Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Problem of the Failure of the N. Y. State Police to Investigate Mark’s Head Wounds

In September 2005, Atty. Michael Kelly met with Inv. Edward Kalfas and Senior Inv. John Wolfe to discuss a number of problematic issues related to the investigation into my brother’s death, including a wound on Mark’s forehead. That wound is not mentioned in the police report but had been revealed to me initially early in 2005 by Dr. Edward Piotrowski, my brother’s attending physician at the burn unit of the Erie County Medical Center, where he had been airlifted the night of his truck fire.  The doctor informed me that a CT scan had revealed deep soft-tissue swelling on his forehead and additional soft-tissue damage to the left side of his face.  Later in 2005, a firefighter named Wayne Frank, one of the first emergency workers on the scene, told Atty. Kelly that he, too, had observed the wound on Mark’s forehead the night of the fire.  (On the head wounds, see esp. posts of September 24, 2016, and March 31, 2018.)

According to Kelly, when he raised the issue of the forehead wound, Wolfe (who had replaced John Ensell, the original senior investigator on Mark’s case) was not aware of any such wound.  But after Kelly explained the fresh information from the doctor and the firefighter, Wolfe told him that he would have Trooper David Chandler come in and would ask him about the wound to Mark’s forehead and about comments by various individuals on the scene.  Kalfas informed Kelly that no photographs had been taken of Mark on the scene but showed him the autopsy photograph.  Kelly himself noticed the wound and pointed it out to Wolfe, who then acknowledged it.

Not long after Kelly’s meeting with the two N.Y. State Police officials, I myself had two telephone conversations with Wolfe, in late September and in mid-October.  However, there were significant discrepancies between what he said to me and what he had said to Kelly, in particular concerning the wound on Mark’s forehead.  I brought up both Dr. Piotrowski's information about the deep soft-tissue swelling, presumably caused by a blow to the forehead, and Wayne Frank's comments about the gash that he saw on Mark's forehead, possibly caused by a nine-iron.  In fact, in the second conversation, I had barely mentioned that firefighter’s name when Wolfe scoffed dismissively, “Oh, is that the guy with the nine-iron?”

Despite Wolfe’s scornful attitude, three individuals actually saw that wound.  In addition to Dr. Piotrowski, who expressed concern about the soft-tissue damage to Mark’s forehead (and additional soft-tissue damage to the left side of his face) and Wayne Frank, another firefighter on the scene, Gary Wind, also noticed the forehead wound.  When I brought up Kelly's statement that the wound was noticeable in the autopsy photograph, Wolfe contradicted what he had stated to Kelly.  Wolfe now claimed to me that the autopsy photo did not show any wound on Mark's forehead or any indication that he had been struck by a nine-iron or similar instrument.

Although Wolfe had told Kelly that he would speak with Trooper Chandler about the wound on Mark's forehead and about comments by individuals on the scene, he apparently did not.  In phone conversations with Wolfe, Kelly tried to find out about the status of his efforts to clarify the problem of the head wounds and related information.  Wolfe never responded about the interview he was supposed to have had with Chandler.

At their meeting in 2005, Kelly mentioned that during his years as N.Y. State chief prosecutor for nursing home crimes in western New York, he would provide a summary of efforts for redress to his client, along with relevant records.  He urged Wolfe to do the same for me.  That never happened.   Wolfe also prevented me from seeing the autopsy photo.  Although he claimed that the photo would be too upsetting to me, I had made it very clear that my sole concern was to find out the truth about my brother’s death, however unpleasant it might be.  In addition, Wolfe initially said that he would allow me to see the photos of the scene of my brother’s truck fire, but in the end never responded to my request for an appointment to view them.

Why did Wolfe fail to follow through on these issues related to the wound on Mark’s forehead?  That wound, the soft-tissue damage to the left side of his face, and mucosal congestion in his sinus areas (all observed by Dr. Piotrowski) suggest the likelihood that my brother had been attacked.  The pool of his blood found in an area off his driveway where he normally parked his truck (see esp. post of May 29, 2012) leads one to that very conclusion.

How can one reasonably explain Wolfe’s refusal to let me see the autopsy photo(s) and his failure to follow through on a meeting with me so that I could the photos of the scene that were taken by the State Police the night of the fire?  How can one reasonably explain the response by the State Police to my FOIL request (see post of September 1, 2011) that the photos of the scene of Mark’s truck fire could not be located?