News of Otsego County

fatal fire

77-Year-Old Man Died Early Today In Fly Creek Fire

77-Year-Old Man

Dies Early Today

In Fly Creek Fire

FLY CREEK – The state fire marshal’s office is investigating a fatal fire that broke out at  5:29 this morning at 168 Jones Road, near Oaksville.

A 77-year-old man died in the fire, which broke in the rear of the one-story home, where the bedrooms are located, on the hillside of Jones Road, which cuts across from Route 28 to Route 80.

Two stepsons were at the scene a few minutes ago, but no further information was immediately available.




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.


Chief: OPD Will Call In U.S. Marshals In Search For Arson Suspect Truitt

Chief: OPD Will Call In

U.S. Marshals In Search

For Arson Suspect Truitt

Chief Brenner

ONEONTA – Police Chief Douglas Brenner said a few minutes ago his department is gathering information that will allow it to bring the U.S. Marshals Office into the search for Gabriel Truitt, the former proprietor of the Tru Cut barber shop being sought in the Dec. 29 fatal fire on Walling Avenue.

The step taken by an Otsego County Grand Jury, which issued an indictment against Truitt on Wednesday, facilitates getting the Marshals Office involved, the chief said.  Previously, the OPD had been empowered only by a warrant to apprehend the suspect.





Gabriel Truitt, First Suspect’s Brother,

Faces Murder Arson Counts, Still At Large

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

John Muehl

ONEONTA – Gabriel Truitt, the brother of the man originally arrested in the Dec. 29 fatal fire at 5 Walling Ave., has been indicted for first-degree murder and other counts, District Attorney John Muehl said a few minutes ago.

Truitt’s brother, Terrence, spent five weeks in Otsego County Jail, but was freed Feb. 11 when it became clear to authorities he had not committed the crime.

A grand jury yesterday returned four counts against Gabriel Truitt.  In addition to first-degree murder, that included one count of first-degree arson, and two counts of second-degree murder.

“Our theory is he intended to kill his ex-girlfriend,” Muehl said, “but instead he killed Mr. Heller,” referring to John Heller, 38, who lived in the third-floor apartment.  That he intended to commit a murder is transferrable, even though Heller was not the intended victim, he said.





Unnamed New Suspect Is Sought

In Hero’s Death In Oneonta Fire

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

District Attorney John Muehl said that new evidence suggests that Terrence Truitt did not set the fire that killed firefighter John Heller, (Ian Austin/

ONEONTA – New evidence obtained by Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl has suggested that Terrence Truitt did not set the fatal fire that killed former Oneonta firefighter John D. Heller.

Muehl said that he plans to ask the courts to release Truitt from the Otsego County Jail this afternoon.

“Our investigation has revealed additional evidence that ethically requires him to be released,” said Muehl.

The arson charges, however, will not be dropped, according to Muehl.

Truitt’s Felony Hearing Rescheduled For 1:30 p.m. In Oneonta City Court

Truitt Felony Hearing Scheduled

For 1:30 p.m. In Oneonta Court

ONEONTA – Terrence Truitt, 34, suspected in the arson death of former firefighter John Heller last Saturday in the 5 Walling Ave. fire, had his felony hearing rescheduled for 1:30 p.m. today.  He was brought to the city’s Public Safety Center at 8:30 this morning, but did not appear in the courtroom during the regular morning session.

Leads Poured In, Leading To Arrest Of Oneonta Man, 34


Leads Poured In,

Leading To Arrest

Of Oneonta Man, 34

Police, Fire Chiefs Detail What’s Known

Fire Chief Pat Pidgeon, left, and Police Chief Doug Brenner detail what they know at a 5 p.m. press conference in Oneonta City Hall. For a video of the press conference, click here.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Terrence Truitt

ONEONTA – Within hours of Saturday morning’s fire that claimed the life of former Oneonta firefighter John D. Heller, the leads began to pour in.

“We had more than 70 leads,” said Police Chief Doug Brenner an hour ago at a press conference held jointly with Fire Chief Pat Pidgeon. “And the investigation is continuing.”

The men reported Terrence Truitt, 34, Oneonta, was arrested and charged with first-degree arson, which investigators believe started on the second floor of 5 Walling Ave.

Heller and his fiancee, Amber Roe, lived on the top floor, and had their four nephews staying with them that night. Heller and Roe helped the children escape, but then was unable to get out of the building.



County Board Observes ‘Moment Of Silence’ For Heller’s Heroism

County Board Observes ‘Moment

Of Silence’ For Heller’s Heroism

COOPERSTOWN – As one, county representatives bowed their heads for a “moment of silence” at this morning’s meeting in remembrance of John D. Heller, the former OFD on-call firefighter who died Saturday, Dec. 29, in a fire on Oneonta’s Walling Avenue.

County Rep. Dan Wilber, R-Town of Burlington, proposed the observance, noting Heller’s heroism:  His sister-in-law said he died while rescuing his four nephews and fiance from the flames.

In a related development, Oneonta Police Chief Douglas Brenner and Fire Chief Patrick Pidgeon scheduled a press conference at 5 p.m. to provide “an update on the investigation.”

Friday Funeral For Hero Firefighter

Friday Funeral Planned

For Heroic Firefighter

John Heller

ONEONTA – A funeral for John Heller, the former firefighter who died rescuing his four nephews and fiancee in the Saturday morning fire at his Walling Avenue home, will be at 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4 at the Bookhout Funeral Home.

Calling hours will be 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 3.

Heller served with the Oneonta Fire Department in an on-call and part-time capacity from 2002-2009.

Oneonta Firefighter Died Saving Kids, Family Reports


Oneonta Fireman

Died Saving Kids,

Sister-in-Law Says

Erika Heller posted this photo of her brother-in-law, John Heller, on Facebook as she described how the former Oneonta firefighter sacrificed his life to get her sons and his fiancee, Amber, to safety when the fire broke out at his Walling Avenue home.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Heller became trapped on the upper floor of 5 Walling Ave. after helping his nephews and his fiance escape the fire. (Ian Austin/

ONEONTA – John Heller, the former Oneonta firefighter who died when his home at 5 Walling Ave. caught fire Saturday morning, was trapped while helping his fiancee and his nephews escape the blaze, his sister-in-law reported.

“What began as a fun sleepover with their uncle John and soon-to-be aunt Amber turned into a nightmare,” Erika Heller, his sister-in-law, wrote in a Facebook post Sunday morning. “He died because he did everything he could to make sure that his fiancee and my sons were out of the home safely.

Names Released In Fatal Davenport Fire

Names Released In

Fatal Davenport Fire

DAVENPORT – The names of the victims in Friday’s fatal apartment fire in Davenport have been released, according to state police.

Kiley J. Sullivan, 3 and Cody E. Sullivan, 1, died as a result of the fire at 498 Dehning Rd., in the town of Davenport. Their father, Carmen E. Sullivan, 44, was taken to Upstate Medical in Syracuse for burn juries.

Infant, 3-Year-Old Identified As Davenport Fire Victims




Trooper Mike Slawek, Troop C, stands watch over the scene of the the double-fatal house fire at 478 Dehning Road, Town of Davenport. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

DAVENPORT – Two children, ages one and 3, were identified as the victims in the fatal structure fire early this morning in the Town of Davenport.

According to a release posted to the Delaware County Department of Emergency Services Facebook page, the 911 call was received this morning at 1:46 a.m. Arriving at the scene, responding units found the four-unit apartment building fully engulfed in flames, with reports of two children trapped in one of the upstairs apartments.

2 Children Killed In Davenport Fire

2 Children Killed

In Davenport Fire

DAVENPORT – Two children were killed and one adult hospitalized with burn injuries after a house fire in in the Town of Davenport.

According to a news release, State Police responded to a Delaware County 911 call at 1:46 a.m. reporting a structure fire at 435 Dehning Road.  The fire was extinguished by Davenport Fire Dept., Pindars Corners Fire Dept., Hobart Fire Dept., and Kortright Fire Dept, but an investigation determined that two children died in the fire, and one adult victim was taken to Upstate Medical in Syracuse for burn injuries.

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