News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.
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fatal arson

To Save Victim’s Family From Ordeal Of A Trial, Truitt Offered Plea Deal

To Save Victim’s Family

From Ordeal Of A Trial,

Truitt Offered Plea Deal

Even So, Arson Suspect Faces 25 To Life

Gabe Truitt

COOPERSTOWN – In county court today, District Attorney John L. Muehl offered Gabriel Truitt, 33, a chance to plead guilty to one of two counts – second-degree murder – in the Dec. 29 arson death in Oneonta of former city firefighter John Heller.

“I offered that on the record,” said Muehl, “to try to save the (Heller) family from going through a trial.”

TRUITT CAUGHT NEXT TO OPD

FACES CHARGES IN FATAL FIRE

TRUITT CAUGHT

NEXT TO OPD

He Was Visiting His Kids, Their Mom

Gabriel Truitt, 33, suspect in the Dec. 29 fatal arson at 5 Walling Ave., Oneonta, was captured in the basement of 91 Main St., a building right next door to OPD headquarters. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

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

ONEONTA – After 17 weeks on the run, Gabriel Truitt, 33, is in custody.

“Our detectives developed information that he was in the area and served a search warrant at 95 Main St.” – that gray, two-story apartment house right next to Oneonta Police headquarters, said Chief Doug Brenner.

Gabriel Truitt

There police found Truitt hiding in the basement of the building where his children and their mother live. He was taken into custody without incident.

Wednesday, April 17, an Otsego County Grand Jury indicted Gabriel on one count each of first-degree murder and first-degree arson, and two counts of second-degree murder for allegedly starting the Dec. 29 fire on Walling Avenue that killed John Heller, 38, a former city firefighter.

“Our theory is he intended to kill his ex-girlfriend,” said District Attorney John Muehl, “but instead he killed Mr. Heller.”

That he intended to commit a murder is transferrable, even though Heller was not the intended victim, the D.A. said.

On the night of the fire, city police arrested Gabriel for fighting with a man he saw out at a bar with his ex-girlfriend, Heather Engler. He was put in the city’s lockup, and released to his older brother Terrence, 34,  considered a “sober party,” the standard procedure for a violation, according to Brenner.

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