Saturday, December 31, 2011

“Who Was on the Scene of Mark’s Truck Fire?”

   This post considers what specific individuals were on the scene of my brother’s truck fire on September 23, 2003.  The issue needs clarification because of reports about people on the scene who are not mentioned in the official documents and whose presence raises some questions. 

    As the original post (September 22, 2010) indicates, emergency workers responded quickly to the 911 call made by Mark’s wife Susan just before 11 p.m.  According to the police report, neighbor and EMT Cheryl Simcox was the first person on the scene after my brother’s wife, followed by firefighters Gary Wind (also a deputy sheriff) and Mark Ward.  Although not mentioned in the police report, firefighter Wayne Frank informed me that he arrived immediately after Ward and Wind.  The police report also indicates that Trooper David Chandler was the first New York State Police official on the scene and that Inv. Edward Kalfas arrived at 12:30 a.m.  According to the fire investigation team’s report, there were also four fire investigators on the scene.  That report, however, makes an apparent error about the arrival time, recording it as 22:30 (i.e., 10:30 p.m.) presumably instead of 23:30 (i.e., 11:30), since the 911 call was not made before 22:55 (i.e., 10:55). 

    According to both Wayne Frank and Cheryl Simcox, there were many people milling around on the scene.  As the original post notes, one person was neighbor Dan Smith, who informed me that he had rushed to the scene right after seeing flames from his window but had not remained there long.  The previous post (November 30, 2011) refers more fully to Mr. Smith’s statement that my brother had spoken several words to him on the scene and to his failure to recall anything Mark said other than the word “Hi!”  An earlier post (April 20, 2011) also mentions the conflicting accounts about neighbor Eugene Woodworth’s presence on the scene.  Another individual was Josh Newark, who as an EMT reportedly helped place my brother in the ambulance that took him to the Medivac helicopter for transport to the Erie County Medical Center.  But when I tried to speak with him in 2006, Mr. Newark failed to return my call.  Another person mentioned was Shawn Gregory.  I do not know who this individual is or in what capacity he was on the scene, though he is reportedly a deputy sheriff.

    Two other individuals reportedly on the scene were members of the Salamanca police force around the time of my brother’s death.  One was Steve Arrowsmith, reportedly an Ellicottville policeman at the time his presence on the scene was made known to me.  But, according to an item in the Salamanca Press shortly after Mark’s death, Mr. Arrowsmith was then a member of the Salamanca police force.  The other was Patrick Welch, who according to the same newspaper item, was likewise on the Salamanca police force.  Todd Lindell, one of my brother’s friends, informed me in early November 2003 that after being released from his DWI, my brother came over to his house and asked him to pick up his truck from the impoundment.  Lindell mentioned that Patrick Welch had driven Mark over.  He added that Welch was also “the third person” on the scene of the fire the next night.

    It is unclear to me why these two individuals who were Salamanca policemen around that time would have been on the scene of the truck fire in Great Valley.  It is a matter of concern under the particular circumstances, since the day before the truck fire my brother got into a personal argument at the Holy Cross Athletic Club with off-duty Salamanca police officer Mark Marowski.  As mentioned in both the original post and a later one (July 28, 2011), when my brother left the club, Marowski called in to the Salamanca police to pick up him up for DWI on his way home to Great Valley.  The original post also reports the following comment to me by Todd Lindell: "Mark would be alive today if he had not gotten the DWI."  Given the DWI under such troubling circumstances a day before my brother's suspicious truck fire, the presence of Salamanca police on the scene of the fire is problematic.  Furthermore, a relative mentioned not long after the incident that the Salamanca police were being very tight-lipped about my brother's death.  That seemed very odd since Mark had lived in the area all of his life apart from his army service, during which he served in Vietnam, and since he was active in community service.  Even D.A. Sharkey's investigator at the time of the truck fire, Michael Malak, acknowledged to me in a telephone conversation that my brother was well regarded in the community.

    At the time of the truck fire, according to Todd Lindell, Patrick Welch was also a friend of my brother’s son Brian and possibly of his daughter Christie as well.  After my brother’s death, several relatives mentioned that they had observed very rude behavior toward Mark by his two children and on numerous occasions had heard them, especially Brian, make very nasty remarks to their father.  According to Lindell, Mark was not happy about the way his children treated him.  Lindell insisted that my brother had not brought on this problem and added that he himself had never known anyone who did so much for his children as Mark. 

    With that background, it is difficult to understand why Brian’s friend Patrick Welch would have driven Mark over to Lindell’s house the evening of the DWI.  How did he even meet up with my brother that evening?  It is also difficult to understand why Welch would have been on the scene of the truck fire the next night.  If he was in fact one of the first on the scene (as Lindell thought, “the third person”), how did he learn about the fire so quickly?  How long did he remain on or around the scene?  What brought the other Salamanca policeman, Steve Arrowsmith, to the scene?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What Did Mark Really Say on the Scene of the Fire?

      This post examines the problematic issue of statements reportedly made by my brother on the scene of his truck fire before he was airlifted to the Erie County Medical Center.

    Officials involved in the investigation basically took such remarks as hard fact and interpreted them as evidence that my brother’s truck fire and his death were accidental.  Yet if one examines what individuals on the scene actually say in their official witness statements, serious questions arise about the plausibility of these reports.  Oral remarks by emergency workers and others on the scene, as reported later, make these alleged statements by my brother even more questionable.

     Here are the statements by individuals on the scene about what they heard Mark say, as recorded in their witness statements or reported to me in my own inquiries:
    (1) In her witness statement, my brother’s wife Susan says that she saw Mark crawling away from the truck and tried to put out the flames on him.  She adds that she asked him, "What did you do?" and that he replied, "I did nothing."

    (2) In his witness statement, firefighter Gary Wind (also at the time a deputy sheriff) describes my brother's efforts to speak as follows: "He was talking to me and said something about gas.  I couldn't make out what he was saying."

    (3) In his witness statement, firefighter Mark Ward (also at the time superintendent of the Salamanca school system and thus Susan's boss and reportedly a close personal friend of hers) states that Mark "was able to talk," but he could understand only the words "gasoline can," which he says my brother uttered twice.

    (4) Although not asked to give a witness statement, firefighter Wayne Frank, who arrived on the scene immediately after Wind and Ward, told me that they had not been able to understand anything Mark tried to say.  He added that he wished that he and Gary Wind had gone down on their knees in an effort to grasp what my brother was trying to tell them.

    (5) Dan Smith, Mark's neighbor at the opposite end of Whalen Rd., who arrived on the scene some time after the first three firefighters, told me that my brother had spoken several words–around ten--to him. He stated that Mark had recognized him and said, "Hi!"  But when I asked Mr. Smith what else Mark had said, he replied that he could not recall.

    (6) Another person on the scene, whose name will not be disclosed at this point, informed me that one of the principal firefighters on the scene, whose name will also not be disclosed at this point, stated that he heard Mark say, “I didn’t do anything.”

    (7) In November 2004, John Eberth, at the time a reporter for the Olean Times-Herald, abruptly cancelled an article on Mark’s death that he had said was “set to run.”  He explained this decision in an e-mail, in which he stated the following: “After conducting follow-up interviews with State Police supervisors and fire investigation officials and learning that Mark spoke to an off-duty Cattaraugus County Sheriff's deputy with whom he was acquainted before he was taken to the hospital, we have decided to not write a story at this time.”

    What do these reports of words Mark supposedly uttered really indicate?  Let’s consider some of the problems and questions that emerge from these statements.

    First, if the New York State Police investigators took seriously Susan’s report that Mark said, “I did nothing,” how could they claim that they really believed my brother’s death was a suicide?  The words “I did nothing” clearly imply no self-inflicted injuries.  And what person near death in an act of suicide would bother to deny it?  No one would.  Yet both the New York State Police and the Cattaraugus County District Attorney stated that they really considered Mark’s death a suicide.  If so, then they presumably didn’t believe what Mark’s wife said in her witness statement.  Shouldn’t they have then questioned her further about Mark’s supposed statement, “I did nothing”?

    Second, why would the (unnamed) firefighter have told another individual on the scene that he heard Mark say, “I didn’t do anything”?  That individual clearly did not record it officially.  None of the witness statements, except the one by Mark’s wife Susan, indicates that my brother made any such remark.

    Third, firefighter (and deputy sheriff) Gary Wind in his witness statement is very tentative about what Mark tried to say (i.e., “...something about gas.  I couldn't make out what he was saying").  What deputy sheriff, then, told John Eberth that my brother had talked to him on the scene (i.e., “...and learning that Mark spoke to an off-duty Cattaraugus County Sheriff's deputy with whom he was acquainted before he was taken to the hospital”)?  That statement was a major factor in Eberth’s decision to cancel his article on Mark’s death.  Oddly, there was no local newspaper publicity about my brother’s death.  In fact, many people in the Salamanca area told me–even long afterwards–that they had never been informed about the suspicious circumstances, including the pool of Mark’s blood found in his driveway that night.

    Fourth, firefighter Mark Ward’s reference to hearing my brother say “gasoline can” twice differs from Gary Wind’s mention of “gas” and, even more, from Wayne Frank’s insistence that my brother could not be understood at all.  Even N.Y.S.P. Lt. Allen in a telephone conversation with me in April 2007 acknowledged that the power of suggestion might have influenced some of the witness statements.  He explained that someone, for instance, might have asked, “Did Mark say ‘gas’?” and the others around picked up on it.  Yet the N.Y.S.P. investigators involved in the case appear to have relied heavily on Ward’s and Wind’s statements in ruling out the possibility of murder in my brother’s case.

    Fifth, how is it that Dan Smith could not remember anything my brother said to him except the word “Hi!”?  Granted, considerable time had passed since the night of the truck fire.  But can you really forget the words of a dying man calling out to you in such a pitiable state?  Wouldn’t they rather be permanently etched in your mind?

    The reliance on what appears to be very tenuous evidence of statements made by my brother on the scene of his truck fire has also influenced the thinking of current Cattaraugus County District Attorney Lori Rieman.  At the meeting I had with her in May 2010, D.A. Rieman claimed that Mark had spoken to several people on the scene and that he would have said the name of the guilty person if the fire had been deliberately set.

    I’ll end this post with two questions.  First, could my brother really have said anything intelligible under the circumstances?  Someone with medical training explained to me that Mark’s extremely severe burns, third degree even on his head, would have constricted his trachea and made it very difficult for him to speak.  Second, if by chance Mark said any of the phrases mentioned in the witness statements (“I did nothing”/“I didn’t do anything,” “gas,” and “gasoline can”), might he not have meant something very different from what the authorities have assumed?  Those words could just as easily fit into a scenario in which my brother was attempting to reveal that he was a victim of foul play.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"What Happened to the Recording of the 911 Call?": A Follow-up

    This post comes as an update to the previous one (September 22, 2011) on the issue of what happened to the recording of the 911 call by my brother's wife Susan at 10:55 the night of his truck fire.

    As I indicated in the previous post, when asked about the 911 call at a meeting in September 2005, N.Y.S.P. Inv. Edward Kalfas informed Atty. Michael Kelly that he could not remember what it said.  Sr. Inv. John Wolfe then said that he would retrieve the 911 recording.  In November 2005, after I asked Atty. Kelly to find out if Mr. Wolfe had reviewed the 911 call, the senior investigator informed him that he would not check the 911 call, among other things, unless the case was in fact re-opened, which depended on what he found in the medical records.  It is very hard to understand why the senior investigator would not go back to review that 911 call, since Inv. Kalfas could not remember what was on it and so many conflicting or confusing statements had been made about the scene of the fire.  Surely, that wouldn't have taken much time or effort, or drained N.Y.S.P. resources in any way.

    In a response on my previous post to an anonymous comment about protocols for preserving 911 calls, I posted a comment on October 1 in which I mentioned contacting the Cattaraugus County Clerk's office about getting an audio and transcript of that 911 call.  As I indicated, the individual with whom I had spoken stated that the County Clerk's office was the right place to contact for 911 call records, but he did not know how long 911 recordings are generally kept.  However, he suggested that I make a FOIL request to that office to see if the call in question still existed, and I did it. 

    That conversation led me to wonder why, in response to my original FOIL request for the 911 call, the N.Y.S.P. FOIL Unit replied last June that a search of their files "failed to locate any records responsive" to my inquiry.  It thus also seemed unclear why the FOIL Unit referred to the possibility of an appeal if the 911 recording was actually under the purview of the Cattaraugus County Clerk's office.  I wondered as well why the FOIL Unit hadn't advised me to contact that office instead.

    Last week I received a reply from the County Clerk's office.  A memorandum was included from the County Sheriff's office, in which a box was checked indicating "Did not reveal any records."  A stipulation is made at the end: "This memorandum indicates the absence or presence of information contained in our files.  It does not preclude the possibility that other activities may have taken place which are not on record with this office."  Immediately below it is a handwritten note stating the following: "Because this was not our case, we did not maintain a copy for any reason of the recording.  Also, any recordings that were not previously recovered prior to Nov. 2010 are gone.  This is due to the replacement of our recording system."

    The response by the Cattaraugus County Sheriff's office raises questions for me.  First, it is not clear why replacing a recording system would necessitate the loss of 911 calls made prior to the date of a new installation.  Doesn't current technology enable such information to be preserved?  Second, the Cattaraugus County District Attorney at the time of Mark's suspicious death and at the present (elected in November 2009) were both made aware of serious problems with the original investigation.  Attorney Tony Tanke not only spoke several times with D.A. Sharkey's investigator Michael Malak during the course of the investigation but also raised questions to D.A. Sharkey himself in May 2004 about his conclusion that Mark's death was either an accident or a suicide.  (The District Attorney added that he really believed it was a suicide.) 

    I myself wrote D.A. Sharkey three letters during the investigation and one in late 2008, informing him of information I had learned pointing to foul play.  I also had telephone conversations and correspondence about the issue with current D.A. Lori Rieman, both before and after her election, and met with her at her office in May 2010.  As mentioned previously in this blog, shortly after her election D.A. Rieman e-mailed me the following: "I cannot promise anything, but you deserve better and I will certainly do whatever I can.  I am thinking of asking that a special prosecutor (i.e. the Attorney General's office) be appointed to conduct an independent investigation."  At our meeting in 2010, even though D.A. Rieman abruptly changed her point of view without any warning and supported former N.Y.S.P. Sr. Inv. John Ensell's positions about the case, she did ask him to contact Judy Bess about her statement to me that Eugene Woodworth had heard a ruckus outside of Mark's house just before the truck fire.  (As my post on April 20, 2011 indicates, Mr. Ensell reported that he had spoken with Eugene Woodworth but failed to find a telephone number for Judy Bess.)

    With that background, why did the District Attorney's office fail to preserve the 911 call--and all the other evidence related to my brother's case (like the photographs of the scene)?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Happened to the Recording of the 911 Call?

    This post comes on the eve of the anniversary of my brother Mark's suspicious truck fire on September 23, 2003.  Like the previous post on the photographs of the scene, it is concerned with what happened to the recording of the 911 call by Mark's wife Susan at 10:55 that night.

    The 911 call is a potentially important piece of information about the events on the night of September 23 that cost my brother his life.  It was the first eyewitness statement made about the truck fire.  As is clear from cases I've read about and seen documented on television, such 911 calls have proved to be valuable reference points to check what is said afterwards by individuals and to help resolve various contradictions. 

    In this case, the 911 call seems important because confusing and contradictory statements were made about several issues, both on the scene of the fire and afterwards.  For instance, as I reported in the original post below (September 22, 2010), there is a contradiction between the witness statements of Mark's wife and a neighbor/EMT: Susan states that she tried to put out the flames on Mark, but Cheryl Simcox states that the white sweatshirt Susan said she used was clean, without any soot or skin on it.  Although for legal reasons I cannot mention on this blog everything I learned, I reported relevant information to authorities during the investigation and afterwards.  One crucial issue concerns how the fire started.  The fire investigator's report states that the tank of Mark's truck was about three-quarters full.  But various individuals reported to me that they were told the morning after the fire or later that Mark was burned specifically while putting gasoline into the tank after the truck ran out of gas.

    In my discussions with Atty. Tony Tanke and with Atty. Michael Kelly, I wondered why Trooper David Chandler, the first N.Y.S.P. officer on the scene of the truck fire, states in the police report that he "responded to Whalen Rd, Great Valley for a report of a male subject possibly attempting to burn himself in his vehicle."  Where did the trooper get that idea?  Mark's wife says nothing like that in her witness statement, and it does not appear anywhere else in the police report.  As I stated in my original post and at greater length in the second one, there are many compelling reasons why my brother would not have committed suicide.  In addition, as several professionals have indicated, suicide by fire is extremely rare in the United States.

    At his meeting with the two State Police investigators in September 2005, Atty. Kelly asked Inv. Edward Kalfas what the 911 call said.  The investigator replied that he had listened to the recording but couldn't remember what it said.  Sr. Inv. John Wolfe then indicated to Atty. Kelly that he would call to retrieve the 911 recording.  However, in November 2005 Sr. Inv. Wolfe informed Atty. Kelly that he would not check the 911 call, as well as other things, unless he decided to re-open the case after looking at the medical records.  (Of course, Sr. Inv. Wolfe chose not to re-open the case, based on his own perusal of the complex medical records and no discussion of them with Mark's physician at the burn unit, Dr. Edward Piotrowski.)  Given the various confusing statements about the scene of the fire, it is difficult to understand why the senior investigator would not go back to review that 911 call.  

    In late May of this year, on the advice of criminologist Will Savive, I made a FOIL request for an audio and transcript of the 911 call made by Mark's wife to report the truck fire.  On June 29, I received an e-mail response from Captain Laurie M. Wagner, Records Access Officer, Central Records Bureau of the New York State Police, to my FOIL request for the 911 call.  It read as follows:

    "Reference is made to your e-mail correspondence dated May 20, 2011, received at this office on May 23, 2011, requesting a copy of the audio and transcript of a 911 call made to Cattaraugus County 911 pertaining to an incident (#343029) that occurred in Great Valley on September 23, 2003, pursuant to the requirements of Article 6 of the Public Officers Law (Freedom of Information).  Please be advised that a search of our files failed to locate any records responsive to your request.  Any appeals may be addressed and mailed to the Records Appeal Officer, Administration, at the above address."

    What does "failed to locate any records responsive to your request" mean?  It would appear that the recording of the 911 call has been destroyed.  But I have not made the "appeal" referred to in the e-mail reply above.  Readers of my previous post may have seen the comment by Frank Romer about the N.Y.S.P. response to his FOIL request for "the written procedures and policies governing the purging of files," after he was informed that the photos of the scene of my brother's truck fire had been destroyed.  I quote the relevant part: "The NYSP’s reply was completely uninformative. They sent two sheets from an unspecified document and stamped NON-RESPONSIVE in large letters, with a brief indication that files could be purged after five years. I certainly hope the NYSP are not engaged in destroying other evidence in this unsolved case."  Under such circumstances, I'm not sure what the point is of making an appeal.

    I await the day when I can visit my brother at Calvary cemetery and finally say, "Requiescas in pace."  But there can be no peace without justice.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What Happened to the Photos of the Scene of My Brother's Truck Fire?

    This post deals with the issue of the photos of the scene of my brother Mark's truck fire.  According to the police report, New York State Police Inv. Edward Kalfas and Sgt. Frankowski took thirty-eight photos of the scene shortly after 12:30 a.m. on September 24, roughly an hour and a half after the 911 call at 11 p.m. (Sept. 23, 2003). 

    These photographs were viewed by Atty. Michael Kelly when he met with Inv. Kalfas and his superior Sr. Inv. John Wolfe at my request in September 2005.  As Atty. Kelly reported to me, the photos revealed that Mark had shed a significant amount of blood in the part of the driveway where he normally parked his truck.  In October 2005, I also asked Sr. Inv. Wolfe if I could see the photographs.  At first he replied that, though comfortable allowing Atty. Kelly to look at the photos, he would not let me see them because, as Mark's sister, I would be upset by his condition.  I therefore asked if I could see the photos of the scene in general, including the pool of blood, and he agreed.  Although I reminded him twice about his promise to let me view the photos, Sr. Inv. Wolfe insisted in December 2005 that he had looked at the medical records and found no evidence that my brother had been attacked.  He then indicated that there was no point in meeting with me.

    Last May, after emphasizing the importance of finding out if there had been a fire trail in the field where Mark was found burning, criminologist Will Savive asked if I had ever seen the photos of the scene of Mark's truck fire.  He suggested that I make a FOIL request to obtain copies of the photos.  Attorney Tony Tanke also agreed that it would be very useful to view them.  Will even took the initiative of calling the Batavia office of the New York State Police to inquire how I might best proceed.  He informed me that he had spoken with Sr. Inv. Christopher Iwanko, who told him that they usually purge the records after five years.  Will added that Sr. Inv. Iwanko remembered the case.  He had, in fact, been involved in the investigation.  According to an entry in the police report for September 25, 2003, "Investigator Christopher Iwanko attends the autopsy, taking photographs, fingerprints and a blood kit from the victim."  As Will let me know, he soon received a follow-up call from Sr. Inv. Iwanko, who informed him that the photos had been destroyed in 2009.

    It seemed difficult to understand why those photos would have been destroyed.  In fact, former Sr. Inv. John Ensell mentioned in an e-mail to me in December 2010 that he had gone back to the case file to verify his recollection of coins on the scene, only to discover that there were no coins.  Didn’t Mr. Ensell look at the photos of the scene for that purpose?  To obtain a definitive answer about the status of the photos, I made a FOIL request electronically to the New York State Police for the 38 photographs mentioned in the police report.  The FOIL Unit replied as follows: "Submit your request for photographs to Troop A Headquarters, 4525 West Saile Drive, Batavia, New York 14020-1095, Identification Section.”  On June 8, I sent a FOIL request by U.S. mail to the Troop A Headquarters, but after two months had still received no reply.  I then e-mailed the FOIL Unit to let them know that the Batavia office had not responded.  The FOIL Unit again replied as follows: "As stated in the below email sent to you on May 23, 2011, the request for photographs is handled at Troop Headquarters not at this office.  You will have to contact that office with your concerns."

    About the same time as I made my initial FOIL request electronically, Frank Romer followed the same procedure to the FOIL Unit for the photographs.  In late June, he received the following reply by e-mail from the N.Y.S.P. Central Records Bureau: "Please be advised that all photographs concerning the above have met our criteria for purging and have therefore been destroyed.  Any appeals may be addressed and mailed to the Records Appeal Officer, Administration, at the above address."  As instructed, I repeated my FOIL request by U.S. mail to the Troop A Headquarters in late August but received a reply by U.S. mail from the Central Records Bureau.  It was the very same response that Frank Romer had received almost two months earlier by e-mail.  There was, to say the least, a lack of clarity in the process for the FOIL request to the New York State Police for the photos of my brother’s truck fire.

    Why were the photos of the scene destroyed?  Neither the Cattaraugus County District Attorney nor the New York State Police could offer a coherent explanation for my brother’s death as either an accident or a suicide.  Inv. Kalfas told Atty. Kelly in 2005 that they believed Mark’s death was the result of his high blood alcohol level. Yet when informed that, according to his attending physician at the burn unit, his blood alcohol level had to have been zero or only slightly above, they never interviewed Dr. Edward Piotrowski.  Nor apparently did they interview firefighter Wayne Frank, who like the doctor, saw the wound on my brother’s forehead and thought it looked as if he had been whacked by a golf club.  Nor did they check the telephone records, in part to verify the alleged call between Mark’s acquaintance Peter Rapacioli and his wife Susan from 10:30 to 10:55 the night of the fire.  Nor did they make a serious effort to find out why my brother’s daughter had told me that she was concealing a suicide letter in order to protect the insurance money.  The New York State Police were urged by Atty. Kelly in 2005 and by me on numerous occasions between 2005 and 2007 to do these and other things that had been left undone.  I also sent a letter to D.A. Edward Sharkey in October 2008 summarizing problems with the investigation and information I had obtained since the case was closed.  And yet the photos of the scene were still destroyed.

    I am curious as to why the response to both Frank Romer's and my FOIL requests came with the following: "Any appeals may be addressed and mailed to the Records Appeal Officer, Administration, at the above address."  What would the point of an appeal be?  Does "destroyed" not mean "permanently destroyed"?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Happened at the Holy Cross Club between My Brother and Ofc. Mark Marowski?

    This post comes on my brother Mark's birthday.  He would have turned sixty-one today, if his life had not been so brutally taken away at age fifty-three.

    As I noted in my original post below (September 22, 2010), the New York State Police investigator mentioned that the day before his truck fire my brother had got a DWI after an altercation with an off-duty police officer at a local club.  People in the Salamanca area were apparently talking about this issue, for several of Mark's acquaintances soon told me that he had been set up for his DWI by a local policeman named Mark Marowski after getting into a personal argument at the Holy Cross Athletic Club.  When Attorney Michael Kelly brought up this subject at his interview with the New York State Police in 2005, Inv. Kalfas acknowledged that Ofc. Marowski had called in to have my brother arrested when he left the Holy Cross Club.

    What actually motivated this off-duty police officer to call in and have my brother picked up for DWI?  A few of Mark's acquaintances claimed to know that this argument was about the arrest of my brother's son Brian for DWI about a week earlier.  Mark reportedly felt that his son should have been treated more leniently because he had just come home for the funeral of a close friend.  I wondered for a long time why my brother would have argued about his son's arrest with Ofc. Mark Marowski in particular.  Apparently, a Salamanca police officer had arrested Mark's son the previous week.  But who specifically had picked up Brian for DWI? 

    Although Brian's arrest was apparently not publicized in the local newspapers, I have been told that the arresting officer was reportedly Mark Marowski.  Did my brother confront the very policeman who had picked his son up for DWI?  Was that issue the focus of the altercation at the Holy Cross Club?  If so, it might suggest a very heated argument indeed.

    It is frustrating that, although many people know about the argument, no one to my knowledge admits to being present at the Holy Cross Club during the altercation that resulted in my brother's arrest for DWI a week after his son's DWI.  A number of people must have heard what words were exchanged between my brother and Ofc. Marowski.  Was anyone also privy to the call that Ofc. Marowski made to the Salamanca Police to pick Mark up?  Did anyone hear Ofc. Marowski comment on the argument after my brother left the club?

    Although authorities were critical of my brother for drinking and getting a DWI, Ofc. Mark Marowski himself has had a problematic relationship to the law.  As I mentioned in my original post, Ofc. Marowski was arrested in May 2006 for speeding and DWI.  He was subsequently suspended from the Salamanca police force but allowed to retire with his police pension.  Recently, I was informed about Ofc. Marowski's legal problems over financial issues and advised to make a FOIL request for court judgments against him.  According to documents supplied by the Cattaraugus County Clerk's office, there were ten judgments against Ofc. Marowski for unpaid debts between 1996 and 2007, six of which were not classified as "satisfied."

    Those whose responsibility it is to enforce the law should not consider themselves above it.

    Just over a day after being released from jail and driven home by two friends, my brother was found burning to death in the field across from his house.  What happened in those hours between Mark's DWI and that suspicious truck fire?  Will the truth finally come to light and will justice prevail?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How Did Mark End up Where He Was Found in the Field?

    This post deals with the very odd fact that when emergency workers arrived, they found my brother engulfed in flames in the field about sixty feet from his truck.  How did Mark get there?

    Officials assumed that Mark had driven the truck to the field, where it caught on fire.  One explanation was relayed to me by John Eberth, at the time a reporter for a local newspaper, the Olean Times Herald.  After deciding to cancel the article on Mark he had said was "set to run," Eberth informed me in December 2004 that he had spoken with the fire investigator.  Here is how Eberth reported in an e-mail the fire investigator's assessment: "He reiterated what investigators have been telling us, that they believe the fire was an accident, possibly caused by Mark falling asleep with a cigarette in his hand."  Why would my brother have driven his truck into that field across from his property between 10:30 and 10:55 p.m.?  Let's not forget that the pool of Mark's blood was left in his driveway before, according to the fire investigator's  theory, he could have driven the truck into field and then possibly fallen asleep.

    Furthermore, as mentioned in my original post below (September 22, 2010), the fire investigator's report states that the fire started in the driver's seat area and lists textiles, plastic, and gasoline as materials ignited and a match or lighter as the source of ignition; it also mentions that the remains of a gasoline can and a lighter were on the passenger's side floor.  In addition, the report refers to an "accelerant" and to "preparation."  The logical inference from the fire investigator, then, would seem to be that Mark somehow spilled gasoline onto the driver's seat before he lit up a cigarette, causing the truck to go up in flames.  But why would my brother have brought a gasoline can into the cab of the truck and opened it at all?  The tank was three-quarters full.  Putting aside that problem, one assumes from this scenario that Mark, on fire, managed to get out and go as far as he could from the burning truck to save himself.

    But why was Mark in the field on the passenger's side of the truck?  When neighbor and EMT Cheryl Simcox arrived (around two or three minutes after my brother's wife Susan called 911), she thought it very strange that Mark was lying fifty to sixty feet opposite the passenger's side of the truck, the door of which was closed, and not opposite the driver's side, the door of which was open.  As I noted in my original post, Cheryl was certain that, if the truck had caught on fire while Mark was in the driver's seat, he would not have run around the truck but rather directly away from it.  Cheryl also said that while in her bedroom, she had heard an explosion that rocked their trailer and that as she left, she saw the truck engulfed in fifty-foot flames.  Why would my brother have risked going around such an inferno?

    And why would Mark have failed to roll around before he got sixty or so feet away from the truck?  In addition, Cheryl stated that when she got there, she could see that my brother was not rolling around at all.  He was simply lying there motionless with two-foot flames shooting from his entire body.  Recall that both his attending physician Dr. Edward Piotrowski and firefighter Wayne Frank mentioned a wound on my brother’s forehead.

    How can one square this theory of an accident suggested by authorities, including the fire investigator (as conveyed by John Eberth), with Cheryl's eyewitness observations on the scene and with details of the fire investigator's own report?

    Shortly before Cheryl arrived, Mark's wife Susan, according to her witness statement, went to the field right after she called 911.  Here is her brief account of what happened then.  I quote her statement verbatim from the police report: "I saw Mark crawling away from the truck and I tried to put the flames on him out.  I asked him what did you do and he said, 'I did nothing.'"  Susan does not specify how far from the truck Mark was when she approached him.  Did he continue to crawl away from the truck until Cheryl arrived?  Or was he already around sixty feet away from it?  Was Mark speaking to Susan with two-foot flames shooting from his whole body?  Or did the flames increase in the interval between Susan's arrival and Cheryl's?

    One important point about the scene of the truck fire has recently been suggested by a criminologist who happened to learn about my blog and has offered his insights.  In analyzing details of the scene, criminologist Will Savive pointed out that if Mark ran or crawled from his truck while on fire to his final destination, he would of necessity have left a fire trail.  The police report mentions nothing about such a trail.  Since he had examined the photos of the scene in his interview with the New York State Police investigators in 2005, I contacted Attorney Michael Kelly about this issue.  After checking his records of that interview, Attorney Kelly replied that he found no indication of any such fire trail.

    I myself have filed a FOIL request with the New York State Police to obtain a copy of the photos of the scene of my brother’s truck fire.  I am currently waiting for their reply.

    If any readers of this blog have suggestions about points raised in this post, please feel free to send in a comment.  It would be appreciated.  The police and the fire investigator’s reports are now available to examine in pdf format through links on the main page of this blog.
    Please note that anyone may send in a comment for posting anonymously.  As the blog manager, I decide what comments get posted.  But I myself do not know the identity or e-mail address of anyone who checks the “anonymous” box on the submission form before submitting a comment.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recent Efforts to Get Some Answers from the Cattaraugus County District Attorney’s Office (Part II)

    My previous post (March 23, 2011) referred to the issue of insurance that I raised with the current Cattaraugus County District Attorney at a meeting in May 2010 about problems with the New York State Police investigation into the suspicious death of my brother Mark.  As I mentioned there, retired N.Y.S.P. Sr. Inv. John Ensell (now working part-time as an investigator in the District Attorney's office) was also present, at D.A. Lori Rieman's request.  This post discusses another issue I brought up at that meeting: a report about a commotion heard on the property outside my brother’s house shortly before his truck went into the field and burned.

     As background for this issue, I happened to go to Our Lady of Peace church in my hometown of Salamanca in September 2009 in order to arrange for Masses in memory of my parents and my brother.  The secretary at that time, Judy Bess, immediately said that she should have introduced me to the man who had just left the office, since he had previously mentioned being on the scene of my brother's truck fire.  She added that normally she would not want to get involved in this kind of situation.  "But," she said, "I feel so sorry for you." 

    As I reported to D.A. Rieman, Judy thus summarized what this individual, Eugene Woodworth, had said to her: just before the truck fire, he happened to be outside his house down the road from my brother's place when he heard a ruckus on Mark's property; he soon noticed my brother's truck go down the driveway and into the field; after seeing the truck burst into flames, he rushed over and helped to put out the fire on Mark.

     The day after my conversation with Judy Bess, I myself called Eugene Woodworth.  Without mentioning Judy, I said that I had heard he had been on the scene of my brother's truck fire.  To my surprise, he gave me a very different account from what Judy had stated.  As I reported to D.A. Rieman, here is what he told me: he saw lights flashing but did not have a clear view because of the trees on his property; as he started down the road toward the field opposite Mark's house, Dan Smith (another neighbor, who lived at the end of Whalen Road) was already leaving; Dan then told him what was going on, and he never saw Mark at all. 

    When I asked Eugene Woodworth if he had anything to say about the truck fire, he hesitated, pausing frequently as he replied, "I thought that something happened on the property and surmised that Mark had backed the truck all the way across the road."  He added that the next day he went over to the house to pay his respects.  I asked if Mark's wife explained to him at that time what had happened.  Here is his summary of what Eugene Woodworth told me that Susan had said to him: Mark "hollered" at her to stay away, and she herself got burns and bits of Mark's flesh on her hands as she tried to put the flames out on him.  As I mentioned in my original post, neighbor and E.M.T. Cheryl Simcox was the first person on the scene after Mark's wife, and she remained with Susan for a long time after they went into the house.  As Cheryl said to me and in her witness statement, she looked over the white sweatshirt that Susan said she had used to try and bat the flames out on Mark: it was clean, with no soot or burn marks on it.  Cheryl, furthermore, mentioned nothing about observing any burns on Susan's hands.

    The following day, I called Judy Bess and mentioned what Mark’s neighbor had told me.  She insisted, "That is not what he said to me," adding that she was sorry Eugene Woodworth would not tell me the truth about what he saw the night of Mark’s truck fire.  She firmly maintained that he had told her about hearing a ruckus and screams from Mark's property and then seeing the truck go into the field.

    I reported to D.A. Rieman the discrepancies between the two accounts of what Eugene Woodworth heard and saw and explained that, when I called her, Judy insisted that she had reported Mr. Woodworth's comments accurately.  Mr. Ensell, however, immediately said that the claim of a ruckus outside of Mark’s house before the fire was not true.  I replied that Judy Bess did not seem like the kind of person to make up such a story or to embellish on what she had been told by Eugene Woodworth.  Mr. Ensell's explanation was that people tend to exaggerate their role in things after the event and their stories often “mushroom.”  I replied that a desire to enhance one's own actions may well be true, but it would not account for Eugene Woodworth's statement about hearing a commotion outside my brother's house right before the truck fire.   D.A. Rieman then asked Mr. Ensell to contact Judy Bess about Eugene Woodworth's statements to her.  She assured me that they would follow up on the conversation with Judy Bess by sending me a letter.

    Since I had not received the promised follow-up letter from the District Attorney's office, I e-mailed D.A. Rieman and Mr. Ensell at the end of December 2010.  I reminded Mr. Ensell that in a brief e-mail to me in August he had referred to interviewing Mr. Woodworth but having no phone number for Judy Bess.  I then expressed my concern as to whether he had done anything further on this issue.  I also referred to two other matters from the May 2010 meeting: his insistence that the insurance money was only $17,000 [the subject of my post of March 23, 2011] and a statement by him that coins were found in my brother's driveway near the pool of his blood found the night of the truck fire.

    Here is what Mr. Ensell replied in his e-mail about the problem of the two contradictory accounts of what Eugene Woodworth heard and saw: "As you know know [sic], this office is extremely inundated with felony prosecution cases and my only time involved in looking into this past incident is on my own time....Regarding my interview with Eugene Woodworth.  Basically down to a one liner was that he saw yellow off in the distance, walked about half way down, and turned around and came back.  That anything said after that would have been purely speculation....I still do not know Judy Bess' phone number and every now and then look through various data bases for same."

    Although I assumed that Judy Bess had moved away from Salamanca after leaving her position as church secretary, I was surprised that Mr. Ensell was unable to locate a contact number for her.  Recently, I myself did a simple Google search for the White Pages to see if I could find some information.  I did not get a telephone number but did find what appears to be her current address.  I should think that the District Attorney's office would have no difficulty getting a number with that kind of information.

    On Mr. Ensell's reference to coins on the scene, I had brought up at the meeting in May the problem of the pool of my brother's blood found in a paved area off the driveway, where he normally parked his truck.  When D.A. Rieman and Mr. Ensell insisted that the blood was no evidence of a crime, I replied that the pool of blood was right where Mark usually parked his truck, suggesting that he may well have been attacked there when he got out of his truck.  Apparently attempting to offer an explanation for the blood as an accident, Mr. Ensell stated that some loose change had also been found in the same area as the blood. 

    I later contacted Attorney Michael Kelly about this issue, since he had not informed me of any coins on the scene after his meeting with the New York State Police representatives in September 2005.  Attorney Kelly stated emphatically that he had not seen any coins in the photos, something he would have noticed, and that the State Police themselves had not mentioned anything about coins found on the scene.

    In his e-mail reply to me in late December 2010, Mr. Ensell acknowledged that he could find no evidence of coins in the records for the investigation: "Further, after going over some of the detail with Inv. Kalfas of the scene I am going to have to retract on what I said about the coins being on the ground.  I should have examined more of the case file before making statements that were not probably true to this scene.  To this day I still would have said that there were pocket contents on the ground, but nothing in the case file that I can see so far indicate that to be for fact (I am ASSUMING now that my mind is starting to cross reference the many death scenes that I have been at).  Regardless, I will have to apologize for that statement as it appears to be in error." 

    Mr. Ensell thus has given me no reason to change my view about the pool of my brother's blood found in his driveway the night of the truck fire.  It is very suspicious.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recent Efforts to Get Some Answers from the Cattaraugus County District Attorney’s Office (Part I)

    My original post (September 2010) sets forth my major concerns about the unsatisfactory investigation into my brother Mark’s death following a suspicious truck fire.  As I indicated there, I have continued to try to get answers to many of the troubling issues. 

    In May 2010, I raised a number of questions in a meeting with current Cattaraugus County District Attorney Lori Rieman.  I had previously discussed my concerns with her by telephone and e-mail.  When she was running for District Attorney in fall 2009, she agreed that not enough had been done in the investigation and referred specifically to the importance of checking the telephone records. 

    In late November 2009 shortly after her election, I sent the D.A.-elect copies of my letters to D.A. Sharkey, including the one of October 2008 outlining my major concerns and the relevant information I had learned.  Ms. Rieman replied by e-mail with the following: "I got your letter in the mail the other day and intend to do what I can when I get in office.  I cannot promise anything, but you deserve better and I will certainly do whatever I can.  I am thinking of asking that a special prosecutor (i.e. the Attorney General's office) be appointed to conduct an independent investigation.  I want to look at it first and consider which would be the best option."

    When I saw her in May 2010, however, D.A. Rieman had invited retired N.Y.S.P. Senior Investigator John Ensell, who was the immediate superior of the investigator in Mark’s case and now works part-time as an investigator in the District Attorney's office.  At this meeting, D.A. Rieman conveyed a very different attitude about the case and reversed her previously expressed intentions, with no warning and no explanation.  She now backed up virtually everything Mr. Ensell said justifying the original investigation.  I cannot discuss here all the questions I posed at that time, many of which referred to very sensitive issues.  This post, however, raises one specific point that came up at that meeting.  I later e-mailed some follow-up questions to D.A. Rieman, who replied that they were being referred to Mr. Ensell, with whom I subsequently had an exchange related to the issue at hand.

    As I mentioned in my original post of September 2010, when I brought up the issue of insurance money, Mr. Ensell insisted that the total amount was only $17,000.  Because he met with N.Y.S.P. Inv. Edward Kalfas and Sr. Inv. John Wolfe to discuss the case in September 2005, I asked Attorney Michael Kelly about that figure.  He replied that the New York State Police investigators had told him that they did not know how much insurance there actually was.  After receiving no response to the follow-up e-mail I sent in early July, I e-mailed Mr. Ensell in late December 2010, reiterating my question about this discrepancy, among other things.

    Mr. Ensell replied as follows: "As far as life insurance is concerned, I did have a contact during that time frame with an Investigator with the New York State Insurance Department.  His disclosure was that the Pavlock name did not stand out as name associated with any large amount of money concerning insurance.  As far as the $17,000 is concerned, that is a matter of the information that was supplied in the report."  The reply by Mr. Ensell thus maintains his statement about insurance at the meeting in May.  But, by the language he uses (e.g., "the Pavlock name did not stand out as name associated with any large amount"), Mr. Ensell's e-mail does not at all appear to settle the question of insurance money definitively.  It was reported to me that there is in fact no national insurance data base.  So, special effort is needed to confirm the existence of life insurance policies.
    At age fifty-three and in excellent health, my brother suffered an unnecessary and extremely brutal death, enduring unimaginably painful third-degree burns over almost his entire body.  A nephew who lived close enough to get to the Erie County Medical Center before my brother died said that Mark's condition was so horrific that he regretted going in to see him: my nephew could not forget the image of Mark's legs charred and his nose nearly burned off.  My brother did nothing to deserve a death like that.  The New York State Police admitted that they could not prove Mark's death was a suicide.  There was in fact no evidence of a suicide.  The police also could not produce any reasonable scenario by which that truck fire could have been an accident.  So what conclusion is left to be drawn?

    My concern about the insurance money was spurred by the dubious story my brother's then twenty-three year old daughter Christie told me about a suicide letter that she was keeping secret in order to protect the insurance money.  As I stated in my original post, I informed the New York State Police about this matter as soon as I found out who was investigating Mark's death and spoke about it directly to Inv. Kalfas.  I also offered, orally and in writing, to take a polygraph test in case they had any doubts about the veracity of my statements.  Inv. Kalfas declined to administer a polygraph test, saying, "I don't know what good it would do."  It is recorded in the police report that Inv. Kalfas asked Christie if she knew anything about a suicide letter, and she denied knowing anything about it.  The State Police investigator clearly did not press Mark's daughter at all about her claim to me of both a suicide letter and her motive for withholding it.

    My intention is not to accuse anyone of Mark's death but to question why more was not done in the investigation to find out how and why that truck fire really happened.  As Attorney Tony Tanke pointed out, in any thorough investigation into such a suspicious death, the authorities would look carefully at what happened with money, especially insurance policies.  This, of course, might reveal who would have been in a position to profit by my brother's death and in what amounts.  It was not fully explored.  More than one insurance agent has told me that it is not difficult to hide a life insurance policy, as there are many small companies out there.  No bank records were examined.  In addition, as I mentioned in my original post, no telephone records were checked.

    It is clear that significant money was spent not long after Mark's death.  Someone in the area informed me in 2008, for instance, that the house owned by my brother and his wife had been put up for sale with a company advertising it online.  In its description of the place, the ad stated: "Very nicely maintained ranch home that has been completely remodeled!"  Regrettably, the New York State Police did not probe deeply enough to "follow the money" received and spent after my brother's death.  Without exploring such a critical matter, it is difficult to fathom how any competent police or prosecutor could cease investigating, let alone reach any conclusion about the cause of Mark's death. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

After Frustrations with New York State Officials, a Disturbing Experience with a Cattaraugus County Legislator in My Search for Justice

    As I mentioned in my original post below (September 22, 2010), after contacting federal officials about the problems with the New York State Police investigation into my brother's death, I was informed that murder is a state crime.  Senator Charles Schumer of New York responded to a letter I wrote in 2005 that as a matter of protocol he was forwarding my materials to Senator Arlen Specter.  After making inquiries on my behalf, the office of Senator Specter advised me to contact the State Senator and the State Representative from the Great Valley area and to send a letter of complaint to the head of the New York State Police in Albany.
    In late 2005 and early 2006, I pursued these avenues for redress.  I wrote a letter to N.Y. State Senator Catharine Young, who sent a brief reply.  Although commending me for "gathering such a detailed collection of the facts and reports surrounding this unfortunate event," Senator Young stated that the matter was not under her jurisdiction.  I also wrote to N.Y. State Representative Joseph Giglio, but received no reply.  In addition, I wrote a letter of complaint to N.Y. State Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett.  Superintendent Bennett did not reply.  Back in 2004, I had already written to the Attorney General of New York.  Peter Drago of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office simply replied that they did "not have jurisdiction to be of assistance."  State officials were presumably unable or unwilling to refer the matter to the proper jurisdiction on their own initiative.  So there seemed little else I could do on the state level.

    When I conveyed to Senator Specter's office the disappointing results of my letters to Senator Young, Representative Giglio, and Superintendent Bennett, I was advised to write to the Attorney General again and to the Governor, given that I had obtained much more information since 2004.  After continuing to seek more information, I wrote letters to both in 2007.  Peter Drago, Director of Executive Chamber Operations, responded to my letter by stating that Governor Spitzer asked him to thank me for contacting the Governor's office about my concerns.  He added: "Your correspondence has been forwarded to the appropriate members of our staff.  I am sure it will be of interest to them."  The Governor's office later informed me that a representative of the New York State Police would be in touch with me.  As I indicated in my original post, however, State Police Lieutenant Allen did not respond to me in any meaningful way but simply reiterated the position taken by the original investigation.  When I complained to the Governor's office about this superficial response, I ended up being told that I would have to deal with the New York State Police about the matter.  I also wrote to then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.  Attorney General Cuomo did not respond.

    Given the failure of these state officials to take any real action in response to my concerns, I was initially surprised but optimistic when a Cattaraugus County official expressed an interest in the case of his own accord.  On Memorial Day weekend in 2009, I was in Salamanca to plant flowers on family graves that included great grandparents who had come from Poland over a hundred years ago.  After our father died in 1995 until his own death in 2003, my brother had been performing this family service.  While tending the graves in Calvary Cemetery that Sunday, I happened to see a man standing near my parents' plot.  Noticing the name on the headstone in front of him, I asked if he was a Vecchiarella.  He replied, "Yes, I'm Carmen."  When I told him that I was Barbara Pavlock, he said, "I thought you might be."  I mentioned that I remembered him from my high school days but added that I hadn't lived in Salamanca for a very long time. 

    Explaining why I was there, I told Carmen that I was still very upset about my brother's death and the ruling of accident in spite of the suspicious circumstances of his truck fire.  Carmen replied that he had known Mark and had been concerned about his death.  He added that he had tried to do what he could at the time to find out what had happened but couldn't get anywhere.  I referred to my frustration that so many things had not been done in the investigation and that the police report glosses over troubling aspects of the scene, including the location of the truck in the field, the gas can in the cab, and the pool of Mark's blood in his driveway.  I mentioned results of my own efforts to learn the truth, including the information about a wound on Mark's forehead observed by a firefighter on the scene and by a doctor at the burn unit and the conflicting claims by individuals on the scene about what my brother had been able to say when emergency workers arrived.  Carmen informed me that he was a county legislator and would look into the matter.  Pointing out that he had not been able to see the police report, he asked me to send him the relevant documents.

     After returning home, I mailed Carmen Vecchiarella the information he requested, including copies of my letters to D.A. Sharkey and the police, autopsy, and fire investigator's reports.  After waiting several weeks to hear back, I tried calling him.  Although I left messages and was told by his mother that she had let him know I was trying to reach him, Carmen never returned my calls or responded in any form.  He had voluntarily discussed the circumstances of Mark's death with me and requested the information I had on the case, and yet would not communicate with me afterward.  I thus have no idea if he spoke to any officials about the case or to any individuals who were on the scene of the fire.

     It came to my attention that two of the first emergency workers on the scene of my brother's truck fire are now or were at the time Cattaraugus County officials.  These two individuals in their witness statements reported hearing my brother say the words "gas" or "gasoline can" (words apparently interpreted by the State Police to imply that there had been no foul play), yet as firefighter Wayne Frank insisted to me, they could understand nothing Mark was trying to say.  Firefighter Mark Ward (also at the time superintendent of the Salamanca school system) is, like Carmen Vecchiarella, a Cattaraugus County legislator; and firefighter Gary Wind was a Cattaraugus County deputy sheriff then (now acting chief of the Salamanca police force).  Did Carmen speak with either of these two firefighters about what they had observed on the scene?  Did he speak with firefighter Wayne Frank about what he had heard or seen, including the wound on Mark's forehead?  Carmen and Wayne overlapped at Salamanca High School and remained in the area; so they presumably ran into each other from time to time.  Reportedly, two other individuals on the scene were Salamanca police officers.  Might Carmen have spoken to them?

    Apparently, Carmen Vecchiarella has no intention of letting me know how he used the information I supplied to him and what he learned from it.  Under the circumstances, that is difficult to understand.