Monday, August 31, 2020

More on the N.Y. State Police’s Failure to Interview Mark’s Attending Physician

As Atty. Michael Kelly pointed out, Edward Kalfas, the lead New York State Police investigator in my brother’s case, should have spoken to Dr. Edward Piotrowski, Mark’s attending physician at the burn unit of the Erie County Medical Center.  Kalfas and his then superior John Ensell virtually ignored the fresh pool of Mark’s blood found in a paved T-section area just off his driveway the night of his truck fire (see esp. post of May 29, 2012, with photos).  Dr. Piotrowski, in fact, had important information to help explain from a medical point of view how Mark had lost that blood just before his truck fire.

In 2005, Dr. Piotrowski informed me about mucosal congestion in my brother’s sinus areas (see post of March 31, 2018).  He explained that, unless my brother had suffered from a bad sinusitis condition, the only explanation for the presence of such congestion would have been a blow to his nose.  To my knowledge, my brother did not suffer from any such severe sinusitis condition.  Mark, then, had to have been struck on the nose.

The blow to his nose could not credibly have been caused by Mark stumbling and falling after getting out of his truck.  According to an emergency worker on the scene that night, the pool of blood was located close to the front end of the driver’s side of the truck after Mark parked it on the T-section.  (Shortly after my brother returned home, the truck itself was backed down the driveway and fifty feet into a field across the road, and Mark himself was found lying in flames about 60 feet away.)  When he got out of the truck, Mark would have turned and walked in the opposite direction toward his house.  In addition, there would not have been any rough patches or other obstacles on that paved T-section to cause a fall.  The blow to Mark’s nose had to have been deliberately inflicted by someone.  My brother must have been attacked, and a struggle ensued, with Mark’s blood ending up on the pavement.

Dr. Piotrowski also stated that blood from a blow to the nose can come out through either the nose or the mouth.  He mentioned that no x-ray was taken of Mark’s nose and added that he would not have noticed any problematic blood from Mark’s mouth because a breathing tube inserted into his throat itself caused bleeding.  Before I spoke to him, Dr. Piotrowski did not know about the pool of blood on Mark’s driveway area.  But he emphasized that he had been concerned about soft-tissue damage to Mark’s forehead and had wondered if Mark had been struck on the head (see most recently post of April 30, 2020).  He explained that, since no official had contacted him, he assumed that the investigators had uncovered the answer.

When Atty. Kelly in 2005 asked Kalfas why he had not interviewed Mark’s attending physician, Kalfas replied that he had called to speak with him but the doctor had nothing to say.  However, since Dr. Piotrowski clearly stated that no investigator had contacted him and expressed his concern over the soft-tissue damage, Kalfas’s statement is very hard to believe.

In this instance and so many others, it is obvious that the N. Y. State Police investigators did not want to bring to light the truth about my brother’s death.  The question is: Why?  Were the State Police protecting someone?

Thursday, July 30, 2020

More on the Failure of the State Police to Investigate a Statement about a Suicide Letter

Numerous posts on this blog have discussed the suspicious circumstances of my brother Mark’s truck fire in rural Great Valley, New York, in September 2003, and his death the following day from third-degree burns over approximately 90% of his body.  A troubling statement was made to me by my brother’s then 23-year old daughter Christie the evening after the fire.  Christie told me that Mark had left her a suicide letter, which she was revealing only to her mother, brother, and me, in order to protect the insurance money (on the highly questionable nature of that statement, see the post of November 23, 2013).  However, when questioned by the lead New York State Police investigator Edward Kalfas, Mark’s daughter denied knowing anything about a suicide letter. Mark’s wife Susan also told Kalfas that she knew nothing about a suicide letter (see posts of January 31, 2018, and March 31, 2019).

It seemed strange that Christie had told me and not Mark’s and my half-sister Carol McKenna that my brother had left her a suicide letter.  Carol was also concerned about this statement about a suicide letter and confronted Christie about it shortly afterwards, expressing skepticism that I would have fabricated such a story.  As Carol reported, Christie totally denied having had the conversation with me.  If there actually was a suicide letter, why wouldn’t Christie have admitted it to her aunt Carol?  Was there a suicide letter or not?  If there was, those who cared about Mark, including other relatives and his wide circle of friends, deserved to know.

A few weeks later when Mark’s son Brian called to inform me that they had received the autopsy report, I reminded him that the night of Mark’s death he had told me that Christie wanted to speak to me and handed over the phone to her.  Yet when I reminded him of what she had gone on to tell me, Brian stated that he couldn’t remember.

When I reported Christie’s statement about a suicide letter to Kalfas shortly after she revealed it to me, I offered to take a polygraph test about my conversation with Christie.  Kalfas responded that he was not sure what good it would do but would think it over.  He then declined my offer and, after speaking with Christie, dropped the issue of the alleged suicide letter altogether.

Although I also reported the information by letter to Edward Sharkey, then Cattaraugus County District Attorney, he did not pursue the matter.  A few years later when I spoke with Michael Malak, who had been Sharkey’s investigator at the time of Mark’s death, I specifically brought up Christie’s statement to me about a suicide letter.  Malak insisted that such a thing seemed unlikely to have been made up (see post of March 31, 2019).  Since Malak was involved in discussions of the case during the investigation, he apparently was not concerned enough to press the issue at that time.

In a conversation about the case with an old college friend, now a lawyer, who was shocked that the District Attorney had failed to pursue this statement about a suicide letter, she urged me to hire a New York State attorney specializing in criminal law.  In September 2005, Buffalo Atty. Michael Kelly had an interview with Kalfas and his then superior John Wolfe, in which he brought up the issue of Christie’s statement to me about a suicide letter. Kalfas explained that when Christie completely denied knowing anything about a suicide letter, he did not know what to do about the matter (see post of November 23, 2018).  It is absurd that a supposedly well trained New York State police investigator would not know how to discover the truth about any individual’s statement that there was a suicide letter.

Not long after Atty. Kelly’s interview with Kalfas and his superior John Wolfe, I informed Wolfe that I remained troubled by Christie's remarks to me about a suicide letter.  Wolfe replied that he did want to speak with Christie but that she had not returned his call.  A few weeks later, I asked Wolfe if he had spoken with Mark’s daughter yet. He replied that he had not spoken with Christie.  Wolfe then appears to have dropped the matter altogether.

In early 2006, I spoke with Wolfe’s superior, Capt. George Brown.  He dismissed the statement Christie made to me about a suicide letter, insisting that Mark’s daughter had merely said something foolish on the spur of the moment.  However, as I mentioned to Wolfe, at 23 years of age, Mark’s daughter was not a child and would have been well aware of what she was saying.  In 2010, current Cattaraugus County District Attorney Lori Rieman trivialized the issue of Christie’s statement about a suicide letter by saying that she had probably just wanted her mother to collect a modest life insurance policy.

In contrast to the N. Y. State Police investigators and Cattaraugus County District Attorney’s office, Kelly, who had extensive experience as a criminal lawyer after serving in the Erie County District Attorney’s office, emphasized that Christie should have been subpoenaed about that alleged suicide letter.  Why wasn’t she?