DUCK DERBY – 10 a.m. Help launch a flock of rubber duckies at the headwaters of the Susquehanna. Support Cooperstown Leo Club on day trip to the United Nations in NYC. Cost, $5/duck or $20/5-ducks at Otesaga, Mel’s @ 22, others. Finish line just South of Main St. Bridge, Cooperstown. 607-282-2956 or visit www.facebook.com/CooperstownLionsClub/
Chris Kuhn, Director of the Oneonta Job Corps Academy, addresses family, friends and firefighters gathered in ‘the octagon,’ a hallway interchange on the third floor of Oneonta Job Corps named in honor of the late John D. Heller, who lost his life in December rescuing his fiancee and their nephews from the Walling Street arson. “We love him and we miss him.” said Kuhn. “It is our hope that when people walk through this space they will see his story and be inspired.” Members of the Oneonta Fire Department were present, as well as Mayor Gary Herzig, who remarked “This intersection was always full of life, it is only fitting it should be named after him.” At right, Heller’s fianceé Amber Roe speaks beneath his photo. “This is where we met. We spent a lot of time here talking and it was here fell in love.” Photos and stories of Heller’s life and sacrifice, along with his helmet signed by loved ones, are now on display in the John D. Heller Memorial. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
ONEONTA – A community blood drive will be held in honor of John Heller, the former firefighter and Life Skill Supervisor who was killed in the Walling Street arson last December.
The community drive will be held 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 21 in the gym at the Oneonta Job Corps, 21 Homer Folks Ave, with the dedication of the John Heller memorial on the third floor octagon at 2 p.m.
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.
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.
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 – 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.
DINNER – Spaghetti fundraiser for a scholarship in honor of former Oneonta fire fighter John Heller. Reservations Required. $10 adults, $5 children. 6th Ward Athletic Club, 22 West Broadway, Oneonta. Info, email@example.com
ALBANY – The state Senate today passed a resolution bestowing its Liberty Medal, the upper house’s highest honor, on John D. Heller, the former Oneonta firefighter who saved five lives before dying in a Dec. 29 arson at 5 Walling Ave.
State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who introduced the resolution, noted it is given for “meritorious action against hostile odds. John Heller was that type of individual. John displayed great courage in saving the lives of his fiancé and four young nephews, and he made the ultimate sacrifice.
ONEONTA – “You spent your last day on Earth saving others,” his sister-in-law, Erika Heller, declared this afternoon at John Heller’s funeral. “We are so proud.”
Erika, along with John’s fiance Amber Roe, his Oneonta Job Corps colleague Kathleen Feeney, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, and the Rev. Judith Thistle, pastor of Worcester’s Second Baptist Church, addressed 350 mourners – reflective, often tearful – this afternoon in Foothills’ Atrium.
At calling hours at Bookhout Funeral Home last evening, the line was up to 2 1/2 hours long.
Today’s speakers painted an affectionate picture of a young man who had grown into a brave, loving, dedicated adult, full of humanity and humor.
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.