Sunday, May 31, 2020

Why Did the N.Y.S. Police Fail to Check the Phone Records for the Night of Mark’s Truck Fire?

Previous posts (see esp. October 16, 2016; February 28 and April 30, 2019) have brought up the problem that New York State Police investigators failed to check the telephone records for the night of my brother’s suspicious truck fire and refused to check them later when asked to so. An acquaintance of my brother’s allegedly had called him at 10:30 p.m. to discuss the results of a football pool, and when not finding him at home, spoke instead with Mark’s wife for about half an hour.   That call allegedly ended when Mark’s wife Susan saw his truck in flames in the field across from their house.  Since 10:30 p.m. is very late for a business or social call, the lead police investigator should certainly have made the effort to verify it.

In addition, because the N.Y.S. police investigator oddly found no one except Mark’s wife who had seen him that whole day, he should have tried to determine from the phone records if Mark himself had spoken by phone to anyone during the evening or earlier in the day.  It would not have been difficult to do, since in general my brother had his own set of friends.

Finally, the investigator should have checked the phone records to learn if any calls had been made by or to the off-duty Salamanca police officer who had been involved in a heated argument with my brother at a local club the day before the truck fire and had called in to the local police to pick Mark up for DWI when he left the club.

This post discusses how in an interview in May 2010 with the Cattaraugus County district attorney and the senior N.Y.S.P. investigator in Mark’s case (on which, see posts of March 23 and April 20, 2011), the responses to my questions about the phone records point to a cover-up of my brother’s suspicious death on the part of the N.Y.S. Police.  At that meeting, John Ensell, the senior investigator in Mark’s case (in 2010 an investigator for the D.A.), claimed that Mark Marowski, the Salamanca policeman who got into the altercation with my brother the day before the truck fire, had in fact been interviewed.

However, there is no mention of that interview in the police report.  In addition, in a telephone conversation with N.Y.S. Lt. Allen in April 2007, I brought up the problem that Marowski was apparently never interviewed. Lt. Allen did not deny it, but simply remained silent.

At the meeting in May 2010, Ensell also claimed that, according to Holy Cross Club members present during the altercation between my brother and Marowski, it hadn't been much of an argument anyway.  However, Ensell’s claim contradicts what the lead investigator, Edward Kalfas, told Atty. Michael Kelly in 2005, specifically that he had not asked members of the Holy Cross Club about the argument between my brother and Marowski.  In addition, as several individuals reported to me, Marowski had frequently got into rather nasty arguments with my brother at that club.

District Attorney Lori Rieman, newly elected at the time, went virtually lock-step with Ensell in denying the validity of each point I raised.  She claimed that a subpoena would have been required to obtain the phone records and that serious evidence of criminal activity would have been necessary for requesting it.  She also stated that there was no reason to believe that Mark’s wife Susan had not been on the phone, citing the interview with Pete Rapacioli to confirm it.  Shockingly, Rieman completely contradicted her statements to me in October 2009 that the records should have been checked and it would have been significant if the alleged call had not taken place.

As Rieman was also well aware, the State Police knew from the beginning of the investigation that my brother and his wife were not getting along and that a divorce was approaching.  That circumstance, in particular, would have warranted investigation of the phone records.  How would Ensell and Rieman have responded to the anonymous letter sent to me in 2014 (see post of August 11, 2014), reporting that my brother’s wife and Officer Marowski were having an affair at the time of my brother’s death?  Would they simply have dismissed that, too?

In May 2005, when I asked Michael Kelly, a prominent Buffalo criminal attorney and former assistant district attorney in Erie County, review the case, he stated the following: (1) As a matter of course, Inv. Kalfas should have checked the telephone records for the alleged phone conversation of Susan Pavlock and Pete Rapacioli the night of the fire. (2) Inv. Kalfas appeared to be protecting Salamanca policeman Mark Marowski by not mentioning him in the police report where he refers to Mark's "unusual" behavior at the Holy Cross Club that day.

As the interview in May 2010 suggests, Ensell seems clearly to have fabricated information to make the investigation into my brother’s suspicious death seem professional and unbiased.  Unfortunately, it was anything but professional and unbiased.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

More on the Failure of the N.Y.S. Police to Pursue the Question of Mark’s Head Wounds

A previous post (January 29, 2019) pointed out information about head wounds sustained by my brother that was relayed in a meeting by Atty. Michael Kelly to Senior Inv. John Wolfe and Inv. Edward Kalfas in September 2005.

As that post reported, earlier in 2005, my brother’s attending physician at the burn unit of the Erie County Medical Center had informed me that a CT scan revealed deep soft-tissue swelling on Mark’s forehead, suggesting that he had received a blow to his head, and additional soft-tissue damage to the left side of his face.  Not long after, a firefighter revealed to Kelly that he had seen a wound on my brother’s forehead the night of the fire, which looked as if Mark has been hit with a nine-iron.  This post considers further why the New York State Police failed to pursue the issue of those head wounds in 2005 and why they did not interview both men during the investigation itself in 2003.

Since firefighter Wayne Frank was one of the first emergency workers on the scene and helped to put the fire out on Mark, he should have been asked to give a witness statement as the other two firefighters, Gary Wind and Mark Ward, were.  Kalfas, however, did not interview Wayne Frank at all during the investigation.  When I learned by chance in July 2005 that Wayne Frank had been on the scene of Mark’s truck fire, I asked him about what he had observed.  He said that the fire did not look like an accident and added that the police should have looked for Mark’s nine-iron.  When Kelly interviewed him shortly afterwards, the firefighter willingly informed him about the wound on Mark’s forehead.

During the same meeting with the two State Police investigators in September 2005, Kelly suggested that they interview Wayne Frank, and Wolfe agreed to do it.  Yet several months went by, and Kelly heard nothing from Wolfe.  So, in January 2006, Kelly followed up on the issue with a call to Wolfe, but by February Wolfe still had not got back to him.  Wayne Frank obviously was never interviewed.

As Mark’s attending physician at the burn unit, Dr. Edward Piotrowski should certainly have been interviewed during the investigation into Mark’s death.  Kalfas had to have known that my brother’s attending physician was concerned about the severity of his burns.  In late December 2003, a nephew informed me about statements made to him in the burn unit by Dr. Piotrowski: that Mark's skin was saturated with gasoline and that his burns did not appear to be the result of an accident.  I then sent a letter to the Cattaraugus County District Attorney reporting the doctor’s concern that my brother’s wounds did not seem accidental.

When Kelly asked Kalfas during their meeting in 2005 why Dr. Piotrowski had not been interviewed, the investigator stated that he had in fact spoken with Mark’s attending physician, who he claimed had nothing to say.  But Dr. Piotrowski himself told me in February 2005 that although he had been concerned about the cause of Mark’s burns, no one from the investigation had ever questioned him and so he assumed that they had an explanation.

During the same meeting in 2005, Wolfe stated that he would contact Dr. Piotrowski himself.  When I called Wolfe a few weeks later to request an appointment with him, he replied that there would be no point since he had no new information.  Wolfe added that the telephone number I had passed on to Kelly for Dr. Piotrowski’s new office in Rochester must have been incorrect.  He explained that when he used it, the physician who answered said that Wolfe had got the wrong Dr. Piotrowski and that he himself had never worked at the Erie County Medical Center.   I informed Wolfe that I in fact had got that number from Dr. Piotrowski’s former secretary, who said that the doctor himself had given it to ECMC.

Kelly stated to me that he had urged Wolfe not only to contact Dr. Piotrowski but also to get a subpoena if the doctor refused to speak to him. That obviously never happened.

Did the State Police really want to find out--or not--about Mark’s head wounds?