Laurie Leigh Shaver was charged with second-degree Homicide (domestic violence) and Accessory After the Fact to second-degree Homicide in connection with the death of her husband, Michael Shaver, who hadn’t been heard from by friends or family since late 2015.
ONEONTA – Within three days of being released from the custody of the Otsego County Corrections under the state’s new bail reform, James C. Sitts, 39, Laurens, allegedly stole a pick-up truck from a residence in Laurens.
“He was awaiting trial on two home invasions,” said Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. “But under the new law, he was released on Dec. 31.”
Though in custody of Otsego County since December 2018, Sitts had been held on the count of burglary in the second degree at the Delaware County Jail, as the Otsego County Jail is undergoing repairs. “The jail put stipulations on his release,” said Devlin. “But, of course, he violated them. I figured it would take a little longer, but we hit the ground running.”
On Friday, Jan. 3, sheriff’s deputies arrested Sitts after they received a report that a pick-up truck had been stolen in Laurens. The truck was found in another location, and Sitts was then arrested and charged with grand larceny, third degree, and criminal possession of stolen property, third degree, both class D felonies.
“The truck that was stolen was owned by someone who was self-employed,” said Devlin. “His tools were inside. So now the victim can’t work, doesn’t have the tools of his trade. He needs to make a living. This is exactly what we feared would happen.”
Sitts was remanded back to the Delaware County Jail, but because he had committed a felony while out on another felony, he was given the same bail as had been set for his previous charge, $25,000 cash or $50,000 bond.
“Sitts has been incarcerated 16 times,” said Devlin. “This isn’t someone who made an error in judgment one time. He’s been in and out of jail for years.”
Across the state, police departments and jails are dealing with the new laws. In Cohoes, Anthony Ojeda, 38, was released from jail after being charged with second-degree manslaughter, in the death of his 6-week-old son; in Cortland. Shawn Fagan, 52, was given an appearance ticket for felony second-degree assault and criminal possession of a weapon after he shot a woman in the mouth with a pellet gun.
“It’s common sense,” said District Attorney John Muehl. “If the people who made this law didn’t see this coming, maybe they shouldn’t be the ones making laws.”
Devlin is also struggling with the new discovery requirements, which state that all evidence must be turned over to the defense within 15 days of arrest.
“My deputies spent two hours scanning documents on this stolen truck case,” said Devlin. “Even a normal traffic ticket that might take 20 minutes now takes two hours of paperwork. We’re completely overwhelmed.”
But on Monday, Jan. 6, Governor Cuomo admitted there are some issues in the law that need working out.
“There’s no doubt this is still a work in progress and there are other changes that have to be made,” he said. “The Legislature comes back next year and we’re going to work on it because there are consequences that we have to adjust for.”
“At the very least, we need to give judicial discretion on whether someone should be released or not,” said state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford. “What’s the risk of releasing someone. What’s
the risk to the community? My sense is there’s a groundswell of support for doing something there.”
ONEONTA – A Facebook Group aimed at making Otsego County a “Sanctuary for the Second Amendment” is picking up momentum.
On Dec. 20, an active hunter and gun owner, Kaleb White of Oneonta, created the “2A Otsego County Sanctuary Group” on the popular social media platform.
In just over a week, more than 800 people joined the group, including county Rep. Rick Brockway, R-Laurens.
White is circulating several petitions – at Losie’s Gun Shop and Sportman Adventures, and elsewhere.
And on Feb. 5, with Brockway’s support, he plans to ask the county Board of Representatives to designate Otsego a “sanctuary county.”
Meanwhile, Brockway, who will be sworn in on Jan. 2, is seeking to line up other board members behind the idea. So far, only one other Upstate county – Wyoming, south of Batavia – is considering a “sanctuary” policy.
MORRIS – Brian Madden described the sound “like a firecracker.”
“I was spraying insulation into a hole in the wall where vermin were getting in,” said Madden, a retired SUNY Oneonta professor. “Apparently fumes of spray went under the furnace and caused a small explosion. Flames shot out and I called 911. The woman told me to get out immediately.”
The Morris fire department was dispatched just after noon to Madden’s 287 West Hill Road home. “The fire was coming through the roof upon Fire Department arrival,” said Victor Jones, assistant emergency service coordinator for Otsego County.
LAURENS – Herbert E. Baumann, 90, of Laurens, a Korean War veteran and utility lineman who retired to Otsego County from New Jersey, passed away after a brief illness early Sunday morning, December 22, 2019, surrounded by love and a loving family at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown.
Born Sept. 19, 1929, in Garfield, N.J., he was a son of Herbert Paul and Elsie (Kinscher) Baumann. He first attended schools in Paramus and later Paterson, N.J.. He left high school and worked for a time as a machinist for John Johnston in Paramus.
ONEONTA – Dr. Karl Jonathan Schoonover, 77, of Oneonta, the optometrist and former Otsego County representative, died Dec. 13, 2019. Following a five-year battle with pulmonary fibrosis, he peacefully passed away with his family by his side.
Karl was born on Sept. 6, 1942, the son of Rose and Karl Schoonover.
LAURENS – Mea Grace Stoecklin, 8, passed away at home on Sept. 24, 2019, peacefully in her sleep.
She was born Dec. 29, 2010, in Cooperstown. Mea was born with Sanfilippo, a genetic syndrome.
Her life was full with an abundance of love. Mea’s large, bright smile could light up the room. She was always happy and laughing.
Mea is survived by her parents, Brooke S. Stoecklin and Nathan M. Hitchcock; a half-sister, Allie Lauria; grandparents, Jim and Jill Stoecklin, Beth Kilts, Donald Hitchcock and Kelly Clark; great-grandparents, John L. Smith and Rocco and Louise Lauria; aunts and uncles, Morgan Stoecklin, Ryan Hitchcock, Jenna Muir, Erik Lauria, Cody Burghart; her caregiver, Traci O’Dennell; many cousins, extended family members and friends.
LAURENS – Musician Henry Kaiser had never met Cheryl Leonard before, but they both knew they had more than music in common.
Both had been part of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artist & Writers program, which invites artists to the seventh continent to work with scientists, using what they see, hear and experience
as material in their artwork. “She said she used animal bones and rocks to make music,” said Kaiser.
“I’m recording a composition with Weddell Seal sounds, and I found a skull for her to play on my piece.”
“I love the wilderness and using natural objects as instruments,” said Leonard. “And Antarctica is some of the last wilderness we really have.”
Karen Shafer, owner of Aunt Karen’s Farm in the Laurens hills, knew the Artist and Writer Program from her time in Antarctica and worked with composer Glenn McClure to invite other artists to the retreat, marking the first gathering of its kind in the area.
The retreat, over this past weekend, drew a dozen artists from across the United States and as far away as Germany. “How many people have been to Antarctica?” said Shafer. “We’ve only been going there for a little over 100 years. It’s a small group, but they’ve all shared this adventure.”
And Shafer, who retired as a funding compliance officer at Lincoln Center in 2011, is no stranger to Antarctica. “I knew someone who had worked there, and I thought to myself, ‘One day, I am going to do that.’”
When she retired in 2011, she drove a truck across the ice shelf for two years. “They called me ‘Shuttle Shafer,’” she said. “I drove this big truck, and when it was time to get in, they’d all come out and watch me climb up into it!”
In 1988, she bought a farmhouse here, and over time, bought the houses around it. She eventually turned the campus – it includes four houses – into an artist’s retreat.
She knew Elaine from her time in Antarctica, and they worked with composer Glenn McClure to invite the artists to the retreat, marking the first gathering of its kind.
“The artists were curious about who the other alumni were,” said Shafer. “Since I had been there, I thought my farm would be an appropriate place to host the first gathering.”
The gathering included composers, photographers, sculptors, textile artists and writers. “To get into the program, an artist has to propose an agenda,” said “Ghetto Cowboy” author Greg Neri. “I had a broad agenda, making science accessible to inner city kids, so I was allowed to go around with a couple different teams. The mission is to do the research you need to do your art, without getting killed.”
He said that he adapted quickly to the frigid conditions. “The only time I was cold was when I was out on the snowmobile and I got windburn on my face,” he said. “It was 40, 50 below. Other than that, you can adapt quickly.”
Sculptor Helen Glazer, who photographed icebergs, glaciers and ice caves, 3D prints her imagery and recently finished an exhibit at the Baltimore-Washington International terminal, will give a talk about her work at Colgate University in October. “I was interested in ice, how wind and water shaped the landscape,” she said. “And Antarctica was the best place to see it!”
Shaffer is hoping to make the gathering an annual event. “I didn’t want anyone to produce any new work,” said Shafer. “This was about sharing what they did in Antarctica and to begin to think about how we can expand the conversation.”
First, it should be said that there’s a troubling lack of interest this year in running for the Otsego County Board of Representatives, whose reach, from road building to social services, touches all 60,094 of us.
In the 14 districts, there are only three contests coming out of the June 25 primary:
In District 2, the one-term Democrat, former Morris Town Board member Michele Farwell, is being challenged by Marcia Hoag, a former Pittsfield Town Board member who is running on the Voice of the People line, but says she is allied with Republicans.
In District 3, where former board chair Kathy Clark, R-Otego/Laurens, is retiring. Republican Rick Brockway, a retired ferrier and outdoor columnist, and Democrat Caitlin Ogden, a Baseball Hall of Fame grantsman, are both newcomers running for the vacant seat.
In District 14, where Democrat Jill Basile and Wilson Wells, a Libertarian, are seeking to succeed Democrat Liz Shannon, who is retiring.
Contrast that with 2017, when 12 of the 14 seats were contested, and there were some humdingers.