News of Otsego County

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


Oneonta News

20 Tires Punctured Overnight In Oneonta

20 Tires Punctured

Overnight In Oneonta

ONEONTA – Oneonta Police are seeking the suspects in more than 20 incidents of tires punctured overnight in Oneonta’s East End.

“We started getting calls at 10 a.m. this morning,” said Police Chief Doug Brenner. “And we’ve been collecting statements all day.”

Despite Heat, Diners Come Downtown For Outdoor Eats

Despite Heat, Diners Come

Downtown For Outdoor Eats

George Etzl reaches for another piece of the sushi boat he got with his family at Tokyo Tavern during the first of Survive, Then Thrive’s Main Street dining events. With him, clockwise, are son Luca, wife Sarah, daughter Caitlin and son Alex. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Klasic Irving’s jerk chicken made a welcome return to downtown as he cooked it up in front of his Capresso cafe.

ONEONTA – You could smell Klasik Irving’s Jamaican jerk chicken all the way down Main Street.

“It’s the first time I’ve had the grill out since the pandemic started,” said Irving, who was grilling his much-loved dish for diners waiting at the tables stationed in front of his Capresso coffee shop. “It smells great, but it tastes even better.”

The city’s Survive, Then Thrive task force held the first of their eight-week outdoor dining event, closing off Main Street for the day to encourage visitors to support local businesses and restaurants and allowing them to place tables and merchandise on the sidewalks and the street.

At Sentencing, Heller’s Family Lashes Truitt
‘He Can’t Destroy Anyone Else’s Life Ever Again’




Erika Heller, center, criticizes Gabriel Truitt, foreground, for rolling his eyes as she read her victim’s impact statement at Truitt’s sentencing this morning. Truitt, who was found guilty of the arson and murder of John Heller in January, was sentenced to life in prison without parole. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Truitt slouches in his chair as County Judge Brian Burns reads off a list of his prior convictions, starting when he was 17 years old.

COOPERSTOWN – Erika Heller, John Heller’s sister-in-law, did not hold back as she read her victim’s impact statement at the sentencing of Gabriel Truitt in Otsego County Court this morning.

“You stole John from us,” she said. “For four young boys, you stole childhood and innocence and peace of mind. We are all serving a life sentence because of the selfish decision you made. You should have to do the same.”

Truitt, 35, was sentenced to life without parole for the murder of John Heller, who died rescuing his fiancée, Amber Roe, and his four nephews after Truitt set a fire in the 5 Walling Ave. apartment house where they lived in an attempt to murder his girlfriend, Heather Engler, who he had fought with prior to setting the fire on Dec. 29, 2018.

Is Governor Requiring $1,000 Fine For People Who Don’t Wear Masks?

Is Governor Requiring

$1,000 Fine For People

Who Don’t Wear Masks?

Oneonta Will; Cooperstown Unsure

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

Mayor Tillapaugh
Mayor Herzig

ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig said a few minutes ago that Governor Cuomo yesterday directed municipalities to enforce a state Department of Health directive allowing localities to fine people who do not wear masks up to $1,000 per violation.

Fearful of what 7,000 college students may bring with them this fall, Herzig said, “I don’t think the state is saying local governments should decide whether to enforce it or not. The message from the Governor’s Office is that it’s a law and we’re expected to enforce it.”

Truitt To Be Sentenced Friday

Guilty Of Arson, Murder,

Truitt Sentenced Friday

Gabriel Truitt

COOPERSTOWN – Gabriel Truitt, who was found guilty of the arson and murder of John Heller in December 2018, will be sentenced on Friday, July 17 as in-person court appearances resume at the Otsego County Courthouse.

“He’s facing life without parole and that’s what I’m going to ask for,” said District Attorney John Muehl. “He should be in jail from now on.”

Delgado Reopens District Offices, Including Oneonta

Delgado Reopens Oneonta Office

Congressman Delgado

ONEONTA – Congressman Antonio Delgado, D-19, will reopen his Oneonta office at 189 Main St., Suite 500, to hold in-person meetings with constituents by appointment.

“My priority remains the health and safety of our community while continuing to serve every person in New York’s 19th Congressional District with transparency, accountability and accessibility,” said Delgado. “In accordance with health guidelines, my district offices in Kingston, Oneonta, Delhi, Liberty, and Hudson are now open for in-person meetings by appointment.”

Teen Center Hosts 48 Hour Art Contest

Teen Center Hosts

48 Hour Art Contest

ONEONTA – In conjunction with Downtown Oneonta, the Oneonta Teen Center is hosting a 48 Hour Art Contest to design an 11″ x 17″ poster promoting social distancing, hand-washing or wearing a mask.

The winning poster will be hung in shops and restaurants on Main Street in Oneonta.

Swart-Wilcox Sunday Series Kicks Off With Social Distancing, Marbled Paper

Swart-Wilcox Sunday Series

Kicks Off With Marbled Paper

With plenty of room to spread out for social distancing, the Swart-Wilcox House kicked off their annual Summer Sundays series with a talk from Elaine Downing, right, on marbled paper. Guests were asked to bring their own lawn chairs and masks, and although the house was not open for tours, the lawn was wide open for seating. The series will continue at 1 p.m. every Sunday throughout the summer with talks on Women’s Suffrage, S.S. Van Dine and more; next week, Karen Cuccinello will give a talk on patriot, soldier and temperance lecturer Ned Buntline of Stamford.

The Hill City Rollers Skate Against Hate

The Hill City Rollers

Skate Against Hate

Baby Lace, Mrs. Boutfire and Bizzy Cheap Skate lead a a group around Neahwa Park this morning at the Hill City Roller Derby team took a stand against hate. The demonstration was part of the Worldwide Roll Out Day: Roll To Erase Hate movement started by skating coach Skate Fan Tazee out of Atlanta. “We wanted to get people from the rolling community to promote positivity and safe spaces in our community.” explained Mrs. Boutfire (aka Robin Williams, Oneonta) “We want to be open to all people. Derby is about anyone being able to do it regardless of color, body type, gender, or how much you have skated. This is an all-inclusive sport!” The group met at the skatepark and rolled their way around the park with their signs. “Anything we can do to make a statement.” said Jim Ruffo, Oneonta, “We will not stand for hate.”(Ian Austin/
Leroy Charles Klein, 78; Oneonta Native Was Retired Contractor

IN MEMORIAM: Leroy Charles Klein, 78;

Oneonta Native Was Retired Contractor

Leroy Charles Klein

ONEONTA – Oneonta native Leroy Charles Klein, 78, of Keystone Heights, Fla., passed away Sunday, July 5, 2020, from injuries he sustained in a tractor accident.

He was born May 31, 1942, in Oneonta, to Edward and Doris (Earing) Klein. Mr. Klein served in the  Navy and was a retired contractor. He was Episcopalian and loved staying busy doing odds and ends.

In addition to his father his son Wayne Klein and brothers Philip Klein and Paul Klein had also preceded him death. Mr. Klein leaves behind is daughters Shawn McClure (Robert) of Boynton Beach, Fla., and Jannell Davisson of West Columbia, S.C.

Reprinted From This Week’s
Hometown Oneonta, Freeman’s Journal



From Mary

Jim Belleau shows off two views of Notre Dame de Paris, which he has used in developing his computerized schematic of what he calls “Mary’s Plan” for the iconic cathedral. (Jim Kevlin/
Inspired by a 2017 visit to the shrine at Lourdes, France, a devout Jim Belleau of Oneonta prayerfully offered to organize seminars to explore the meaning of the Virgin Mary’s 18 appearances in 1858 to a 14-year-old peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, “unless you have somethng better for me.” Belleau believes that “something better” is coming to pass.

By JIM KEVLIN • Special to

ONEONTA – “It was an amazing moment.”

It was October 2017, and Jim Belleau was in his third or fourth night of his second visit to Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine in France.

A procession at Lourdes, photographed by Jim Belleau in 2017.

“We witnessed this procession,” the Principally Prints owner recalled the other day. “It was a warm night. The moon was out. And, for an hour, I had just witnessed 12,000 people singing the Rosary and holding candles.”

St. Mary with crown, the statue in the Lourdes plaza.

He had attended a mass, in Italian, at the Grotto, and was walking back to the hotel, crossing the 124-acre main square – it can accommodate up to 100,000 visitors; now it was completely empty – with the cathedral-like chapel behind him.

“I turned toward Mary,” he said, a famed statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, crowned, “and I got down on one knee. And I placed the rest of my life at her service. I said literally that.”

Oneonta Mayor: Bars Beware Or Be Closed
Reprinted From This Week’s
Hometown Oneonta, Freeman’s Journal

Question: Can Students Safely Return?

Mayor Herzig:

Bars Beware

Or Be Closed

Hayley Dower, manager, Red Jug Pub, is already a social distancing VIP, setting up the “velvet rope” to limit the number of customers in her bar. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig has a message if returning Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta students go out on the town – follow the rules, or the fun stops.

“We will enforce the state regulations,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “If you’re not at a table, you need to have your mask on. You can’t be elbow-to-elbow at the bar. We will send the police, code enforcement or the state Liquor Authority in to respond to complaints.”

As the colleges announced reopening plans for this fall, Herzig plans to meet with the two college presidents, Hartwick’s Margaret Drugovich and SUNY Oneonta’s Barbara Jean Morris, to lay out the city’s new approach.

City, Chamber: Come Get Your PPE!

City, Chamber:

Come Get Your PPE!

Masked man Mayor Gary Herzig, gives Peter Clark, foreground, a gallon of hand sanitizer as part of the “Survive, Then Thrive” giveaway of personal protective equipment, including hand sanitizer, masks and thermometers, to local businesses at Damaschke Field this morning. 85 businesses have signed up for appointments to get the PPE, contact-free, but there are still slots available tomorrow from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Call the Otsego County Chamber (607) 434-3130 for an appointment (Ian Austin/
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