News of Otsego County


Proceedings Underway In Truitt Court Case

Proceedings Underway

In Truitt Court Case

District Attorney John Muehl, above, makes his opening remarks to the jury during the opening day of the People Vs. Gabriel Truitt, now underway at the Otsego County Courthouse in Cooperstown.  Truitt, seen at right, is charged with arson in the first degree and murder in the first and second degree for his alleged involvement in the fire that claimed the life of John Heller at 5 Walling Ave. in Oneonta on Dec 29, 2018. Check back throughout the day for developments in this case. (Ian Austin/

Truitt Trial Scheduled For Jan. 20, 2020

Truitt Murder Trial

Scheduled For Jan. 20

Gabriel Truitt

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – With a motion to suppress evidence rejected this morning, Gabriel Truitt, charged with the murder of John Heller after he allegedly lit his girlfriend’s Walling Avenue apartment on fire, will stand trial in Otsego County Court Jan. 20. 2020.

During a hearing this morning in front of county Court Judge Brian Burns, Truitt’s lawyer Dennis Laughlin submitted motions to suppress photos and video taken inside of Truitt’s Tru Cuts that allegedly showed him taking the chemicals allegedly used to start the fire at 5 Walling Ave.

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 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.

Hero May Not Have Been Target, Chief Concluding

Hero May Not

Have Been Target,

Chief Concluding

Suspect’s Brother Person

Of Interest, Can’t Be Located

Erika and Michael Heller, right, hold close two of their four boys who John Heller – her brother-in-law; his brother – rescued from an arson last Saturday, losing his own life. To their right is Amber Roe, John’s fiancé. In the foreground, Heller’s pallbearers console each other after placing the casket in the hearse after Jan. 4 funeral in Foothills’ Atrium.


ONEONTA –With one arrest, 100 leads and a “person of interest” who can’t be found, Oneonta Police are still piecing together what happened during the blaze that killed a man hailed as a “hero” on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 5 Walling Ave.

“We’re not sure what (Terrence) Truitt was trying to do,” Police Chief Doug Brenner said of the suspect facing a charge of arson, first degree. “It looks like Heller was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Truitt, 34, is now accused of setting a fire on the second-floor that killed former Oneonta firefighter John Heller, 38, in his third-floor apartment. Truitt was arrested and charged with arson, first degree, Monday, Dec. 31, and appeared in City Court for a felony hearing on Friday, Jan. 4.

“We had information that didn’t line up with what (Truitt) had first told me,” said Oneonta Police Detective Sgt. Branden Collison. “He kept changing his stories.”

But police are seeking the whereabouts of his brother, Gabriel Truitt, whom they are calling him a “person of interest,” but providing no further explanation.

Though initially interviewed at the start of the case, Brenner said he has not been seen or heard from since.

“We’re trying to figure out to what extent Gabriel is involved,” he said.

350 Fill Foothills Atrium To Salute Boys’ Rescuer

350 Fill Foothills’ Atrium

To Salute 4 Boys’ Rescuer

The Rev. Judith Thistle, pastor, Second Baptist Church of Worcester, preaches to the 350 family members, friends and admirers who gathered in Foothills Atrium this afternoon to salute John Heller, a Job Corps counselor and former Oneonta firefighter who died Saturday saving his four nephews and fiance from a fire that’s been ruled an arson. (Jim Kevlin/


Man Arrested After Car Arson

Man Arrested

After Car Arson

Jonathan Delgado

ONEONTA – An Oneonta man was arrested after police and fire investigators allege he set his neighbor’s car on fire earlier this afternoon.

Jonathan Delgado, 31, was arrested after the police and fire department were dispatched to the report of a vehicle fire in the area of 41 Burnside Avenue.  First responders arrived at the scene to find a red 2009 Subaru Forester, belonging to a neighborhood resident, fully engulfed in flames.  The Oneonta Fire Department extinguished the blaze as police officers conducted a neighborhood canvass and located Delgado, who was detained during the early stages of the investigation.

CVS Delays Closing 3rd Time On Motel


CVS Delays Closing

3rd Time On Motel

CVS distributed this artist's rendering for the proposed Cooperstown store at an August planning meeting. (
CVS distributed this artist’s rendering for the proposed Cooperstown store at an August planning meeting. (

COOPERSTOWN – Fortune 100 CVS Health has delayed closing on the Cooperstown Motel property for  a third time, receiving an extension until Nov. 21, Martin Tillapaugh, attorney for the Al O’Brien estate, said today.

“The fire at the motel really threw a monkey wrench in the middle of everything,” said Tillapaugh, referring to the Aug. 9 suspected arson at the corner of Chestnut and Beaver streets.  At the time, CVS had expected to close on the property “within a few days,” he said.

Cooperstown Motel Fire Declared Arson



The fire that destroyed the Cooperstown Motel has been declared arson.
The fire that destroyed the Cooperstown Motel earlier this month has been declared arson.


COOPERSTOWN – Investigators have determined the fire that destroyed the Cooperstown Motel in the early morning hours of Tuesday, Aug. 9, was intentionally set, they announced at 1:15 p.m. today.

Investigations by the state Office of Fire Prevention & Control, county Office Of Emergency Services, state Department of Financial Services and the Cooperstown Police Department determined that the fire began on the second floor of the abandoned motel.  No further details are available at this time.

Ravena Man Arrested For Starting SUNY Campus Fires

Non-Student Arrested For

Starting SUNY Campus Fires

Looking is New York State campus police officer, Mariah Naughton with Mike Mancini and Don Toubia of hte Oneonta Fire Department. (Ian Austin/
Don Tubia, left, of the Oneonta Fire Department, photographs one of three locations where fires were set on the SUNY campus last night; two near the track, one in the campus quad. With him are NYS Campus Police officer Maria Naughton, middle, and fellow firefighter Mike Mancini, right. A third location (Ian Austin/

ONEONTA — A 20-year-old was arrested and charged with arson after allegedly setting fire overnight to light poles and shrubbery on the SUNY Oneonta campus with a blow torch.  He is not a student, University Police said.

Zachary A. Penzabene of Ravena, south of Albany, was arrested after University Police responded to a report and found several fires, one on the quad and others near the track, and contacted the Oneonta Fire Department to extinguish them.

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