COOPERSTOWN – Nicholas Meridy, who plead guilty to second-degree murder in the October 2019 death of Kenneth Robinson at his home in Worcester, was sentenced to 22 years to life in prison during a hearing in Otsego County Court this morning.
“I’m satisfied with it,” said District Attorney John Muehl. “After speaking with the family, that was the offer I made so we didn’t have to put them through a trial.”
COOPERSTOWN – It took just over two hours for the jury to find Gabriel Trutt, 33, guilty of arson and murder in the Dec. 29, 2018, fatal fire at 5 Walling Ave., Oneonta, that killed John Heller.
Heller, a former Oneonta fireman, got his four nephews and fiancée to safety before he was trapped in the third-floor apartment and succumbed to the smoke. He was hailed as a hero.
“I’m thrilled, but this isn’t about whether I won or lost,” said District Attorney John Muehl. “This really is justice. He was guilty and the evidence was overwhelming. We can’t bring John back, but we did as much as we could for him.”
COOPERSTOWN – Shortly after noon today, a jury found Gabriel Truitt guilty on all four counts of arson and murder charges in the Dec. 29, 2018, early morning fire at 5 Whalling Ave., Oneonta, where former Oneonta firefighter John Heller died.
This is a developing story; please check back this afternoon for details.
City Attorney David Merzig and building owner Melania Pervu met with County Judge John F. Lambert’s law clerk in Cooperstown this morning, following the release of the inspection report into the former Oneonta Hotel at 195 Main St. that showed filthy bathrooms, holes in walls and ceilings and tiles covering the sprinkler system.
According to Merzig, the clerk recommended that the city bring an Order to Show Cause to the judge, recommending punishment for the Pervus – Melania and her husband Nicolae – for failing to comply with Lambert’s September order that the building be brought up to code by Jan. 11. The order will then be presented to the judge for his ruling.
ONEONTA – Citing missing kitchen appliances, holes in the ceiling and a blocked sprinkler system, among nearly a dozen pages of code violations, the City will argue that Melania Pervu, owner of the former Oneonta Hotel at 195 Main St., has failed to remedy the unsafe conditions of her building, as ordered by County Judge John Lambert last September.
“There are still considerable violations,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “We have an obligation to make sure everybody in the city lives in a building deemed safe.”
With the court-imposed deadline of Jan. 11 passed, Judge John F. Lambert has requested a meeting with the city and Pervu at 10 a.m Friday, Jan. 25. “We will present the fact that our inspection shows outstanding violations,” said Herzig. “We took a number of photographs to demonstrate our concern.”
ONEONTA – In an order by county Judge John Lambert, owner Melania Pervu must make all repairs to the building at 195 Main St. before the Jan. 11, 2019 deadline or she could be held in contempt of court, according to a decision made Friday, Dec. 7.
“The city believes she violated the order, but understands the reluctance to issue a vacancy order before Christmas,” said City Attorney David Merzig.
Oneonta Hotel owner Melania Pervu, above, was back in county court in Cooperstown this morning after City Hall declared she had not met an Oct. 15 deadline to apply for building permits for all the deficiencies building inspectors had identified in the five-story structure at 195 Main St. County Judge John Lambert said he would issue a decision in this latest development by week’s end. Lambert had also presided at a Sept. 7 hearing where he outlined a schedule of improvements the Pervus – the wife and husband Nicolae – must make to forestall condemnation in early January. Inset, City Attorney David Merzig, left, waits as Lambert acts on a number of criminal cases before getting to the Oneonta Hotel. (Libby Cudmore and Jim Kevlin, www.AllOTSEGO.com)
ONEONTA – Otsego County’s first slaying of 2017 – on New Year’s morning – happened in an Oneonta apartment with a surveillance camera in every room.
The cameras helped put suspect Joshua Underwood, 25, in the victim’s room, and help convict the man, said District Attorney John Muehl.
Underwood was convicted Friday, March 30, to 20 years in jail.
“Witnesses said they got into a fight about Joshua Underwood having a girlfriend,” said Muehl. “Morrison went to bed, and on video, we have Underwood checking on Morrison. Shortly after that, the video went out, and that’s about the approximate time Morrison was killed.”
Officials say around 3:30 a.m. Jan. 1, 2017, Underwood called 911 and reported that he had killed his boyfriend, 52-year-old Mark Morrison of Oneonta. Police found Morrison dead in his Main Street apartment from what was later ruled to be blunt force trauma to the head. Police also alleged that Underwood tried to conceal the crime by stuffing the apartment doorway with newspapers and setting them on fire.
Though originally scheduled to be sentenced in mid-December, Underwood tried to withdraw his guilty plea for first-degree manslaughter, claiming he was coerced by the public defender’s assistant assigned to the case.
Above, Gerald Althiser, 21, and his lawyer, David Taylor, listen as county Judge John F. Lambert reads the terms of Althiser’s guilty plea this morning. Althiser plead guilty to attempted arson, third degree, for the fire that destroyed the Milford United Methodist Church last March. At right, Rev. Sylvia Barrett, pastor of the First United Methodist Church, read a statement on behalf of the church, telling Althiser that although they forgave him and were praying for him, they hoped the court would sentence him to a facility where he could receive mental health treatment. Lambert sentenced Althiser to five years probation, to be served at the Homer Folks Facility, a supervised institution for the developmentally disabled, where he will receive counseling. Should he attempt to leave the facility, he will be arrested and sent to state prison for up to seven years. A judgement of $1 million was also placed against him. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
COOPERSTOWN – Casey Callahan is scheduled to go to trial on March 27 in the alleged murder of his wife, Elizabeth, according to District Attorney John Muehl.
He was charged last June with her murder, which Muehl believes was planned in Otsego County. Callahan is currently serving 12 1/2 years at the Attica Correctional Facility for a conviction on criminal sexual act in the first degree.