no head lights on. This is just stupid, but for some reason I see people doing it all of the time. (Hey, white car, you blend in with the snow, and no one can see you. Turn on your stinking lights.)
2. Walking down the middle of the road or stopping a vehicle in the middle of the road, even when you know there is no possible way anyone will be able to avoid hitting you if they come up behind you. It sounds obvious, but I think most of us don’t want to get into an accident, so please don’t do this.
3. Waiting until a State of Emergency is declared and then deciding it’s time to do all of your shopping for the month, visit all of your closest relatives and do anything else that you’ve been putting off until the last minute. Usually city and county officials have a reason for issuing a State of Emergency, namely, they don’t think the roads are safe for travel. So, if you have the option, stay home. If you’re anything like me, you don’t get to do that nearly enough anyway.

Avoid the snow and stay warm until this nasty bit of weather passes. Maybe next week we can go back to the 70 degree weather. I think I liked that a little better.

Regretting regret?

Monday, April 16th, 2007
Tyler Murphy

What whispers to me even in my sleep is that everlasting shadow of doubt, which follows many of us through our entire lives. I’ve met so many people whose only mission in life is to avoid regret at all costs. That more often than anything else seems to include self delusion.

It’s a lie to meet a person who claims they have no regrets. That would be like meeting someone who never made a mistake. I can believe you may not know or may not want to know, that, like every else you’ve screwed things up. All of us have at one time or another completely train wrecked our own lives. The culprits are usually ignorance, arrogance or innocence. When someone tells me they have no regrets what I really hear is I’m ready to repeat my mistakes.

Let me just say I certainly have regrets. Why not? I’m sure if I could do things over I could do them better. There are some things I wish I never did and some things I wish I had. It’s OK to regret as long as we don’t dwell. I guess that most of us just shrug our shoulders and say we’ll there is nothing I can do about it and it was all an experience that has made me who I am today. No offense but I’m sure all of us could probably be better than we are. Most of us have unlimited potential and often enough our greatest obstacle to success is ourselves.

It’s a depressing thought, to look yourself in the eye and say I could have done better or my place in life could be further and it’s my fault. Not to say that our accomplishments aren’t great and beautiful things. Regret can have the rare power to motivate a positive change on how we look at life and even grant us new motivations to avoid it altogether. Ignoring it will only entice to become a larger part.

The catch is I never could’ve climd to that conclusion until I stopped telling myself I had no regrets. I do have them and I have a responsibility to carry them because they remind me life is not always about avoiding regrets, sometimes it’s about facing them.

Your fifteen minutes of infamy

Friday, April 13th, 2007
Tyler Murphy

Here’s a list of who’s who in our recent world of crime in Chenango. With everything going on it’s even hard for me to keep things straight. So here’s some basic info and my humble take on each.

Daniel L. Brown Sr., 45, Norwich, is charged with 2nd degree murder for allegedly killing his property manager for yet-unknown reasons.

Apparently she was making her usual work-related rounds and stopped at his residence, where she was beaten and strangled to death. Police claim he told them where to find the murder weapon and that he attempted to turn himself in. Also the prosecution says he basically made a confession about the crime to officers and that it was recorded. Brown was being evicted and has a history of drugs (and allegedly still does) and domestic violence.

My Take: I try to be impartial, and not everything has been released about this very sensitive crime, but considering what is known at this point, I would have to say the writing is on the wall. We have a body at his house, cops saying he confessed, his own phone call leading to his arrest and something of a violent drug history. If he’s innocent, then he must be the biggest victim of circumstantial evidence in history, but we have not yet heard the defense’s side of the story. If things hold true, I can’t imagine a trial … maybe, it’s hard to tell with people who have nothing to loose. There will be no death penalty, because although New York has it on the books, the New York Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

Peter M. Wlasiuk, 37, Guilford, was found guilty of 2nd degree murder and given the maximum sentence of 25 years to life for allegedly murdering his wife and then staging a vehicle accident at Guilford Lake to cover it up in 2002.

The New York Supreme Court of Appeals declared Wlasiuk’s first trial unfair, citing a number of procedural shortcomings, most of them revolving around the introduction of past violent acts against his wife displayed in court and criticisms of the expert testimony given at the trial. His second trial is scheduled to begin this summer.

My Take: Honestly, I don’t want to touch this one with a 10-foot pole. One thing that is for sure, there will be a trial, no ifs, ands or buts about it. Wlasiuk is literally fighting for his life (in prison). I was not around for the first case and can’t honestly say I have had enough firsthand experience to really say anything. It will be very interesting and perhaps the most controversial of all these cases.

Tammi L. Van Deusen, 31, Norwich, won an appeal on a first degree robbery conviction due to a New York Supreme Court ruling about a technicality in her sentencing.

Upon appeal she was charged with second degree murder, first degree robbery and first degree criminal use of firearms. She helped to plan the robbery of a fellow drug dealer with four others, showed her conspirators the victim’s home and provided the firearms used in the invasion that ended up turning into a murder. She was never aware of the killing until after the fact. She was also uncooperative with investigators during the original investigation.
Denied a deal offered, right after her appeal, by the District Attorney to accept a plea bargain of 1st degree robbery and be allowed to walk free, but under supervision for the next 3 1/2 years.

She made several false statements in court and over the past 6 months in an attempt to get her record completely expunged, her defense suffered several setbacks, including contradicting facts from her first testimony and from police officers, plus a lack of any witnesses. She eventually accepted that same deal (1st degree robbery) after getting grilled by the judge over her perjury. As of two days ago, she is out of jail for the first time in nearly seven years.

My Take: The defendant made a litany of mistakes in an attempt to protect her friends, which ultimately failed. Her early decisions often got loyalty confused with integrity. She was lucky she got an appeal. She pleaded guilty and confessed to some elements of the crime at her first court appearances. Lied to court after appeal for some reason; rumors claim her desire for a civil suit if she was cleared of all charges. Eventually she did the right thing (perhaps because of a lack of options), you did the crime, accept the responsibility and now go home and please be a good mother to your kid. You received a far better deal than anyone else involved. All except one (the one who cooperated with investigators), are still in prison with many years left on their terms.

Kevin J. Begeal, 21, homeless, pleaded guilty to five counts of third degree burglary but committed more than double that number. For every dollar he stole, he caused 10 in damages. All in an effort to feed his crack addiction, his crime spree was compulsory and frighteningly bold. Also charged in Syracuse with the same kind of thing. Has a prior record of drug problems beginning as a youthful offender in Oxford and was, in fact, on parole during this crime wave. Was sentenced to 5 to 15 years for what he did in Chenango.

My Take: Yes, you do indeed have a serious drug problem, and you need help (or punishment), and far as I can tell, you’ve been offered it repeatedly. You’re an idiot, and I’m glad you’re off my street. There is a line that not even my liberal compassion will cross. This is not a one time “I screwed up” or “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.” Thus far, you have had an early, repeating and prosperous career as nothing but a criminal. Life is tough and some of us catch better breaks than others, but plenty are able to get past their demons. I’m not asking that you become a useful member of society, that’s up to you – just stop being a handicap. If this seems harsh, just remember, 3 days and 20 felonies. You’re young, there is still hope.

Jason Sherman, 24, McDonough, is charged with two counts of first degree manslaughter and second degree assault. Sherman pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Police allege Sherman caused the intentional death of his girlfriend’s 16-month-old child by striking it. The DA claims the defendant was attempting to silence the baby or discipline it, but those reports have not been confirmed. The infant showed signs of prior abuse, including a broken arm. The mother is still with Sherman, and the defense says she considers the matter an unfortunate accident and the couple still lives together. The case took months to process and much of the evidence is forensic or medical.

My Take: I think there is more to this case than meets the eye, so it’s difficult to have an informed opinion. Sherman was assigned a great lawyer and since much of the evidence is technical in nature, this is a hard one to call. The fact that the mother holds no ill-will and Sherman has no prior legal trouble also makes things difficult to gauge. Obviously though the police thought they had enough to arrest him. I can see this one going all the way to a jury trial.

Ty A. Tumminia, 14, Norwich, is charged with second-degree attempted murder for allegedly strangling his mother nearly to death. He is going to be tried as an adult.
The victim, his mother, was literally left for dead, and on all accounts her attacker thought she was dead. Prosecutors claim if police had not arrived while the boy was still in the act, she wouldn’t have survived. Allegedly this was all inspired because Tumminia was not allowed to visit his girlfriend in Iowa. It was very premeditated, planned and discussed beforehand. He allegedly attacked his mother in her sleep with a phone cord and then strangled her with his bare hands. He also confessed to the crime in police reports and the mother identified him as the attacker.

My Take: Something is not right with this kid. I have a hard time completely blaming a child for something so terrible, but this crime was very cold and brutal. I wish we knew more about other factors, such as his home life, environment and possible psychological problems. This also appears very open and shut, with the confession, him caught red-handed by two police officers and his mother identifying him. We, as a community, have to measure the weight of responsibility versus rehabilitation. Do we punish or do we offer treatment? How the family feels seems like the largest factor, because they will be absolutely instrumental in any rehabilitation. If they’re not on board, it limits options. I would like to see the kid get help, but I certainly won’t lose any sleep if he sits in jail until he’s 35.

To catch a shopping cart

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007
Michael McGuire

Inspired by Chris Hansen’s “To Catch a Predator,” we at The Evening Sun set up our own little sting operation to nail some would-be wheel-o-philes trolling for carts via the net.

After only a few seconds in a “man-cart” internet chatroom, our decoy “wheel4u” snared “cartbreaker113,” a willing and able violator:

wheel4u: “Hey, the store attendant is busy cleaning up a mess in isle 8 – how about you come over and fill me up with a few cases of Old Milwaukee and push me around a little.”
Cartbreaker: “Really?”
wheel4u: “Oh yeah.”
Cartbreaker: “I was hoping you’d say that. I want to snatch you off the lot and leave you on a street corner like the dirty cart you are.”
wheel4u: “Sounds like a party. TTYL.”

With an air of confidence, Cartbreaker strolled over to the northwest corner of a local parking lot where he thought he’d be meeting a frisky young shopping carriage – oops.
“Hey, I’m Cartbreaker, are you wheel4u?”
“There’s my knight in shining armor. Just give me one minute to grease-up my wheels so I’m not all squeaky.”
That’s when we stepped in…
“Hello sir, how are you?”
“Good, I guess.”
“Do you mind if I ask what you’re doing here with this cart?”
“Nothing, I just came over to meet it, maybe put it back in the rack over there.”
“You came all the way over here to put the cart away?”
“Yeah.”
“If I’m not mistaken, in an internet conversation 25 minutes ago didn’t you say ‘I want to snatch you off the lot and leave you on a street corner like the dirty cart you are.’?
“I was just talking.”
“Well you better talk some more and explain yourself.”
“I can’t believe this. I can’t believe I did this. I always just thought about stealing a shopping cart, I never really planned on doing it. My urges just took over.”
“Urges? Sounded like more than urges to me.”
“Oh God – my family…What’s going to happen to me.”
“You’re in luck. Even though it’s despicable, there are no laws against what you planned to do. In fact, its widely accepted behavior.”
“Thank God. Hey, is that cart greased-up yet?”

Tales from the crypt keeper

Friday, April 6th, 2007
Jessica Lewis

Move over Ozzy Osbourne, it looks like there’s a new Prince of Darkness in the music industry, or should I say a really really old one.

Music enthusiasts, like me, have been buzzing since The Rolling Stones most drugged-out  member admitted in an interview earlier this week that he had snorted his father. For those of you who are confused, let me clarify this a little. When asked about the craziest thing he had ever done, Keith Richards told a reporter that he had  mixed his father’s ashes with some cocaine and snorted him. Suddenly biting the head off of a bat seems as tame as playing patty-cake.

I know rock stars are known for their crazy, drug induced antics, but I think when you’re at the point where you’re willing to snort the charred remains of your family members, things have gone just a little too far. They say all publicity is good publicity, but I’m going to have to disagree.

Richards, and of course his publicist, have sense changed their minds about this story, saying that it was all just a big joke, but I’m not so sure I believe that. A story that crazy almost has to be true, and if it was a joke, I fail to see the comedic merit.

As a fan of the Stones, (and I am, despite the horror of last year’s Superbowl half time show) the only thing this story did for me was to give me the heebie-jeebies. Everyday Keith looks more and more like the crypt keeper, and after hearing this little story, I’m starting to think he might act like him too.