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John Muehl

State Appellate Court Overturns Callahan Murder Conviction

State Appellate Court

Overturns Callahan

Murder Conviction

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Casey Callahan, convicted of murder early this year in his wife’s death, has had his conviction overturned by the Appellate Division, state Supreme County. (AllOTSEGO.com photo)

COOPERSTOWN – District Attorney John Muehl doesn’t see how overturning Casey Callahan’s guilty verdict is in the interest of justice.

D.A. Muehl

“This ruling was made ‘in the interest of justice,’” he said. “But their interest of justice is for a murderer, not a victim, who was a loving mother and a member of a close-knit family.”

The Appellate Division, Third Department, overturned

Callahan’s 2017 conviction for murder in the second degree in the 2000 killing of his wife, Elizabeth Welsh, on the grounds that not enough evidence was presented at trial.

“Because the evidence of the defendant’s guilt was not overwhelming, there must be a new trial,” the decision read.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Muehl.

Callahan was found guilty of the murder of Elizabeth after a four-day trial, where Muehl laid out the case that Callahan deliberately ran his wife over with his 18 wheeler in the parking lot of the Dandy Mart #19 in Sayre, Penn, just over the state line from Binghamton.

“I can kill someone and get away with it,” Muehl said in his opening remarks at trial, using what he described as the exact words of Callahan to Elizabeth’s brother, Patrick Welsh, just four months before her death. “I’d take somebody for a ride, stop at the Dandy Mart just off Route 17, just inside Pennsylvania, and run them over. They’ve got a Mayberry police department. They’re understaffed. They wouldn’t investigate an accident. That’s what they’d call it – an accident.”

At the trial, multiple witnesses testified to Callahan’s abuse of his wife, including her psychiatrist, Dr. Joan Bachorik, who said that the day before Elizabeth’s death, she told her that she was afraid Callahan would kill her.

But in the ruling, the defendant, Callahan, challenged Amanda Travis’ testimony that she saw him abuse her aunt as “beyond the scope of the Molineux application” because the prosecution requested to offer proof of verbal and emotional abuse by Callahan, but Travis also testified to witnessing him kick Elizabeth in the stomach.

“As such, the niece’s testimony, some of which was hearsay, exceeded the scope of the People’s Molineux application and deprived the defendant of a fair trial,” the ruling read.

Although no objections were made to Travis’ testimony by the defense during the trial, the judges still acknowledged that her testimony was unfair to Callahan. “Despite this infirmity, we deem it appropriate under the particular circumstances of this case to exercise in the interest of justice jurisdiction and reverse the judgment.”

“Was I supposed to object to myself?” said Muehl. “The defense didn’t object and had no reason to.”

The judges upheld two of the challenges, including the jurisdiction issue. Callahan picked up Elizabeth at their home in Goodyear Lake before he drove her to XXX, where he ran her over with his truck as she tied her shoe.

“The jury correctly concluded that the People established beyond a reasonable doubt that defendants ‘conduct in New York…manifested [his] intent to commit the crime.”

Muehl blamed “unqualified people” on the appellate bench. “The problem is that the governor has appointed judges who have never tried a jury trial,” he said. “How are you supposed to review proceedings if you’ve never been involved with one?”

Callahan had been sentenced to 25-to-life for Elizabeth’s murder. In addition to the murder charge, Callahan is already serving a 12 ½-year sentence in Attica for molesting a child in 2013. With his case now overturned, he will be released in 2025.

Muehl has not yet decided whether he will seek a new trial.

“At this point, we’re still looking at options,” he said. “But due to the potential loss of witnesses, I may not be able to retry.”

On Jan. 1, Prosecuting Crimes To Get Harder, D.A. Muehl Foresees

PART II: JUSTICE FOR ALL?

On Jan. 1, Prosecuting

Crimes To Get Harder,

D.A. Muehl Foresees

Editor’s Note:  This is the second article in a three-part series on New York State’s justice reforms, which go into effect Jan. 1.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

John Muehl

COOPERSTOWN –Fifteen days is nowhere near enough time to marshall all evidence in a criminal case, argued District Attorney John Muehl.

But that’s what the justice reforms that came out of Albany during the state Legislature’s last session will require.  They go into effect Jan. 1.

“The new ‘discovery requirements’ mean the prosecution has to get everything from the police within 15 days of arraignment so that we can turn it over to the defense,” he said during a presentation to local police officers on the state’s new discovery requirements on Thursday, Nov. 21.

The crowd include sheriff’s deputies, Oneonta police, village police, state troopers.  Oneonta Police Chief Doug Brenner was among attendees.

Muehl gave an example. “So let’s say you pull over someone on I-88 for speeding and you find five pounds of heroin in their trunk. You have to test it, but those lab results aren’t under our control, so we can’t comply with those 15 days.”

In that case, he said, police would have no choice but to take the heroin as evidence, but let the defendant go. The defendant could only be indicted and arrested after the lab results came back proving the substance was heroin.  That could take 6-8 months.

“The governor thinks we should have no problem finding them,” Muehl said sarcastically.

Failure to comply, he said, means the case could be dismissed. “Why would the defense need to see our evidence in 15 days?” he said. “No one goes to trial in 15 days.”

And from the day of arraignment, he added, the new regulations mean the prosecution has six months to take the case to trial.

“We’re going to have a lot of people who commit serious crimes, but are never prosecuted, because we have to wait to get evidence,” he said. “And when we do get the evidence, we’re never going to find the criminal to arrest them.”

Chief among his concerns are making arrests of drug dealers. “We can indict them, but we might never find them,” he said. “And even if we do find them, now we can’t put bail on them.”

He also worries about the impact on the county’s Drug Court system. “When people go to Drug Court, it’s usually because they’re in jail, they’re finally sober and they realize that they need to make a change,” he said. “If we can’t arrest them, if we can’t put them in jail, they’re out there using.”

In addition to the tightened schedule for turning over evidence, Muehl said that the defense council has expanded rights to look at the evidence with the defendant present – even if it is the crime scene.

“I’m sure it’s very comforting to the victim of a break-in to have someone that same person come back in and look around,” he said.

Additionally, Muehl would have to make a motion to redact the names of undercover informants and witnesses. “How many confidential informants will we have if they know the defense can see them?” he said. “And if we’ve got someone who’s the victim of a stranger rape, we have to turn over the name and address of the victim so the defense can contact her.”

Since April, Muehl has been upgrading the DA’s office with electronic discovery programs, including the Digital Evidence Management System, to assist law enforcement with filing their evidence within the 15 days.

“You need to give me everything in your case file,” he said. “That means all of that has to be converted to an electronic format and filed in DEMS.”

The new regulations go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

“We just have to all work together and we’ll get through it,” Muehl said. “But I see a lot of fallout coming. The state doesn’t see that there’s any difference between a speeding ticket and a triple homicide.”

DA: Mother Fell Asleep, Smothered Twins

DA: Mom Fell Asleep,

Smothered Twin Babies

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Kimberly Steeley

COOPERSTOWN – Kimberly Steeley, the woman accused of smothering her twins Bonde and Liam in 2018, did so by falling asleep while in bed with the children, District Attorney John Muehl told Judge John Lambert during a suppression hearing in Otsego County Court on Monday.

“She told police she nodded off in bed with them,” he said. “She was reckless, and there is evidence that she was abusing prescription medication to the point of intoxication while she was caring for them.”

Muehl also asked that Steeley’s three DUI convictions, including one in the Town of Maryland in January 2018, five months before the twins’ deaths, should be used as evidence to her recklessness in her upcoming trial.

Cherry Valley Woman Charged With Defrauding Models

PRESSLY MODEL AGENCY CITED

C-V Woman Charged

With Defrauding Models

Victoria Pressly

COOPERSTOWN – A Cherry Valley woman was charged with fraud after several out-of-state models claimed they paid her to help them book photo shoots and interviews, but never received any of the services promised.

Victoria Pressly, 53, owner of  Victoria Pressly PR Celebrity Agency, was indicted and charged with Grand Larceny, third degree and Scheme to Defraud, first degree, following an investigation by the Otsego County District Attorney’s office.

Bourbon-Parme To Plead Guilty, Pay Restitution To Food Pantry

Food Pantry Director

To Plead Guilty, Pay

$18K In Restitution

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Bourbon-Parme

COOPERSTOWN – Antoine Bourbon-Parme, the former director of the Cooperstown Food Pantry who was charged with stealing more than $18,000 from the organization, will plead guilty and pay back the full amount, District Attorney John Muehl said today.

“He’s never been convicted of a crime and he’s making a payment up front,” said Muehl. “That’s what’s keeping him out of jail.”

Bourbon-Parme, 59, was arrested in April after an investigation found he stole $18,579 from the organization’s accounts over 16 months., beginning in October 2017 and ending in late January.

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.”

Twins’ Mom Indicted In Newborns’ Deaths

Twins’ Mom Indicted

In Newborns’ Deaths

Twins Bonde and Liam sleep in their bassinet last spring. Their mother has been arrested in their deaths.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

DECATUR – On Saturday, May 4, Kimberly Nicole Steeley wrote a poem on her Facebook page, titled, “If I knew x Two,”

Kimberly Steeley

“If I knew it was the last time I would hold you x2, If I knew it would be the last time I kissed you x2…If I knew love that Deeply x2, If I knew I would

Have tried to save you x2,” she wrote.

On Wednesday, May 8, Steeley, 27, Decatur, was arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree manslaughter in the 2018 deaths of her twin infant children, Liam and Bonde Steeley, barely a month old whey they were found dead in their bassinettes, 16 days apart.

“At first, everyone thought Bonde died of SIDS,” said District Attorney John Muehl. “Then 11 days later, Liam died of the same condition.”

According to Rob O’Brien, Otsego County 911 director, the first call came into the county’s 911 center at 6:28 a.m. on Tuesday, June 5, to a house at 185 Skinner Hill Road in the Town of Decatur, where they found the female child unresponsive.

SPCA, Sheriff, DA Form Animal Cruelty Task Force

SPCA, Sheriff, District Attorney

Form Animal Cruelty Task Force

John Muehl, Otsego County District Attorney, Stacie Haynes. executive director of the Susquehanna SPCA and Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. have partnered to begin establishing an Animal Cruelty Task Force, aimed at preventing, educating and empowering law enforcement on how to deal with animal cruelty cases.

COOPERSTOWN – The Susquehanna SPCA will partner with the Otsego County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s office to look at creating a task force dedicated to combating animal cruelty in the county.

“In addition to having a system in place for when we do have animal cruelty cases involving animal seizures, we plan to educate and empower law enforcement and the public about the humane treatment of animals and what we can do if we suspect cruelty,” said Stacie Haynes, executive director of the Susquehanna SPCA, in a statement.

Jury Deliberations Begin in Murder Trial
CASEY CALLAHAN TRIAL: Day FOUR

Jury Deliberations

Begin in Murder Trial

District Attorney John Muehl gives his closing statement in the trial against Casey Callahan, accused of killing his wife Elizabeth in January 2000. (Parker Fish/AllOTESEGO.com)

By PARKER FISH • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

COOPERSTOWN – With a total 22 witnesses called, including suspect Casey Callahan, the prosecution and defense gave their closing arguments in the murder trial against Callahan, who was charged with killing his wife, Elizabeth Welsh Callahan, at a truck stop on January 19, 2000.

“Four tires ran directly down the center of her body,” said District Attorney John Muehl in his closing statement. “I submit you can’t do that by accident. This plan was tailor-made for Elizabeth.”

But Callahan’s defense argued that the jury is tasked with deciding if jurisdiction allowed Elizabeth’s death in Pennsylvania, which Callahan maintained was an accident, could be prosecuted in New York. “There is no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that this case belongs in New York State,” said William Schebaum, Callahan’s attorney. “I urge you not to allow speculation, emotion, or even a dislike of the defendant to be a substitute to fact.”

Elizabeth’s Last Words: ‘I Love You’ Investigator Testifies
CASEY CALLAHAN TRIAL: Day THREE

Victim’s Words Before Death,

Investigator Says: ‘I Love You’

COOPERSTOWN – Investigator Sean Ralph testified that Casey Callahan, currently on trial for the 2000 murder of his wife, Elizabeth Welsh Callahan, told him that her final words to her husband were “‘I love you, I’ll see you on the other side’,” allegedly referring to the opposite side of the Dandy Mart truck stop where Callahan was to pick her up.

Killing Intrigued Callahan, 2 Former Friends Testify

CASEY CALLAHAN TRIAL: Day ONE

Killing Intrigued Suspect,

2 Former Friends Testify

By PARKER FISH • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Casey Callahan, right, is led out of the Otsego County Courthouse by a sheriff’s deputy at the conclusion of the first day of his trial. An Attica inmate, he is currently being housed at the Otsego County Jail. (Parker Fish/AllOTSEGO.com)

COOPERSTOWN – Casey Callahan, on trial for murder in Otsego County Court, discussed with two friends why and how he would kill someone shortly before the 2000 death of his wife, the two testified this afternoon.

“I’ve always wanted to know what it felt like” to kill someone, one witness, Joseph Keto, Oneonta, on the stand this afternoon, recalled hearing Callahan say.

“He said he would run someone over with a truck,” said the other witness, Patrick Welsh, Goodyear Lake, brother of the alleged murder victim, Elizabeth Welsh Callahan, Casey’s wife.

Callahan’s trial, which began with opening statements this morning, recessed for lunch, then testimony continued until 4:30.

Judge Denies Underwood Request For Change Of Counsel

Judge Denies Underwood

Request For New Attorney

Joshua P. Underwood is led into Otsego County Court this morning, where a scheduled felony hearing was closed, pending the Grand Jury’s decision on whether or not to indict. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By LIBBY CUDMORE • for www.allotsego.com

Judge Lucy P. Bernier denied Underwood’s request for change of counsel.

ONEONTA – Judge Lucy P. Bernier denied Joshua Underwood’s request for a change of counsel during his appearance in Oneonta City Court this morning.

Underwood, who had been arrested and charged with murder in the New Year’s Day death of Mark J. Morrison, 52, had written a letter to Judge Bernier, dated Jan. 8, to request the change, saying his lawyer, Assistant Public Defender James Ferrari, spoke to the press after he asked him not to.

“Mr. Ferrari is an experienced counsel,” said Bernier. “I see no basis to this claim, and am denying this request.”

AFTER 16 YEARS, MURDER CHARGED

AFTER 16 YEARS,

MURDER CHARGED

D.A. Says Former Goodyear Lake

Man Killed Wife In Pennsylvania

Casey Callahan
Casey Callahan

COOPERSTOWN – After 16 years, Casey James Callahan, 50, has been arrested and charged with the murder of his wife, Elizabeth.

Otsego County District Attorney John M. Muehl annouced a few minutes ago he believes that Callahan, a Unadilla native, originated the plan to kill his wife while they were living in Goodyear Lake.  On Jan. 19, 2000, according to a press release, Callahan ran over Elizabeth with a tractor trailer in the parking lot of the Dandy Mini Mart # 19 in Sayre, Pa., just off Route 17’s Exit 59A at Wilawan, west of Binghamton.

“We believe he took her there to kill her,” said Muehl.  “We believe the intent originated here in Otsego County.”

Milford Man Arrested For Child Rape

Milford Man Charged With Child Rape

MILFORD – A 45-year-old Milford man was arrested and charged with child rape after the Otsego County District Attorney’s office received information that he was abusing an underage female, it was announced over the weekend.

Kevin William Blush was arrested April 29 after investigators at the DA’s office received a tip that he was having sexual contact with a girl under the age of 15.

20-20 Explores Neighbors’ Feud In Hartwick That Let To Arrests

20-20 Explores Neighbors’ Feud

In Hartwick That Led To Arrests

ABC's 20-20 "Bad Neighbors" episode Friday evening featured Gene Ellis waving "posted" signs and an interview with neighbors Gene Sohacki and Katherine Gannon for filing too many complaints.
ABC’s 20-20 “Bad Neighbors” episode Friday evening featured Gene Ellis waving “posted” signs and an interview with neighbors Paul Sohacki and Katherine Gannon (inset) for filing too many complaints against Ellis.

HARTWICK – A couple living on 12 acres in Nersesian Road, Town of Hartwick, complained so often about their neighbor Gene Ellis, who lives on 52 acres next door, that they were arrested, according to a report on ABC’s 20-20 Friday evening.

District Attorney John Muehl is featured, defending his decision.

It all started, the couple Paul Sohacki and Katherine Gannon recall, because Ellis’ driveway crossed a sliver of their land, according to 20-20 interview.

SEE THE WHOLE VIDEO FROM LAST NIGHT’S 20-20 ON ABC

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