Sunday, December 14, 2014

Yet More on Ofc. Mark Marowski

Earlier posts (September 22, 2010, July 28, 2011, and April 18, 2013) discuss Ofc. Mark Marowski as problematic in the events surrounding my brother Mark's death because he abused his powers as a police officer to get even with Mark after a personal argument at a local club by calling in to have him arrested for DWI. As noted, that incident took place the very day before my brother’s truck suspiciously went up in flames and he himself was found burning to death some sixty feet away, yet Marowski was never investigated for possible involvement.

In addition, a recent post (August 11, 2014) includes an anonymous letter mailed to me from western New York claiming that Marowski was having an affair with my brother’s wife. Two others (September 14 and October 17, 2014) reveal aspects of Marowski’s character and behavior that are completely unsuitable for an officer of the law. Those posts note Marowski’s excessive drinking, his heavy gambling, his numerous failures to pay his debts that resulted in lawsuits against him (see also July 28, 2011), his defrauding Holy Cross Club members of $2,000, his use of physical force on women with whom he lived, and even his public boasting about getting my brother arrested for DWI. This post raises yet another highly problematic aspect of Marowski’s behavior.

Although Marowski was suspended from the Salamanca police force in 2006 after he himself was picked up for DWI as well as for speeding (reportedly for going about 80 mph in a 30 mph city zone) and subsequently was made to retire, I was recently informed that the real reason for his forced retirement was his drug use. According to two different individuals, Marowski had a serious addiction to prescription drugs. Marowski, who had a desk job at the police station, was reportedly observed being high on pills while on duty. According to my sources, someone finally blew the whistle on him, and reportedly when police authorities went down and opened his locker, they found it crammed with prescription drugs. If that is the case, how would he have acquired such drugs legally?

According to numerous individuals, Marowski is not a nice person, and he reportedly had argued with my brother on numerous occasions at the Holy Cross Club. All of the information reported here, furthermore, paints the picture of someone who is out of control. Most of it appears to be well known in general to those who socialized at the local clubs and specifically to members of the Salamanca police when Marowski was a member of the force. If the report in the anonymous letter of an affair between Marowski and my brother’s wife Susan is true, how many others knew about it?

All of this disturbing information causes me to wonder further about Inv. Edward Kalfas’s reaction when I asked him if he knew the identity of the off-duty police officer who had got into the argument with my brother at the Holy Cross Club. I had driven up to the Olean bureau of the New York State Police on November 4, 2003, to see the condition of Mark’s truck, which was being kept at the State Police compound, and to ask the investigator a few questions.

Since I was a sister in mourning and was also obviously ill with laryngitis, I was stunned at his rudeness in response to my question about that off-duty police officer. When I spoke with him very early in the investigation, Inv. Kalfas himself referred to the argument without mentioning Marowski’s name. But at the State Police compound, he denied it, adding, “You’d have to have it on tape to prove it. We’re done here. I’m not talking to you any more. I have my job to think of.” Kalfas certainly knew the identity of that police officer. Just how much did he actually know back in November 2003 about Marowski and that argument at the Holy Cross Club? He must have been told enough about that corrupt police officer.

Is that another reason why phone records were never checked during the investigation and why the State Police refused to check them subsequently?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

More on the Silence about the Argument at the Holy Cross Athletic Club

Several posts (September 22, 2010, July 28, 2011, April 18, 2013, and October 17, 2014) have raised the problem of the personal argument between my brother and Salamanca police officer Mark Marowski at a local club that resulted in Marowski calling in to have Mark arrested for DWI. My initial concern focused on the fact that although the argument took place the very day before my brother’s truck suspiciously burst into flames in the field across from his house and he himself was found on fire some sixty feet away, Marowski was not investigated by the New York State Police in connection with Mark’s death.

That concern has been intensified in light of a recent letter claiming that Marowski and my brother’s wife Susan were having an affair (see posts of August 11 and September 14, 2014). In addition, the previous post (October 17, 2014) raises the related issue of Marowski’s subsequent boasting that he had got Mark arrested for DWI. It is thus all the more important to know what went on during that altercation at the Holy Cross Athletic Club. Because no one thus far has publicly acknowledged witnessing the argument, this post considers the problem of one individual who insisted that he was not there.

It is difficult to understand why not one person has admitted to being present during the altercation. That silence is particularly strange in light of an affirmation that some patrons were so regular that when they heard the door open, bartenders knew who was coming in just by looking at the clock. The argument between my brother and Ofc. Marowski took place on September 22, 2003, which was a Monday. Not long ago, I learned the names of two individuals who were among the regulars at the Holy Cross Club on Monday afternoons, in part because it was the last opportunity to sign up for the drawing for a regular Monday pool.

Of course, I do not know for a fact that the two men were there on that particular Monday. But their insistence that they were not present is a concern to me. The reasons in one case will be explained below. This issue reinforces the problem that even if the State Police investigator knew who had been at the Holy Cross Club during that argument, he admitted to Atty. Michael Kelly that he had not questioned anyone about it.

One of the two individuals who I learned were regulars at the Holy Cross Club on Monday afternoons was Pete Rapacioli. Because he called to rebuke me for putting him on my blog (see post of June 26, 2013), I explained to him that I had the right to question why the police investigator had not checked the phone records for the alleged call between him and my brother’s wife for almost half an hour immediately before the truck fire. Since my conversation with Rapacioli involved numerous issues, I will not summarize it here but will refer to points relevant to the argument that led to Mark’s arrest for DWI. Being given the opportunity to pose some questions to him, I asked Rapacioli whether he had been at the Holy Cross Club during the argument between Mark and Marowski. He replied that he had not been there, explaining that he “didn’t drink much” and that he wouldn’t have gone to the club in the afternoon but rather after 5 p.m. or in the early evening.

Perhaps Rapacioli wasn’t there at the very time of the argument. But shortly after Mark’s death, I was told by numerous individuals that people in the community were concerned and talking about that argument at the Holy Cross Club. Since I have it on good authority that he regularly came on Mondays to sign the book for the Monday pool and thus would likely have been there at least shortly after, if not actually during, the quarrel between Mark and Marowski, it is very surprising that Rapacioli gave no indication whatsoever that he even knew about it.  By contrast, shortly after Mark's death, a woman who answered the phone when I called to speak with Rapacioli on the advice of one of Mark's friends informed me that Pete had told her about the argument at the Holy Cross Club.

According to individuals connected with the Holy Cross Club officially at that time, Rapacioli drank there regularly. In fact, I mentioned to one of them that in explaining why he would not have been at the Holy Cross Club during that argument, Rapacioli had said that he didn’t drink much. That person laughed and said, “Well, if he wasn’t there, he would have been at the Legion or the VFW.”

Like Marowski, then, Rapacioli was at the Holy Cross Club on a regular basis, including afternoons, where he drank and gambled routinely. He appears to have had a good amount in common with Marowski.

Rapacioli’s failure to be straightforward about his frequent presence at the Holy Cross Club and his drinking there is troublesome. It appears, unfortunately, to be characteristic of much of his conversation with me in June 2013. Saying that Mark had been his friend, he claimed that they had grown up together and had gone through school together. I certainly knew who my brother’s friends were when we were growing up, and they were all in his own age bracket. Mark was in fact seven or eight years younger than Rapacioli: they would never have even attended the same school in Salamanca at the same time and were certainly not friends. In later years, Rapacioli was at best a friend only in a casual sense, more accurately an acquaintance whom Mark saw at the local clubs and with whom he did some charity work.

I am also concerned about Rapacioli’s failure to explain why he would have been talking with my brother’s wife for almost half an hour in that (alleged) phone call immediately before the truck fire. Certainly, giving his results for the football pool would have not entailed much time, and 10:30 to 11 or so is late for business or a chat (see post of June 26, 2013).

I am equally concerned about Rapacioli’s unwillingness to tell me his daughter’s name after he insisted that she and her husband had slept through the entire incident of the truck fire, in spite of their location on Cross Rd. opposite the field where Mark’s truck went up in flames and in spite of the blatant noise from the sirens of police cars and emergency vehicles and from the Medivac helicopter (see post of December 24, 2013). Why did he apparently not want me to know that her name is Myers and that she is married to the brother of the current Salamanca police chief, who, like Marowski, was at the time of the truck fire a veteran member of that police force?

Friday, October 17, 2014

More on Ofc. Mark Marowski and the Argument at the Holy Cross Athletic Club

The last post (September 14, 2014) questioned why the New York State Police had not investigated Salamanca police officer Mark Marowski in my brother’s death, in light of information in a recent anonymous letter about an affair between Marowski and my brother’s wife Susan (see post of August 11, 2014).  Previous posts (September 22, 2010, July 28, 2011, and April 18, 2013) had raised the issue of the personal argument between my brother and Ofc. Marowski that led to Marowski calling in to the Salamanca police to arrest Mark for DWI.  This post brings up more disturbing information about Ofc. Marowski that reinforces the possibility that he was involved in Mark’s death.

It is a matter of concern that no one has admitted to being present during that altercation between my brother and Marowski.  Therefore, no one has stated definitively what the two said in their argument and how Marowski reacted when he came back into the club after going outside to phone the Salamanca police.  Individuals who had heard about the quarrel informed me that the two had argued over Mark’s claim that his son Brian should have been treated more leniently when he was arrested for DWI after a friend’s funeral and over Marowski’s annoyance that Mark had won a pool at the club.  I was also informed that as Marowski came back into the club after calling in on Mark, he reportedly said to someone on his cell phone, “It’s all taken care of,” and that he finished his drink and left.

Recently, however, I received specific--and very troubling--information from a person who was at the Holy Cross Club about Marowski’s reaction to my brother’s arrest for DWI.  That individual, who described Marowski as “nasty,” revealed that he was “proud” that he had caused Mark’s arrest for DWI and boasted over it.  Mark’s truck went up in flames the very next day after that argument, and I have been informed that updates on my brother’s condition in the burn unit were called in to the club at intervals the following day.  Marowski as well as everyone else at the Holy Cross Club knew how seriously Mark had been burned.  What kind of person gloats over causing a DWI arrest when the man ends up suffering third-degree burns over almost his entire body one day after the incident?

It is clear that Marowski had very negative feelings toward my brother.  I was informed that they had argued on many occasions at the Holy Cross Club.  It was made clear to me recently that they had previously argued over the pool tabs sold at the club.  In addition, it was made clear that Marowski was a very heavy gambler and that he got angry when he lost.  I was also informed that after Marowski defrauded the Holy Cross Club of $2,000 (see previous post), he was confronted with the issue of the lighters that he was supposed to have purchased for club members and admitted that he had gambled with the money they had paid and lost it.

Given the other problematic issues about Marowski’s behavior as mentioned in the previous post, it is all the more troubling that he was not viewed as a potential suspect by the State Police in the investigation into Mark’s death.  I trust that he will be.

I want to end this post by mentioning something that I observed on a recent trip to the Salamanca area.  While at Calvary Cemetery to check on family graves, I was stunned to see that all the stems on the geraniums I had planted at my brother’s headstone (see photo in the post of May 26, 2014, for a partial view of those newly planted flowers) had been slashed straight across with some type of blade so that there were no more blossoms on them nor could any more develop.  I looked at the neighboring graves as well as those of my other relatives and saw that they had suffered no such damage.  Clearly, Mark’s grave had been targeted.  I removed the mutilated stems and replaced one of the geranium plants so that at least for a brief time in the remainder of the season there would be a little beauty at my brother’s grave.  It is the mark of a vicious and disturbed person to vandalize a grave site.  I wonder who could have done that.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Why Was Ofc. Mark Marowski Not Investigated in My Brother’s Death?

The reference in an anonymous letter to an affair between my brother’s wife Susan and Salamanca police officer Mark Marowski (see previous post of August 11, 2014) raises further concerns about the failure of the New York State Police to look into the possibility that Marowski might have been involved in my brother’s death.  This post pursues that issue by considering problematic and contradictory statements made by the State Police related to the personal argument between my brother and Ofc. Marowski that led to Marowski calling in to the Salamanca police to arrest my brother for DWI.

[Please note: To avoid potential confusion over the fact that both my brother and Ofc. Marowski share the same first name, I use the name “Mark” by itself only for my brother but refer to the policeman as “Ofc. Marowski” or “Marowski.”]

It seems clear that nothing was done to investigate the possibility that Marowski had a role in Mark’s truck fire and his death.  As he admitted to Attorney Kelly, Inv. Kalfas did not even question members of the Holy Cross Club who had been present about that argument (see post of April 18, 2013).  How could the investigator pursue any potential involvement by Marowski without first finding out what had been said by that police officer and by my brother in their quarrel and what Marowski had said or done when he came back into the club?

I pursued this issue with three members of the New York State Police hierarchy, but was only dismayed by their reactions.  When I brought up the problem in 2005 to Sr. Inv. John Wolfe that Kalfas had not interviewed members of the Holy Cross Club about that argument, Mr. Wolfe did not even respond.  When I raised the same problem in 2006 with Capt. George Brown, he dismissed the argument with Ofc. Marowski as irrelevant to Mark's death and then asked gruffly if I was claiming that this police officer had killed my brother.  I replied as follows: all suspicious elements and all leads should have been checked during the investigation in order to rule out certain things and get to the truth.  When I raised that problem in 2007 with Lt. Allen and added that an ordinary citizen would automatically be considered a suspect if he happened to have been involved in a vociferous public argument with a person the day before that individual was killed in such a suspicious manner, he did not respond.  It is difficult to know how to interpret the lack of any meaningful response by these three police officials.  Were they tacitly affirming that nothing had been done?  Or were they in effect implying that they knew something about Ofc. Marowski?

There are also other reasons why I am deeply concerned that the State Police have been far less than forthright about the way they handled the problem of Ofc. Marowski.  When I arrived for an interview in 2010 with current Cattaraugus County D. A. Lori Rieman, I found that she had invited retired Sr. Inv. John Ensell, then an investigator for the District Attorney’s office (see post of March 23, 2011).  When I stated that there is no mention in the police report of the argument between Marowski and my brother, Mr. Ensell insisted that Marowski had in fact been interviewed.  He also went on to say that Holy Cross Club members present during the altercation said that it had not been much of an argument anyway.  However, Mr. Ensell’s statement contradicts what Inv. Kalfas explicitly told Atty. Michael Kelly: he had not interviewed members of the Holy Cross Club who were present during that argument.  Did Mr. Ensell even talk to Marowski?  Or if so, was he simply taking Marowski’s word on the issue?

At that meeting, D. A. Rieman herself shifted the blame squarely onto my brother by insisting that he had had no business driving after getting so intoxicated and by adding that Marowski had not driven home drunk.  I replied by asking, “What, you mean he walked home?”  D. A. Rieman did not reply.  It is well known that Marowski was frequently intoxicated at the Holy Cross Club, and he was reportedly really drunk that day.  In addition, according to a long-time member of the Holy Cross Club, a friend informed him that right after Marowski called in to the Salamanca police to pick Mark up for DWI, he finished his own drink and left in his car.

How could the State Police have failed to look closely at Marowski as a potential suspect?   His disreputable character was well recognized.  Consider the following: (1) Marowski was well known for his problems with alcohol; in 2006, he himself got a DWI, for which he was suspended from the Salamanca police force and reportedly forced to retire with his pension.  (2) As I learned from documents obtained through a FOIL request, Marowski has been sued numerous times for failing to pay debts and for defrauding the Holy Cross Club of $2,000.  (3) According to reliable sources, Marowski got into trouble as a police officer for using physical force on women (wives or girl friends) with whom he lived.  Other disturbing things about Marowski have also been brought to my attention, but I refrain from mentioning them at this point. 

Even without the allegation of an affair, it is inexcusable that the State Police did not directly investigate Ofc. Marowski in connection with my brother's death.  For whatever reasons, they were protecting Marowski.  But “the blue of silence” is a disgrace to our justice system.  Police potentially involved in a serious crime have no right to be exempt from investigation or to be protected from prosecution.  Mark Marowski should have been investigated.  He still should be. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Very Revealing Letter

Among the numerous troubling issues related to my brother’s suspicious death are (1) the personal argument between my brother and Ofc. Mark Marowski at a club the very day before the truck fire and the DWI that resulted when Marowski called in to the Salamanca police to arrest him on his way home (see posts of September 22, 2010, July 28, 2011, April 18, 2013, and October 29, 2013), (2) the strange fact that no one except his wife Susan (per her witness statement) claims to have seen him or to have heard from him by telephone the day of the truck fire (see posts of September 22, 2010, August 22, 2012, and March 3, 2014), and (3) the extremely poor marital relations between Mark and Susan for months before the fire and rumors that Susan was having an affair (see post of May 26, 2014).  This post offers some potentially crucial clarification on those three issues.

On Friday (August 8), I received an anonymous letter, postmarked from western New York.  Because of the significance of its content, this letter needs to be made public.  It is clearly a letter written from the heart by someone with a conscience.  It was doubtless a difficult thing to do, especially given the unwillingness of others thus far to come forward with information about what happened the night of September 23, 2003.  I want the author to know how grateful I am to have received this letter.  Since the writer did not ask me to keep the letter private, I am putting it up here:

It seems very clear that the writer of this letter speaks from experience and has no ax to grind.   At this point, I will comment briefly, in order, on the four points raised by the writer.

(1) The writer offers specific support for--rather than merely a vague allegation about--an affair between my brother’s wife Susan and Mark Marowski, the police officer who had Mark arrested for DWI the day before his truck fire and was reportedly overheard saying, “It’s all taken care of,” immediately after he returned into the Holy Cross Club from stepping out to call the Salamanca police. 

Both in letters and in conversation from the time of the investigation in 2003, I have urged officials (local, state, and beyond) to look into this matter of a potential involvement in my brother’s death by Ofc. Mark Marowski, a disreputable individual who has been sued numerous times for failing to pay his debts and who was suspended from the Salamanca police for a DWI in 2006 and forced to retire with his pension.  But nothing whatsoever was done about it.  It appears that “the blue wall of silence” was at work.  This new information about an affair between Susan and Marowski makes it all the more outrageous that officials turned deaf ears to my inquiry about the problem of a possible involvement in Mark’s death by that police officer.

(2) It has long been clear to me that Mark was drinking (sometimes heavily) in the period before his death, reportedly because of marriage problems.  Several individuals who knew him well, including two officials, indicated that this had been going on for no more than two years and that Mark had been off alcohol completely for many years prior to that.  Both officials with whom I spoke said that to their knowledge there were no claims of physical abuse at any point made by Mark’s wife against him.  Two of his friends said that Susan and Mark both frequently screamed at each other in their presence when they visited the house.

(3) It is useful to have this confirmation of Mark’s carefulness in transporting gasoline cans in his truck, including the fact that he was seen not only placing them in the back of the truck but actually taking pains to secure them there.

(4) The information that Mark was at a neighbor’s house right before the fire and could not have had such a high blood alcohol level as .25 is very important.  Since someone clearly saw Mark out just before the fire, why didn't that person come forward during the investigation (or afterward) and reveal his or her knowledge about Mark’s presence and his condition the day of the fire.  Was that individual afraid to do so?

I urge other people to tell what they know.  Who else saw or spoke with Mark on that day?  Who is the neighbor?  Any information will help.  Please respond if you know anything about what happened.  If you prefer that information be kept private, it can be sent as a comment to the blog with the request “not to be posted.” 

Monday, July 28, 2014

More on Problematic Statements by One of Mark’s Neighbors

Today would be my brother Mark’s sixty-fourth birthday.  When killed at age fifty-three, he was looking forward to many more birthdays and should still be here today.

As mentioned in two previous posts (April 20, 2011, and March 13, 2013), I remain concerned about major discrepancies between what Mark’s neighbor Eugene Woodworth reportedly told another person and what he told me about the night of Mark’s truck fire.  The individual who reported her own conversation with Woodworth seemed very genuine and sincere.  When I stopped by Our Lady of Peace Church in Salamanca in 2009 to arrange to have Masses said for relatives, then office secretary Judy Bess mentioned that she should have introduced me to the man who had just left because he had spoken to her about being on the scene of Mark’s truck fire.  Expressing her sympathy to me, Judy suggested that I contact this man, whose name was Eugene Woodworth.

The two earlier posts provide details about these two conversations and about my report of the issue to Cattaraugus County District Attorney Lori Rieman and former N. Y. S. P. Sr. Inv. John Ensell.  Here, I will briefly summarize the two highly contradictory accounts.  As Judy reported Woodworth’s account of the events, he was outside his house just before the truck fire and heard a commotion on Mark's property; he then saw my brother’s truck go down the driveway and into the field; noticing the truck in flames, he rushed over and helped to put out the fire on Mark.  However, as Woodworth stated in a phone conversation with me, he saw lights flashing from inside his house but did not have a clear view because of the trees on his property; when he started down the road toward the field opposite Mark's house, he met Dan Smith returning to his own house at the end of Whalen Road; Smith told him about the fire; he himself went right back home; he never even saw Mark.

Which account is true?  Is either version by Woodworth actually accurate?  Judy could not possibly have radically misunderstood Woodworth’s own conversation with her.  She certainly had no reason to make the story up.  Even if she had fabricated it, she obviously would not have urged me to talk to Woodworth.  When I informed her about Woodworth’s conversation with me, Judy insisted that she had reported Woodworth’s comments to her accurately and re-emphasized that he had heard a ruckus and screams from Mark's property and then saw the truck go into the field.  She also said she was sorry that Woodworth would not tell me the truth about what he had seen the night of Mark’s truck fire. 

John Ensell’s explanation that people often like to exaggerate their actions in a crisis does not seem applicable in this case, since Woodworth is an older, retired man.  One would hardly expect such an individual to boast about himself in a heroic role.  In addition, I have to wonder about the following comment Woodworth made in his conversation with me: “I thought that something happened on the property and surmised that Mark had backed the truck all the way across the road.”  What might that “something” have been?

But there is more that concerns me about the conversation I myself had with Woodworth.  As reported in previous posts (see most recently July 1, 2014), I have been concerned about the failure of the investigators in Mark’s case to examine the telephone records, in part to verify the call that his wife Susan allegedly had with a man named Peter Rapacioli between 10:30 and 10:55, just before she made the 911 call.  As mentioned in the post of June 26, 2013, I have also been concerned about Rapacioli’s claim that his daughter and her husband, who live very close to Mark’s house at the intersection of Cross and Whalen Roads, slept through the entire incident of the truck fire and emergency rescue efforts.  As reported in that post, Rapacioli did not reply when I asked what his daughter’s name was.  He also claimed not to understand why a friend of Mark’s had told me just weeks after my brother’s death that Rapacioli planned to read the police report because he had a relative on the police force.  Rapacioli insisted that he had no idea who that alleged relative on the police force could be.  However, as mentioned in the post of December 24, 2013, I learned that Rapacioli is related by marriage to a veteran Salamanca police officer named Paul Myers, who is currently chief of police there. 

What concerns me here is that, in my conversation with him in 2009, Eugene Woodworth mentioned the name of the couple who live in the house at the intersection of Cross and Whalen Roads.  However, he said that the man’s name was Jim Pierce and that, like himself and Pete Rapacioli, he was a former railroader.  When I recently asked another Great Valley resident if anyone named Pierce might have lived in that house, I was told that the owners prior to Joseph and Tracie Myers were named Cooney and that Jim Pierce lived several miles from there.  Why did Woodworth give me inaccurate information about the identity of the couple who supposedly slept through all the turmoil of Mark’s truck fire?  Woodworth’s misinformation is all the more disturbing because he clearly knows Rapacioli and should have been aware that Rapacioli’s daughter and her husband are his own neighbors at the intersection of Cross and Whalen Roads.

Why, for that matter, was Cheryl Simcox, who lives next door to the Myers couple, unwilling to give me their name, insisting that they had slept through the entire incident?  Cheryl was very helpful to me in recounting what she had observed as an EMT and the first person on the scene after Mark’s wife.  So, I was surprised at her reaction to my request for that information.  What exactly, if anything, had the Myers couple said to Cheryl that made her so reticent?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What Was in the 911 Call?

Two previous posts (September 22 and October 27, 2011) reported on my FOIL requests to obtain the audio and transcript of the 911 call made by Mark's wife the night of his truck fire on September 23, 2003.  As mentioned, the State Police replied as follows: “Please be advised that a search of our files failed to locate any records responsive to your request.”  The Cattaraugus County Clerk's office explained, "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."

As previously mentioned, I was concerned about a statement by Trooper David Chandler, the first N.Y.S.P. officer on the scene of the truck fire, whose report immediately precedes Inv. Kalfas's in the narrative section of the police report.  He says that he “responded to Whalen Rd, Great Valley for a report of a male subject possibly attempting to burn himself in his vehicle.”  When I mentioned that statement to her, Mark's neighbor and EMT Cheryl Simcox was very surprised, explaining that the call summoning her to the scene made no reference to a possible suicide. 

Trooper Chandler must have arrived some time between 11:00 and 11:30 (he took Susan's statement between 11:30 and 11:45 p. m.) and clearly stayed past midnight (according to Kalfas's narrative, the Trooper and Sgt. Frankowski showed him the truck and the general scene when he arrived at 12:30 a. m.).  His brief report itself (dated September 24, 2003) does not make any claims of suicide (“Motive and cause of fire still under investigation”).  But, as indicated by the phrase “report of a male subject possibly attempting to burn himself in his vehicle,” the possibility of suicide must have been explicitly stated or strongly suggested to Trooper Chandler before he arrived.

Other posts have discussed how Mark’s character and overall behavior strongly argue against suicide (see December 11, 2010, and March 27, 2012).  More concretely, that pool of blood in his driveway and the wound on his forehead cannot reasonably be explained in connection with a suicide.  Neither really can the burning clothes found near where Mark lay, which he must have pulled off in an effort to extinguish the flames after gasoline was poured on him and ignited.  My brother would never have burned himself to death, as he himself made clear in a public statement at the scene of what appeared to be a self-immolation in a vehicle (see post of February 14, 2013).

But it’s not Mark’s words that concern me here.  It’s these: “a report of a male subject possibly attempting to burn himself in his vehicle.”  Trooper Chandler was quoting or paraphrasing words relayed to him right after the 911 call.  Had someone interpreted Susan’s 911 call in such a way?  What exactly was said in her 911 call?  It is important to know.  Her words were the first public statement about that truck fire.

Back in 2005, when asked about the 911 call, Inv. Kalfas replied that he had listened to the recording but couldn't remember what it said.  Sr. Inv. John Wolfe then indicated to Atty. Michael Kelly that he would retrieve the recording of the call but later changed his mind.  Given his seemingly casual attitude about it, Inv. Kalfas apparently had not used the 911 call as a potentially important investigative tool.  However, others heard that 911 call, and almost eleven years later, not everyone has entirely forgotten it.  An official source informed me that Susan’s 911 call was very problematic.  Is it really possible that Inv. Kalfas forgot that call?

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Issue of Mark and Susan’s Marital Problems

Previous posts have discussed numerous problems with the New York State Police investigation into my brother’s death and their refusal to re-open the case after being informed about Mark’s head wounds observed by his attending physician at the burn unit.  As noted in the most recent posts, it would have been preferable to relay particularly sensitive information only to relevant investigating authorities.  But given the unwarranted insistence by the New York State Police that Mark’s death could not have been a murder, I have no alternative than to make important issues public here.

This post takes up one such issue, the very poor state of Mark and Susan’s marriage.  As Inv. Edward Kalfas mentioned at the beginning of the investigation, he was aware that my brother and his wife had a very troubled marriage.  It is clearly routine procedure in cases involving the death of an individual under violent circumstances to look very closely at the surviving spouse.  Such scrutiny, of course, does not imply that the surviving husband or wife is in fact guilty of anything, but naturally all reasonable possibilities in such cases need to be examined.  Here my concern is with the fact that the state police apparently did not follow expected investigative procedures.

Since Mark never discussed with me any marital problems he might have had, I was extremely surprised when I called my Aunt Dorothy to find out if she had been notified about the truck fire.  She was unaware of what had happened to Mark.  However, she immediately told me that she knew Mark and Susan “were not getting along at all” but hadn’t wanted to say anything to me about it.  She explained that when she called their house a few weeks before to let Mark know about the death of an old family friend, she heard Susan screaming at him in the background, “What are you talking to her for?”  Mark, my aunt continued, quickly ended the conversation, saying that he would get back to her later, but he never did.

Another person, who will remain anonymous at this point, stopped by Mark’s house and observed a very unpleasant scene about a month before my brother’s death.  This individual reported that after Mark came in “slightly tipsy” but clearly coherent, Susan kept glaring at him.  Because of Susan’s overt hostility to Mark, this visitor became very uncomfortable and could not wait to leave.

Alexis Wright reported a conversation some months before Mark’s death in which Susan complained to her about my brother’s drinking.  When Alexis said that her husband Jim also drank but she still loved him, Susan replied, “How can you stand it?”  Alexis then suggested that Susan get a divorce, and Susan responded, “I’ve thought about it, but there’s the house and the kids.”  According to John Yonker, who knew my brother from high school, Susan complained about Mark to his wife Diane, a co-worker of hers. 

Among Mark’s friends, only one seemed aware of apparently serious marital problems.  Bill Lewis, who lives in suburban Buffalo but spoke frequently on the phone with Mark, informed me that he was aware of problems in the marriage but didn’t know anything specific.  Whatever negative feelings he may have had about his wife, Mark apparently did not complain about Susan publicly.

At the luncheon following Mark’s funeral, my Aunt Dorothy and her daughter Kathie Marsh seemed almost in shock when they mentioned overhearing a comment Susan had made that day.  According to my aunt and cousin, they heard Susan say that she was glad Mark was dead.

In a phone conversation in December 2003, I was stunned when Bill Lewis reported a rumor that Susan had been having an affair with Pete Rapacioli.  Soon after, I called Bill for clarification about his source for that rumor and was very surprised to learn that Susan herself had mentioned it to his wife.  Why would Susan have brought up such a subject?  Bill said only that he himself found it credible.  Shortly afterwards, I reported the information by letter to Cattaraugus County District Attorney Edward Sharkey.  In October 2004, Bill confirmed that he had been contacted about the issue of an affair by Inv. Kalfas as well as about his view of the possibility that Mark committed suicide, which he told me adamantly he did not believe.  Much later, in 2008, my cousin Kathie Marsh acknowledged that, during the summer before Mark’s death, she had heard rumors that Susan was having an affair.  But Kathie insisted that she did not know who the man was.

Right after my brother's death, I myself wondered if he might have been having an affair and might possibly have been killed by an irate husband or by a jealous boyfriend of an unmarried woman.  He was, after all, very good-looking, as many females I know observed.  But when I asked several of his friends if Mark could have been involved in an extra-marital relationship, they were uniformly shocked at the idea and responded like this: "Mark, have an affair?  No!" 

Besides Bill Lewis, my half-sister Carol McKenna indicated that Inv. Kalfas was looking into the issue of an affair.  In March 2004, she mentioned that Pete Rapacioli as well as Susan had been called in for questioning and that he had been asked by Kalfas if he had been involved with Susan.  According to Carol, Rapacioli denied having an affair with Susan, and Inv. Kalfas replied, “Don’t let me find out down the road that you did.”  Carol did not specify her source for this information.

In an interview with Inv. Kalfas and Sr. Inv. John Wolfe in September 2005, Attorney Michael Kelly asked about this issue.  Kalfas’s reply was that he could not find out if Susan had been having an affair with Pete Rapacioli.  But how hard could he have tried?  People engaged in amorous affairs usually contact each other by phone.  Yet the State Police never checked any phone records during the investigation and refused to do so when they were asked in 2005. 

Although this potentially important issue was touched upon during the investigation, it is very unclear why it appears to have been dropped.  One would assume that, in May 2004, when Susan was asked to take a polygraph test by the State Police at D. A. Sharkey’s request, her refusal to do so would have raised questions.  What might the investigating authorities think about Susan’s reported claim to Carol McKenna in 2013 that Mark actually had left a suicide letter, in blatant contradiction to her formal statement in 2003 that there had been no suicide letter?  How would they explain that?

At the end of this Memorial Day 2014, I include below two photos of Mark’s grave, which was decorated by the VFW with a flag honoring his service in Vietnam.  (Click on the photos for more detail.)  Memorial Day weekend in western New York was extraordinarily beautiful this year.  Mark, who would now be 63, should have been there to enjoy it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

More on the Alleged Phone Call Just before Mark’s Truck Fire

This post further discusses the problem of the alleged phone call between my brother’s wife Susan Pavlock and Peter Rapacioli from around 10:30 to 10:55 p.m. the night of the truck fire.  At the end of the call, Susan allegedly told Rapacioli that she had to hang up because she saw flames in the field across from the house and was going to call “911.”  As mentioned in previous posts (see May 15, June 26, and December 24, 2013), this alleged phone call raises numerous questions.  It is, then, a matter of considerable concern that the New York State Police investigators did not verify that call and refused to do so when they were asked to check the phone records in 2005.  The present post raises another problem related to Rapacioli’s statements about that call.

As stated in the previous post (March 3, 2014), I would have preferred to convey sensitive information only to the relevant authorities.  But since they have turned deaf ears to compelling evidence that my brother was murdered, I have no choice but to make public more of the information I have obtained about Mark’s death.  One such piece of information concerns Rapacioli’s claim that he could not reach Mark the day of the truck fire and therefore called his house late that night.
As recorded in the narrative of the police report for September 25, 2003, Rapacioli was on the phone with Susan but intended to speak with Mark about a charity football pool.  Rapacioli himself told me just weeks after my brother’s death that he had tried to reach Mark early in the day but was unsuccessful.  Yet when he telephoned me on June 5, 2013, he insisted that he had called my brother “numerous times” throughout the day but could not reach him.  In November 2004, however, my cousin Dennis Pavlock mentioned a very different statement by Rapacioli about speaking to Mark on the day of the truck fire.

Dennis mentioned the circumstances under which he happened to speak with Rapacioli: they met at the Holy Cross Athletic Club in May 2004 when Dennis went there with Gary Subulski during a visit to Salamanca.  According to Dennis, Rapacioli told him that he in fact had talked to Mark on the day of the truck fire.  Dennis added specific details from that conversation at the Holy Cross Club: Rapacioli mentioned that in their discussion about the football pool, Mark told him that they were losing and that he was going to do it over.

The discrepancies in Rapacioli’s statements in the only two conversations I have had with him (November 1, 2003, and June 5, 2013) are a matter of deep concern to me.  His statements to my cousin Dennis, as related above, are very troubling.  They raise further concerns about the quality of the investigation by the New York State Police, in particular about their refusal to check the telephone records related to that alleged call just before my brother’s truck burst into flames and he was found burning to death in the field across from his house.


Monday, March 3, 2014

More on the Problem of Mark’s Whereabouts the Day of the Fire

This post picks up on a problem previously discussed at length on this blog (see August 22, 2012): where was Mark on September 23, 2003, prior to his truck fire?  None of his friends saw him that day, nor did any of them have any contact with him by telephone, even though efforts were made to do so.  The State Police investigator also acknowledged that he had not been able to find anyone who had seen my brother out that day.  The only person known to have seen Mark that day is his wife, as recorded in her witness statement in the police report. 

The issue is important because shortly before 11:00 p.m., Mark must have been attacked in the extension of his driveway where he normally parked his truck because he left a significant pool of blood there.  As I’ve mentioned in several recent posts, he couldn’t simply have “fallen” and hit his nose or cut his head.  That scenario would presume that he was very drunk, but if so, then he couldn’t possibly have backed his truck in a straight line down his driveway and fifty feet into the field.  But that is the way the truck went down the driveway.  Whether my brother had been drinking or not does not change the clear implications of the physical evidence: he was beaten up, and someone else, presumably one of his attackers, drove his truck down the driveway and into the field, where Mark was doused with gasoline and set on fire and a gas can was ignited inside his truck.  So, how did Mark come to be in such a vulnerable position in or right next to his truck in the extension of his driveway shortly before 11 p.m.?

The only known information about Mark’s whereabouts that day is what his wife Susan says in her witness statement.  She states that Mark was at home in the afternoon and left the house about 8:45 p.m. to go to “downtown Salamanca.”  As the post of August 22, 2012, indicates, it is difficult, then, to understand why several people either expected to hear from my brother but didn’t or attempted unsuccessfully to reach him.  Mark’s friend Jim Poole, for instance, told me that my brother had left a message for him the previous evening that he would explain why he hadn’t come over to help him paint that day, but never got back to him.  More important, at least two individuals said that they had called the house that day for Mark but got no response.  It would certainly be uncharacteristic of my brother not to answer the phone.  More recently, as mentioned in the post of June 26, 2013, Peter Rapacioli insisted in his phone call to me on June 5 that he had called “Susie” around 10:30 p.m. because he had tried numerous times “throughout the day” to speak with Mark by phone but could not reach him. 

I had hoped that by now this case would be reopened and that many such problems would have been resolved.  Obviously, a check of Mark’s and other relevant individuals’ phone records would have shed some light on this particular issue.  But since officials thus far have refused to re-investigate Mark's death, I have no choice but to reveal information passed on to me in hopes that it might motivate some decent person who knows the truth to come forward.  Therefore, I report now a comment made to me by my cousin Dennis Pavlock not long after my brother’s death.

When I expressed concern about Mark’s whereabouts the day of the truck fire, Dennis said that he had been told by one of my brother’s close friends (whose name I will not reveal at this point) that Susan had locked him out of the house that day, as she had done on other occasions.  Stunned at this revelation, I asked Dennis where my brother had slept at such times.  Dennis replied that Mark had slept in his truck and that he had in fact slept there the night of the fire.

I myself, of course, cannot verify that Mark was actually locked out of his house that night.  But my nephew John McKenna indirectly offered some support for what Dennis reported.  Several years ago, John acknowledged that he had been concerned when he discovered that on more than one occasion Mark had had to stay at our mother’s house for several days at a time.  Unfortunately, my mother did not tell me about the problem, but wrote in a letter not long before her death in November 2000 that Susan treated Mark “like dirt.”  Furthermore, according to Alexis Wright, who with her husband picked Mark up from his DWI the day before the truck fire, Susan shouted to him, “Pack your bags and get the hell out!”  As Alexis also mentioned, Susan added that she should have thrown him out long before.  In addition, it is unclear how long my brother stayed at Todd Lindell’s after his truck was retrieved the night of his DWI.  Todd told me that Mark had remained at his house late.  But when I tried to get clarification on that issue as well as on Todd’s statement that “Mark would be alive today if he hadn’t gotten the DWI,” he did not return my call.

Did Mark actually have to stay in his truck the night of September 23, 2003?  In that case, he would have been in a very vulnerable situation if someone with malevolent intentions approached the truck as he slept.  

I can only imagine what my brother was thinking when he lay near death with such severe burns over most of his body.  But I am certain that he would want those who took his life by such a savage act to be brought to justice.  As I am the closest living relative from Mark’s birth family, it has fallen on me to act on his behalf.  Since he has no voice, I speak out for him and will continue to do so until the truth is made known and those who took his life are brought to justice.  If some people are critical of me for revealing “sensitive” information relevant to Mark’s death, they might better look into their own conscience.


Monday, January 27, 2014

A Follow-up on the Claim of Suicide

Two earlier posts (December 11, 2010, and March 27, 2012) focused on the view expressed by New York State Police and Cattaraugus County District Attorney that Mark’s death was most likely a suicide, though it was officially called an accident.  As recent posts (September 23, 2013, and October, 29, 2013) indicate, Mark certainly did not back his truck into that field the night of his fire as the State Police claim he did in an intoxicated state.  Someone else had to have driven the truck there.  Furthermore, if he was not intoxicated, Mark would not have fallen as the State Police claim he did and would not have left a significant pool of blood right where he normally parked his truck. But since the State Police continued well beyond the investigation to insist that suicide was the likely cause of my brother's death, this post follows up on the questionable bases for that claim.

Statements made about the likelihood of a suicide were expressed by Inv. Edward Kalfas, Sr. Inv. John Wolfe, Capt. George Brown, Lt. Allen, and D.A. Edward Sharkey.  Inv. Kalfas gave the following three reasons to support the theory that Mark had been depressed: the death of his dog a month or so earlier, his son's DWI the previous week, and his own DWI the day before the truck fire.  In the post of March 27, 2012, I expressed my concerns about the origin of these alleged motivations for depression and offered concrete evidence to counter them. 

It is not necessary to reiterate here the information in those previous posts.  But a few important points in the post of March 2012 should be restated.  First, on the issue of Mark’s alleged depression over his DWI the day before the truck fire, there is a significant problem with Inv. Kalfas’s entry in the police report for September 25, 2003.  Although he records that members of the Holy Cross Athletic Club commented that Mark “was very upset at getting arrested for DWI the day before the fire,” he admitted to Atty. Michael Kelly in September 2005 that he had not found anyone who saw Mark out the day after the DWI.  Therefore, those club members had no opportunity to observe Mark's reaction to his DWI.  Second, Mark's interaction with friends shortly after his release from jail conflicts with the State Police's position that he was depressed as a result of the DWI.  Third, it is unclear to what extent a highly problematic statement to me by Mark's daughter that he had left her a suicide letter may have influenced the investigating authorities.  [On the report of a recent claim by Mark’s wife Susan that Mark left a suicide letter, see the post of November 23, 2013.]

In referring to a meeting in May 2010 with current Cattaraugus County D.A. Lori Rieman, I also brought up the comment by former Sr. Inv. John Ensell, Inv. Kalfas's immediate superior at the time of the investigation, that my brother had been under a “suicide watch” while in jail. Since Mr. Ensell was obviously implying that Mark’s mental state immediately after his arrest was an issue, I raised a question in my post of March 2012 about the conditions under which a suicide watch might have been held.  I have since learned that a suicide watch is merely routine procedure in that upstate New York town for an arrest such as a DWI.

Around a year after my brother’s death, I spoke with the claims agent of an insurance company potentially responsible for the cost of the Medivac airlift to the Erie County Medical Center and of Mark’s treatment in the burn unit.  Statements to me by the agent have been a matter of concern for two reasons. 

First, when the company looked into the cause of the fire, certain people on the scene who agreed to speak with their investigator only “off the record” told him that it looked like a suicide.  The claims agent did not explain to me what the basis was for that determination.  Of course, the people who spoke to the insurance investigator could not have had all the information necessary to make a definitive judgment.  But why did they insist on speaking only “off the record”?  Individuals presuming to have the knowledge to make such a claim should not hide behind a cloak of anonymity.  Furthermore, if they told the insurance investigator that it looked like a suicide, did these individuals make the same claim to the State Police investigator?  Allegations by certain people that my brother spoke clearly to them on the scene led the authorities to insist that Mark had not said anything about foul play and therefore had not been the victim of a murder.  But such comments (e.g., by Mark’s neighbor Dan Smith) fly in the face of the known facts, including the official report that Mark could not communicate at all on the airlift to E.C.M.C. (see November 30, 2011, and March 13, 2013).

It would be useful to know what specific individuals claimed that Mark’s death looked like a suicide and to learn how they arrived at that conclusion.  I believe I can say confidently that it was not Gary Wind (firefighter and then deputy sheriff), Wayne Frank (firefighter), or Cheryl Simcox (EMT), all of whom told me emphatically that Mark’s death did not look like a suicide.  Besides neighbor Dan Smith (who was there only briefly), the following are the only other individuals who I learned were on the scene: Mark Ward (firefighter, also close friend of Mark’s wife), Josh Newmark (EMT), Christopher Baker (fire investigator), Steve Arrowsmith (then Salamanca policeman), and Patrick Welch (police cadet and close friend of Mark’s son Brian).  There were others, of course, including members of the fire investigation team, but I do not know their identity.

Second, the claims agent was very surprised when I brought up the pool of Mark’s blood found in the driveway where he usually parked his truck.  The agent responded that the State Police investigator had not mentioned the pool of blood to them and in fact refused to let them see the police report when they asked for it.  As Atty. Michael Kelly stated to me in 2005, Inv. Kalfas should have let the insurance company read the police report.  Did Inv. Kalfas want the insurance company not to find out about the pool of Mark’s blood on the scene?

A conversation with my half-sister Carol McKenna in November 2004 is another matter of concern to me.  I had called Carol to ask her to contact Olean Times reporter John Eberth to urge the paper to print an article on Mark’s death.  In the course of the conversation, I mentioned that, according to Eberth, Inv. Kalfas told him that Carol believed Mark’s death was an accident.  Carol immediately exclaimed, “Why is Kalfas lying about me?  The subject of accident never came up.”  Carol made it clear that suicide was the focus in Inv. Kalfas's telephone conversations with her about Mark's death.

The report by my nephew John McKenna of a conversation that he had with one of Susan’s sisters also remains troubling to me.  According to John, Calla Smith, who was staying with Susan at the time, told him the day after Mark’s death that it looked as if the police were going to rule it a suicide.  As mentioned previously (see November 1, 2012), how could Susan’s sister possibly have known that?  To whom had she been speaking about the case?  The investigation, after all, had barely begun.

Finally, in light of the events of September 23, 2003, and those allegations of suicide, I remain concerned about the matter of a pistol Mark owned.  According to a relative, some months before his death my brother mentioned that he had obtained a license for a pistol.  This relative was also quite certain that Mark had referred to keeping the pistol in the glove compartment of his truck.  That made sense since, as someone pointed out, the M & M’s gas station where my brother was a security guard is rather isolated.  This pistol was in fact the gun that my brother mentioned to then deputy sheriff Gary Wind after he found a burned-out vehicle with Bill Duhan in it (see February 4, 2013).  Assuming that Mr. Duhan had committed suicide, Mark said, “I’d never do that to myself.  If I wanted to take my own life, I’d use a forty-five.”  My brother expressed his opinion about self-immolation clearly and cogently.  He would never have burned himself to death.
What happened to that pistol?  There is no reference in the police report to any gun found in Mark’s truck or elsewhere on the scene.  It makes one wonder further about what exactly took place in the driveway the night of that truck fire.  The events that led directly to Mark’s death would seem to have started right next to the driver’s side of his truck.  That’s where the pool of blood was found, near the left front bumper area when the truck was parked there.  That is also presumably where Mark got the wound on his forehead that Wayne Frank thought looked as if he had been hit with a nine-iron.  Or possibly with a pistol, if his attackers removed it from the glove compartment?