News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.
From Deadly Arson, To Deadly Garments

From Deadly Arson,

To Deadly Garments

Front breaking news – Gabriel Truitt arrested in the Dec. 29 fatal first on Walling Avenue – to feature stories – a SUNY professor and his student raising the alarm on the dangers posed by the garments you wear – this week’s editions of The Freeman’s Journal and Hometown Oneonta contains a wide range of offerings. That includes the latest about OH-Fest cancellation of Rapper Sean Kingston’s concert and the ramifications on campus. Both newspapers are on newsstands around Otsego County this afternoon.
Assistant DA: We Have Truitt On Video

Assistant DA:

We Have Truitt On Video

Green: It Shows Suspect Carrying Accelerant

Gabrielle Truitt confers with his attorney Lee Kindlon after being denied bail by County Judge Brian D. Burns this morning in Otsego County Court. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

COOPERSTOWN – Video evidence shows accused arsonist Gabriel Truitt, 33, with the accelerant found in front of Heather Engler’s apartment door in the Walling Avenue fire that killed former Oneonta firefighter John Heller, Assistant District Attorney Will Green said during this morning’s arraignment in Otsego County Court.

“Video evidence shows the defendant with isopropyl alcohol going to and from the crime scene,” the prosecutor said.

Truitt In Court To Face Charges

Truitt In Court

To Face Charges

Gabriel Truitt, 33, was led into Otsego County Court a half-hour ago, where he is now being arraigned on murder and arson charges in the Dec. 29 death of former Oneonta firefighter John Heller.  Heller was killed when a blaze allegedly set by Truitt swept up an open staircase to Heller’s third-floor apartment at 5 Walling Ave. Truitt was captured yesterday afternoon in the basement of a house adjacent to Oneonta’s police headquarters, where he was visiting his children and their mother. (Ian Austin/
Geraldine L. Kennedy, 96; Business Exec Active In Democratic Politics

IN MEMORIAM: Geraldine L. Kennedy, 96;

Business Exec Active In Democratic Politics

Geraldine Kennedy

ONEONTA – Geraldine LaGrua Kennedy, 96, a business executive active in Democratic politics, passed away Saturday, April 20, 2019, at Basset Hospital.

Survivors include two daughters in Oneonta.

Geraldine was born Aug. 13, 1922, in Brooklyn, the daughter of the late Fred and Elvira (Santangelo) LaGrua.

Gerry met the love of her life Howard Carvil Kennedy in Brooklyn while still in high school. They were married on Nov. 1, 1942. Together they traveled through life with a shared love of family, friends and new adventures. Howard predeceased her on Oct. 25, 1998.

Village Board Hears Plans For NY Pizzeria Upgrades

Village Board Hears Plans

For NY Pizzeria Upgrades

New York Pizzeria owner Joe Vezza and his architect, Teresa Drerup, appeared before the Village Board Monday night with plans to upgrade the restaurant at Chestnut and Elm. They reported Vezza has bought the former Triple-A offices next to the pizzeria, which is hopes to demolish to create 12 more parking spaces, shift the main entrance to the south side of the building, and perhaps add outside tables during the summer. (AllOTSEGO photo)
Cooperstown Central Names Kristin Butler High School Principal

Cooperstown Central

Names Kristin Butler

High School Principal

Veteran Teacher, Administrator Succeeds Lucy
Kristin Butler

COOPERSTOWN – Kristin Butler, veteran Cooperstown Central School teacher and administrator, has been appointed junior-senior high school principal, effective July 1.

She will succeed Donna Lucy, who resigned last summer.  In the interim, Jim Brophy, retired Edmeston Central School principal, has filled the role.

A 1999 CCS graduate, Butler has served the district for the past 13 years in both instructional and administrative roles, most recently as the director of curriculum development & assessment.

Truitt Located In House Next To Police Department

Truitt In Basement

Of House Next Door

To OPD Headquarters

Suspect Spirited To Otsego County Jail

Accused arsonist Gabriel Truitt was found hiding the basement of 95 Main St., right next door to the city’s Public Safety building. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Gabriel Truitt

ONEONTA – Less than a week since a grand jury indicted Gabriel Truitt, 33, on first-degree murder, one count of first-degree arson, and two counts of second-degree murder in the Dec. 29 death of John Heller, 38, Oneonta Police have arrested him at 95 Main St.

The two-story apartment house is right next door to the Public Safety Building, police headquarters.




ONEONTA – Moments ago, Gabriel Truitt, 33, was arrested in the basement of 95 Main St., right next to police headquarters, for the Dec. 29 fatal fire that killed former city firefighter John Heller, 38.


Businesses Sold On Pathfinder Village


Businesses Sold On

Pathfinder Village

Residential Community Training,

Placing Residents In Local Jobs

Paul Landers stops in to see Grant Stubbs, center, who has an apartment where other residents enjoy hanging out, like Andrew Hyman, left. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • The Freeman’s Journal & Hometown Oneonta

Though with with a song on her lips, Joanna Draper, recovering from a brain tumor, is reclaiming her vocation as a singer. (Ian Austin/

EDMESTON – When she was 16, Joanna Draper had a brain tumor removed and was in a coma for a month. Though she recovered, her short-term memory was all but gone, dashing her hopes of continuing to perform in musical theater.

But now, you can find her serenading customers at the Pathfinder Village bakery and café, where she has worked for two years. “I’m doing so well that they let me work here,” she said. “I sing to the customers. I give them a hug if they’re having a bad day. It’s about treating people how I want to be treated, with kindness and a smile.”

“Her parents recognized that she would fit in here as a hire, not as a service recipient,” said CEO Paul Landers. “And since she started working here, her neurologist has seen her memory improving.”

New In Town, Grummons Got To Know Everyone


New In Town, Grummons

Got To Know Everyone

Funeral Director To Be Honored

At Annual Chamber Gala May 2

In his upstairs office at 14 Grand St., Les Grummons is surrounded by plaques and mementos from his civic and social activities over a half-century. (Jim Kevlin/

By JIM KEVLIN • Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal

ONEONTA – Everybody knows Les Grummons.

“I always liked to be involved,” said the Oneonta funeral director who is the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce’s Eugene A. Bettiol Jr. Distinguished Citizen of the Year.  “I was always that way.”

He will be honored Thursday, May 2, at the chamber’s annual Gala & Celebration of Business in Foothills Atrium.

Interviewed the other day at the Lester R. Grummons Funeral Home, 14 Grand Ave., he had just arrived back from the weekly Rotary Club meeting at the Elks Club.

Joseph R. Konchar, 91; Retired Farmer Owned Elm Inn In Heyday

IN MEMORIAM: Joseph R. Konchar, 91;

Retired Farmer Owned Elm Inn In Heyday

MILFORD – Joseph R. Konchar, 91, a retired farmer who owned the Elm Inn in its heyday, died Saturday, April 20, 2019, at Cooperstown Center.

Born March 19, 1928, Joe was the youngest and last surviving of the 13 children of August and Antoinette (Ocaker) Konchar.

At an early age, his family moved from the family’s Christian Hill farm in the Town of Otsego where he was born, to Milford where his parents had purchased another farm where they would continue the family tradition of dairy farming.
Joe attended Milford Central School.

Bassett Scientist Len Sauer, 89; Retired To New Life In Montana

Bassett Scientist Len Sauer, 89;

Retired To New Life In Montana

Len Sauer

COOPERSTOWN – Beloved, gentle Len Sauer, senior research physician emeritus at Bassett Research Institute since retiring in 1996, died April 15, 2019, at his home on the Bitterroot River in Montana.

For 89 years, he was his own definite self, a quiet person of integrity and acceptance.

He went to high school in Schenectady, but was a less-than-serious student: he skipped school to play pool.  However, in 1948, he enlisted in the Army and spent nearly four years in the Signal Corps.  This experience changed his life, for thanks to the GI Bill, he was able to go to college and there he found his passion: science.

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