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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, May 12, 2005
Charges dismissed against Ismailaj
GUILDERLAND Misdemeanor charges against Genci Ismailaj were dismissed in Guilderland Town Court on Jan. 13, 2005.
Ismailaj, at 19, of 1 Dana Ave, Albany, had been arrested by Guilderland Police for reckless driving on Route 20.
First in the state: Documenting broadcast history teaches trio about research,
By Melissa Hale-Spencer
GUILDERLAND Casey Gerety, Sohee Rho, and Katie Wells are eager to make history. The trio of Farnsworth Middle School students will fly to Washington, D.C. next month to compete in National History Day.
The seventh-graders have condensed a century of television history into a riveting 10-minute documentary that won first prize in the New York State History Day competition, qualifying the team for national competition in June.
Gerety, Rho, and Wells worked together all year using hours before and after school to complete their project. They did all the work themselves, but were guided by veteran enrichment teacher Deborah Escobar who literally wrote the book on creating his-tory documentaries. Her book, Creating History Documentaries: A Step-by-Step Guide to Video Projects in the Class-room, was published by Prufrock Press Inc. in 2001.
Over the last 13 years, Escobar has led Farnsworth Middle School students to many local victories in the regional History Day competitions. Last year, Rho worked on a project about the atomic bomb and Gerety and Wells won a third-place state prize for a documentary on Anne Frank, the Jewish diarist who fled Nazi Germany.
The young women have learned about the richness of local history. "We found out more about something we were interested in," said Wells.
Their documentary, WRGB: Broadcasting Pioneer, also won the "Best Local History" award given during the state competition in Cooperstown. The award, from the New York State Historical Association, is presented to the best local history project among all competitive categories research paper, exhibit, performance, and documentary.
The young women also learned about conducting original research; their documentary is based on 17 primary sources as well as 27 secondary sources.
And, they learned to use an advanced technology creating a documentary on a computer where their teacher would brain-storm with them to solve challenging problems.
"We recorded our voices on computer with a microphone and pulled it into the software program, putting it with pictures," said Wells.
"We had to do a lot of troubleshooting," said Rho, citing a problem with sound, where erasing a sound on a source tape erased other sounds as well.
"We all solved it together," said Wells.
Perhaps most importantly, they learned about the satisfaction and joy of working together.
The three friends are diverse in their goals and outlooks.
"I want to go into history or law," said Rho. She thinks it’s important for people to learn from history, from "all the mistakes that people have made."
Gerety, whose father is an endocrinologist, hopes to become a doctor, too.
"I like math and science," she said.
"I think I'd like to be a lawyer or a journalist," said Wells. "I like to debate with people about what’s happened."
The young women have been informed by their research not just on dates and facts but on ways of thinking about the world around them.
Last year, when she worked on the project about the atomic bomb, Rho said, "We learned all sides whether to do it or not. This time, we learned about the impact of media coverage. During the Vietnam War, you could actually see the war. People don't react to television like that now."
"Now it’s more for entertainment," said Wells.
"They take it for granted," said Gerety.
Currently, most television news, said Wells "doesn't really go into depth."
"During the Vietnam War," said Gerety, "they showed blood and coffins on TV. With the war in Iraq, we barely see any of that."
"The Vietnam War ended be-cause people saw that. In our life, they don't show it; they don't want people protesting," said Wells.
The theme for this years His-tory Day is "Communication: Key to Understanding." Escobar, a self-described "local history buff" selected topics that would encourage original research.
"With local history, there's usually not a book they can turn to," she said.
The girls chose the topic of the first television station, Schenectady’s WRGB.
"We went to the General Electric Archives," said Gerety.
"We spent two or three months researching the topic," said Rho. "Ten minutes seems really long at first."
Escobar agreed: "At first, they say, ‘Ten minutes; how do we fill that"’ Then they say, ‘How do we cut"’"
She concluded, "Its a good critical-thinking exercise to see what is most important and least important."
The team got together before class to work on the project and stayed many evenings until 5:30. Rho said how grateful she was to her parents for driving her in the early-morning hours and picking her up late at night.
In order to get more time for the project, Escobar said, "I improvised, and created a new animal an in-school field trip." This allowed the team two days of uninterrupted work on the documentary.
Each of the girls spoke of the strengths of her teammates. Rho said how good Gerety was at finding pictures and lauded Wells’s skill at "putting things to-get her."
"Sohee helped us practice our lines over and over," added Wells.
"They each did a third of the narration," said Escobar.
"Everyone had input," concluded Rho. "You had to put thought into each part of the product."
The young women were equally enthusiastic about praising their teacher.
"She’s so supportive of us, every step of the way," said Rho.
"Without her, this would never happen," said Gerety.
"I'm a facilitator," Escobar said with a shrug. She added, "Sometimes, as a teacher, that's the hardest part for me. I have to slap myself and say, ‘Shut up,’" Escobar said with a laugh; the girls joined her with giggles.
At first, said Rho, "Our script was like a time line. We had to add depth and detail."
"We tried to find interesting things that happened to the station," said Wells.
The time line began with Gets invention of the cathode ray tube in 1905 and continued to GE’s radio station, WGY, in 1912. It covered Ernst Alexanderson working on experiments that led to the creation of his mechanical television in 1928, and moved along to Kolin Hager, the first television newscaster, who broadcast farm and weather news.
It included the broadcast of New York’s governor, Alfred Smith, accepting the presidential nomination, and the first television drama, The Queen’s Messenger.
It moved on to the 1930’s with the first variety show and the first long-distance broadcast, from New York City to Schenectady’s, of the king and queen of England arriving at the World’s Fair.
In the 1940’s, the Schenectady’s station got its permanent FCC license and its current call letters, WRGB, in honor of Walter Ransom Gail Barker, an early broad-caster. WRGB was one of only nine stations in the country that broadcast original information during World War II.
During the war, women kept WRGB running, "operating everything from cameras to lighting," says the narrative voice as a picture of the women at work is displayed.
At the start of the decade, the Capital Region had 300 Tiffs, the documentary states, while there were 1,919 by 1948.
In the 1950’s, the station produced entertainment shows like Teen Age Barn, an on-air talent show, and The Freddie Freihofer Show for children.
"A lot of what you see on television even today is a result of techniques that were just developed here by the very, very early pioneers of television," says Jack Aernecke, in an interview conducted by the Farnsworth students.
In 1954, when WRGB’s channel number was changed from 4 to 6, there were over 300,000 television sets in the Capital Region. The following September, the first color program was produced featuring actress Betty Hutton.
"WRGB was a partner in his-tory in 1960," says the narrative voice as scenes from the Kennedy-Nixon presidential de-bate are aired. The documentary says the televised debate allowed Americans to see a pale Nixon who suffered in comparison to Kennedy’s "youthful and energetic personality, possibly causing Nixon to lose the election."
A visibly shaken Walter Cronkite is shown next in the famous footage reporting on Kennedy’s assassination.
"President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time..." says Cronkite as he puts his heavy black-framed eyeglasses back on and looks down, control-ling his tears.
"The news coverage of Kennedy’s assassination was a turning point for broadcasting overall," says the narrative voice, as stations shifted focus to news coverage.
The documentary’s black-and-white footage changes to colored film of the Vietnam War in the early 1970’s.
As two American soldiers are shown dragging a body, the narrative voice says, "For the first time, war came into people’s living rooms and affected people’s understanding of the tragedy of combat. People saw death, blood, and images that stayed in their minds forever."
The documentary then cuts to a scene of protesters in front of the White House with John Lennon’s song, "Give Peace A Chance," playing in the back-ground.
"They have a runoff after the first presentation," said Wells. "You show your video and then they ask you questions."
"You also submit a process pa-per," said Gerety. "It’s a reflection of what we did and how we worked together."
"There are two separate rooms for the first presentation," said Rho. "They take the top three from each room...The runoff judges are a lot more strict."
Asked how they felt during the competition, Wells said, "You always have that feeling of nervousness, but we were confident; we had worked hard."
The next hurdle is the national competition, held June 12 through 16 in the Washington, D.C. area. The group will use its $250 "Best Local History" prize towards expenses for the trip. The students will be taking final exams from Farnsworth while in D.C.
"I’m so excited, I can’t stop thinking about it," said Gerety as the other two nodded in agreement.
Wells made the trip to Washington, D.C. when she was in third grade and her older sister, Victoria Wells, had worked on a project about child labor at Harmony Mills.
Escobar knows the competition in Washington will be tough; she’s been there before.
"Although local history judges well at the state level, it’s almost a handicap at the national level," she said.
Escobar described winning documentaries from earlier years one on Japanese internment camps that featured an interview with former President Gerald Ford, who issued an apology for the camps; an-other on Vietnam War protests that included interviews with Joan Baez and Pete Seeger, folk singers and activists.
"People making those have connections," Escobar said.
The regional and state judges’ comments, Escobar went on, were not very helpful. "They say things like ‘wonderful’ or ‘outstanding’...You need constructive criticism," said Escobar.
So, with that in mind, Gerety, Rho, and Wells created a survey for Farnsworth staff to fill out after they viewed the documentary.
"We got real good feedback from that," said Escobar.
Based on those comments, and on further research, Gerety, Rho, and Wells plan to revamp their documentary before the national competition, just as they did after the regional competition.
"After each level, they revise and it gets better every time," said Escobar.
The group has already scheduled an interview with long-time WRGB anchor Ernie Tetrault, and will be replacing local stat is-tics with national statistics.
"It’s like a piece of art," said Escobar "There’s always more you can do."
"It gave me a chance to open my eyes," said Rho.
"When I work in groups for school now," said Wells, "I know how to help people communicate. I’ve learned skills here."
"The script helped with my writing," said Gerety.
Rho went on to offer advice. "People should take a chance on something they haven’t done," she said. "History Club sounds really boring, but, wow, look at all that’s interesting." Doing the project, she said, made her feel special.
"When I watch TV now we don’t have cable, so we don’t get many stations and I see that little sign in the corner," said Gerety, referring to the WRGB logo, "I know all about it."
"We wore our medals to school on Monday," said Wells. "When people asked what it was for, I’d tell them about WRGB. ..You feel like you really accomplished something."
Chase family fights for birthmark awareness
By Nicole Fay Barr
GUILDERLAND Lianne and Kevin Chase were frightened as the birthmark on their young son’s hand swelled and bled. According to Lianne Chase, doctors misdiagnosed the boy’s affliction and told the family there wasn’t much they could do.
Then, she stumbled upon a web site for the Vascular Birth-marks Foundation. Chase and her son, Cody, met with the director of the foundation, who identified Cody’s hand as having a malformation. The six-year-old boy was treated and is now healthy.
Lianne Chase has made it her mission to help spread the word about the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation. She wrote a letter to The Enterprise editor this week, thanking the doctors who helped her son and publicizing Vascular Birthmark Awareness Day, which is this Sunday.
"It looked like a spider bite," Lianne Chase said. But, she said, she didn’t worry; it’s common for birthmarks to appear on babies, a few months after they are born.
I didn’t think much of it, but you want your baby to be perfect, so I took him to the doctor," Chase said.
The doctor recommended a specialist who said the bump was probably a benign birthmark and there was no need to be alarmed. Most birthmarks are mere discolorations of the skin and are harmless.
But, Chase told The Enterprise, years passed and her songs birthmark got worse.
"In the summer, when it was really hot, it would get bigger and be plum or red colored," she said.
When Cody Chase was three years old, his mother took him to another doctor. The doctor diagnosed him as having a hemangioma, she said. A hemangioma is a type of birthmark that appears at or shortly after birth. It can be a raised or a flat mark on the skin that can ulcerate.
Hemangiomas can stop growing by the time a child is 18 months old; they can also be re-moved with steroids or lasers.
The Chase family visited a plastic surgeon, but dismissed that option when told what the operation would entail. Mean-while, Lianne Chase said, the doctors continued to tell her to wait for Cody’s birthmark to disappear.
In 2003, when he was five years old, Cody Chase started school. That November, he had a bad virus and his birthmark ballooned out on his hand.
"The doctors said that’s common," Lianne Chase said. "The birthmark acts almost like a strainer for viruses; that’s why it was so red."
Her son’s hand got even more swollen and red over the winter and reached its worst state in March. Chase made an appointment to see another doctor then.
The Friday before the appointment, she decided to do an Internet search for hemangioma. She found a web site for the Vascular Birthmarks Foundation.
The foundation, she said, saved her son.
The Vascular Birthmarks Foundation was started 12 years ago by Linda Rozell-Shannon. Rozell-Shannon’s daughter had a birthmark similar to Cody’s on her lip. It was misdiagnosed as a hemangioma and later, when it was almost too late to treat, was found to be a malformation.
After her daughter’s treatments, Rozell-Shannon wrote a book with her doctor and established the foundation.
Chase read Rozell-Shannon’s story on the web site and then read her book, Birthmarks, A Guide to Hemangiomas and Vascular Malformations. Chase was surprised to find that the foundation is based in Niskayuna.
Chase and her son met with Rozell-Shannon and were told that Cody had the same story as her daughter.
"The doctor was calling it hemangioma, but he didn’t bother to look at birthmarks in a medical book," Chase said. "It wasn’t hemangioma; it’s a lymphatic malformation."
Rozell-Shannon diagnosed Cody Chase in one visit.
"She’s a layperson, but she’s the world’s leading layperson on birthmarks," Lianne Chase said of Rozell-Shannon. "She’s seen 4,000 birthmarks."
Malformations are often diagnosed as hemangioma, but are different. Malformations can appear at any age and swell with hormone changes or from trauma and sickness. They usually have to be removed with surgery.
Shannon informed Chase that her son’s birthmark wouldn’t get better without treatment. "She said it’ll get worse," Chase said. "He could even lose his hand."
Chase’s son then saw several specialists, whom she thanks in a letter to The Enterprise editor this week.
In January, at the Boston Children Hospital, Cody Chase had his birthmark surgically re-moved.
The surgeons were concerned about damaging arteries, veins, and tendons in his hand, but were able to remove the birth-mark successfully, his mother said.
"He was frightened, but extremely courageous," Chase said of her son. "It’s scary to put your child under, but it was comforting to know that we were at the best hospital and had the best man for the job."
She went on, "We prayed a lot and we put him in God’s hands and the surgeon’s hands....Birthmarks are benign tumors, so there’s always a chance they can grow back. But, he’s healing nicely."
Within two months, Cody Chase was playing baseball and climbing on monkey bars, his mother said.
"He has a scar because his skin was so damaged by sores," she said. "But, it looks great...It’s a miracle."
Chase was angry that none of her son’s doctors recommended she contact the foundation.
"That’s what the foundation is for; they are a wealth of help," she said.
The foundation holds free screening clinics in Albany. Had Chase known about this, she said, her son could have been diagnosed at a younger age.
"It’s a nice network of doctors," she said of those working with the foundation. "I used to work within walking distance of the foundation and I’d never heard of it."
Finding it on the web site, she said, "was a lucky fluke."
This Sunday, May 15, is the second annual Birthmark Awareness Day. It is also Lianne Chase’s birthday.
Last year, instead of accepting birthday presents, Chase had her friends and family donate money to the foundation. By telling her son’s story to The Enterprise, she’s hoping to raise more awareness about birthmarks.
Her other son, Casey, who is 7, has similar birthmarks on his neck and stomach. Her husband, Kevin, has one on the back of his leg.
Both were examined by Cody Chase’s doctors and given blood tests. It looks as if Casey Chase will have to have his birthmarks removed within the year, his mother said. His birthmarks get bigger and redder when he’s sick, she said.
"Casey’s saying, ‘When am I going to have mine done now"’" his mother said. "Both he and Cody are really good, courageous souls."
For more information, visit the foundations web site, www.birthmark.org.
Murder: Burnell indicted for shooting death
GUILDERLAND A grand jury yesterday handed down an indictment of Hashim Burnell for the shooting death of Todd Pianowski.
Although Guilderland Police are sure they fingered the correct suspect, Burnell’s lawyer says they have the wrong man.
The tragedy came to light last Thursday afternoon when a woman found her boyfriend, Pianowski, shot dead in their Guilderland apartment and had a gun held to her head by his killer, police say.
Guilderland Police and State Troopers launched a massive search and, after about eight hours, arrested Burnell and charged him with second-degree murder. Burnell, formerly a Guilderland resident, was an acquaintance of Pianowski.
Guilderland Police Chief James Murley told The Enterprise this week that he believes Burnell, 19, intended to shoot Todd Pianowski, 22. His motive, Murley said, "was a drug-for-money deal."
However, Burnell’s lawyer, Paul DeLorenzo, said that his client is innocent. He agreed that Burnell was at Pianowski’s apartment that day, but not at the time of the killing.
DeLorenzo said that Burnell has someone to back up his alibi and there is evidence to convict someone else.
"We do know who did it," De-Lorenzo told The Enterprise. "We have some good evidence that strongly indicates it was some-one else."
This is not the first time Burnell has been in trouble with the law. He spent time in prison for attempted burglary and, when released last summer, was soon arrested again in Guilderland for driving without a license, criminal impersonation, and possession of marijuana.
Tuesday, Burnell went before a grand jury in Albany County Court and was indicted on Wednesday. Burnell remains at the Albany County jail without bail.
Burnell will be arraigned on Friday and, DeLorenzo said, he will plead not guilty.
Meanwhile Pianowski’s family and friends are in mourning.
"There are no words that can describe it, nothing," Patt Pianowski said of her son’s death. "It’s such a senseless act."
Todd Pianowski was about to complete his first semester at Hudson Valley Community College. He was taking business classes, his mother said, and he had dreams of being a professional bowler.
"He figured he should get into business so he could maybe someday run a bowling alley," she said. "....My son was an all around good guy. He never gave anybody any problems."
Pianowski and his girlfriend, Lauren Parker, lived in the 1700 Designer Apartments, at 1702 Western Ave., in the middle of the three-floor complex. At 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Parker returned home and found Burnell there, Murley said.
"He confronted her," Murley said of Burnell. "He held a gun to her head."
Then, he said, Burnell ran out of the apartment. At the same time, Parker saw Pianowski’s body on the floor.
Parker and Pianowski had dated for five years and loved each other deeply, Pianowski’s mother told The Enterprise.
"She’s devastated," Patt Pianowski said of Parker. "She’s staying here with me now."
Murley said that, after Parker found the body, she ran to Wings Over Albany, a restaurant behind the apartment complex. Parker and Pianowski’s brother both work at the eatery. Someone at the restaurant called 911, Murley said.
"We received a call that some-one was shot," he said. Police arrived at the scene, he said, "but we still didn’t know what we had. We heard screams coming from the apartment...We didn’t know if the shooter was still in the building."
Once it was determined that the shooter had fled, police began protecting the crime scene, Murley said.
Guilderland officers tried to find witnesses and called the State Police for help. The State Police responded promptly, Murley said, and flew a helicopter over the area, looking for the suspect or for clues.
Police dogs from Guilderland and the State Police also searched the area, Murley said.
Officers had to calm down apartment residents and managers who were very upset, he said, as other officers inter-viewed anyone who may have seen anything related to the crime.
Meanwhile, Murley and Lieu-tenant Curtis Cox began putting together a command post and a "leads desk" was set up at the State Police station on Willow Street.
"A leads desk is like a clearing house," Cox said. "It’s manned by two investigators and one of our guys."
Leads desks are used in major crimes, such as in homicides, rapes, and missing persons cases, Murley said. "As leads come in, anything, they are developed," Cox said. "Those people coordinate if we need to send somebody to follow up on the lead."
Any data collected by officers at the scene of the crime or through witness interviews is transmitted to the leads desk.
"All that info goes to the leads desk so you prevent duplication of resources, rumors, half-baked info..." Murley said.
"And omissions," Cox said. "So we don’t overlook anything....Eventually, all this is put into a computer program."
"Information like, is he six feet tall, black, Hispanic, white, Asian...what type of vehicle he drives...those kinds of things," Murley said. "That narrows down a lot of the confusion that takes place during a major-crime scene."
Since Guilderland Officer John Cordi had injured his knee earlier and couldn’t move around easily, Murley put him in charge of the leads desk.
"We start with a folder, with just a piece of paper that has a lead written on it," Cordi told The Enterprise Tuesday. "Say you’re talking to a person at the scene and they said they saw the victim have an argument with someone three weeks ago...We look into it. Any time a new lead comes in, we assign people to track it."
On the police scanner last Thursday, The Enterprise heard officers saying that a suspicious person was running near Crossgates Mall; that the suspect had a possible alias of "Jason"; and that the suspect might be at an insurance office on Western Avenue.
"It could be they found property that doesn’t belong there," Cox said.
Guilderland Police also reached out to the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, the Rotterdam, Colonie, and Albany police, and the state’s Division of Parole.
Officers didn’t know then that Burnell was on parole but, Cox said, "We reach out to as many resources as we can."
"Whatever professional law enforcement we can muster," Murley said.
"Then it becomes very busy," he said. "We’re looking for someone who committed a homicide."
He added, "We felt from the beginning that this is not a ran-d om act, from the information sifted out of on-scene inter-views."
"Our concern was getting this guy off the street," Murley said. "We worked through the night and there’s a constant ebb and flow of info that has to be checked and re-checked....Then it’s back to coordinating with other law-enforcement agencies and ferreting out inconsistencies."
Finding the suspect
Officers checked surveillance cameras from the apartment building as well as from nearby grocery stores and gas stations where the suspect may have been.
Murley said that security cam-eras "played a role to some degree" in helping find the suspect, but would not elaborate.
At around 6 p.m., a helicopter circled the area a second time, he said, taking photographs and looking for clues. This was alarming to residents coming home and police tried to let each one know that the shooting was not a random act, Murley said.
"We had to give them whatever we could because people were worried and wondering what was going on," Murley said. "At the same time, we had to be very concerned about releasing any sensitive information that may be injurious to the out-come of the case."
At around 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Thursday, the different police agencies had a briefing, Cordi said. That is, they compared the information they had compiled.
Before removing Pianowski’s body and searching the residence, police waited to get a search warrant, Murley said. The Albany County District Attorneys office helped police secure the warrant.
"We called the DA’s office right away," Murley said. "They’re the ones that have to prosecute. They are invaluable in assisting with search warrants. They know what the judges are looking for."
"It’s a long process," Cox said.
As officers and investigators gathered more information, police began to suspect that Burnell was the perpetrator, Cox said.
But, Cox said, police didn’t immediately admit to the public that Burnell was their suspect. "Some information is sensitive because, if you release the stuff too early, the bad guy hears it and it can be influential to the case," he said.
Murley added that potential witnesses could hear false information on television and change their stories.
At about 10:30 p.m., Colonie Police saw Burnell’s car and stopped him. He was arrested for second-degree murder, a felony.
At around the same time, Colonie Police took Burnell into custody, Guilderland Police got a search warrant.
Forensic experts searched the apartment and took photographs, Murley said. They worked there until 3 a.m., he said.
At about 11 p.m., the county coroner had removed Pianowski’s body. An autopsy has been conducted but all of the test results are not back, Murley said.
Burnell was arraigned before Guilderland Judge Steven J. Simon "in the wee hours of the morning," Murley said. Burnell was then remanded to Albany County’s jail without bail.
"It was a relief that he was off the street," Murley said of Burnell.
Of last Thursday night, he said, "I went home and got two hours of sleep. Some people didn’t sleep at all, trying to make an airtight and flawless case."
On Friday at 11 a.m., after a briefing, Murley announced at a press conference that Burnell was arrested for Pianowski’s murder. He then circulated letters to those who live in the apartment complex, telling them of the arrest.
"I want to commend every law-enforcement officer involved in this tragic event," he told The Enterprise Tuesday. "We worked closely together. It was good police work by all agencies."
He concluded, "It was a lot of work; it takes time to separate fact from fable."
The wrong man"
"We’re finding, based on all the statements we are receiving and the evidence we’ve reviewed, that the DA’s office is misinterpreting witness statements," DeLorenzo said.
Certain comments made by witnesses were taken in an incorrect context, DeLorenzo said.
"It’s like, if somebody asks you what color the sky is," he said, "you’d say blue, but there’s clouds and lots of different colors in the sky."
When asked about this, Albany County District Attorney Michael McDermott told The Enterprise that he can’t comment, but he is confident in the Guilderland and State Police investigations.
Burnell was at Pianowski’s apartment earlier last Thursday, but not at the time of the shooting, DeLorenzo said. He declined to say why he was there nor would he comment on drug involvement.
Asked if Burnell had regular access to Pianowski’s apartment, DeLorenzo said, "Once in a while....They were nothing more than acquaintances."
The videotape that police are using as evidence, DeLorenzo said, is also insubstantial.
"We definitely agree he was there earlier," DeLorenzo said. "But the video in the hallway doesn’t show anything concerning my client. It’s not good; it’s poor quality."
From his own review of witness statements and other evidence, DeLorenzo said he knows exactly who killed Pianowski, but would not elaborate.
Asked about this, McDermott said Wednesday that he and DeLorenzo had a brief conversation about this on Tuesday.
"He provided me with some unsubstantiated allegations," McDermott said. "We’ll have to look into it."
Asked why the district attorney would be trying to prosecute the wrong person, DeLorenzo said, "I understand certain statements and how they go. If you follow up, you can misunderstand what a person’s saying."
Before Burnell was indicted Wednesday afternoon, DeLorenzo said he hoped it wouldn’t happen, he said. But, he said, an indictment for Burnell doesn’t mean he’s guilty. DeLorenzo quoted Sol Wachtler, former chief judge of New York, who said a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.
Burnell will plead not guilty in Albany County Court Friday, DeLorenzo said. His lawyer will then try to get Burnell released on bail, he said.
Burnell was charged then with second-degree burglary, a felony, and petit larceny, a misdemeanor. In court, he was offered a plea-bargain charge of second-degree attempted bur-glary, a misdemeanor.
Then, from April of 2002 to May of 2004, Burnell served time at the Coxsackie Correctional Facility. He was paroled on a conditional release, which means that, until May of 2007, he must comply with his parole officer and not be arrested again.
In July of 2004, two months after his release from prison, 19-year-old Burnell was arrested again by Guilderland Police. He was charged then with second-degree criminal impersonation and for third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, both misdemeanors, and for unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation.
Guilderland Police said then that Burnell was stopped for speeding and he gave police a false name, Billy M. Manuel, and date of birth. Later, Burnell admitted to his real identity, the arrest report says, and he was found to possess a learner’s permit with a false name, Billy R. Manuel Jr.
Burnell’s driver’s license was then found to be suspended, the report says, and he was also found to possess marijuana between the seats of his car.
Burnell’s 2004 arrest report said that he was a front-desk clerk. Murley declined to comment on Burnell’s current employment or other related information.
Burnell currently lives at Mountainview Terrace Apartments, in Latham, but, during his first two arrests, Burnell was listed as residing at his parents’ home, at 3127 Lone Pine Road, Guilderland. A man who answered the phone there this week declined comment to The Enterprise.
DeLorenzo said that Burnell’s family knows he did not kill Pianowski and supports him. Burnell has held a steady job in this area, DeLorenzo said.
"He’s got a good father and a good family," DeLorenzo said. "They quietly support their son. They know he’s wrongly accused."
He concluded, "It’s tragic what’s happened to both families."
Other Guilderland murders
Five years ago, Melissa Straw-bridge, of Altamont, was convicted of killing her new-born daughter.
Her story, as it unfolded in trial court in January of 2000 was: Strawbridge was working at Community Health Plan, in Colonie, on March 24, 1997, when she delivered a 7-pound, 10-ounce, full-term daughter in a bathroom of her parents’ home. Two days later, Strawbridge led Guilderland Police to a dumpster behind Carpenter’s Commons, an apartment complex on Route 20, where they found the body.
In a non-jury trial, Judge Dan Lamont ruled that the baby, named Kaylee Marie in court papers, was born alive, then placed in a toilet, and put into a plastic bag. Strawbridge was later convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
In 2000, Guilderland High School student Andrew Hernandez went to the Guilderland Police Station to say he had "done something bad."
When police went to the Hernandez home, they found the body of his 43-year-old mother in a walk-in closet off the first-floor master bedroom. She had been shot once in the back of the head.
In 2003, Hernandez, who pleaded guilty to murdering his mother, was sentenced to 19-and-a-half years to life.
After the sentencing, Hernandez’s lawyer, Terence Kindlon, said that Hernandez had "completely and fully accepted responsibility" for his crime. Hernandez, who was a senior at the time of the murder, was described by his peers as a loner who was quiet, respectful, and bright.
In 2004, a third Guilderland resident was charged with murder. Erick Westervelt, 23, pleaded not guilty in October to killing a Bethlehem man.
Bethlehem Police say Westervelt beat 28-year-old Timothy Gray to death with a hatchet. Gray, an Elsmere man who was dating Westervelt’s ex-girlfriend, was attacked on Oct. 5, police say, and died from severe head injuries on Oct. 10.
Westervelt was described by a former baseball coach as a hard-working athlete who never lost his temper. Westervelt’s trial has not yet been scheduled.
Todd Pianowski’s family mourns an ‘easy-going child’
By Nicole Fay Barr
GUILDERLAND Todd M. Pianowski was a champion bowler who had big dreams of excelling in professional sports.
He was also a sweet person who was devoted to his friends and family.
"He was very loving," said his father, Ron Pianowski. "He would do anything for anyone. He loved spending time with all of his friends and helping people out."
"He was an all-around nice guy," said his mother, Patt Pianowski. "He was the kind of son everybody would like to have."
Mr. Pianowski died on Thursday, May 5, 2005, of a gunshot wound. He was 22.
Mr. Pianowski was born in Albany and grew up in Guilderland.
"He was a very easygoing child," his mother said. "He always got along with everybody. He never gave us any problems."
She paused and laughed. "Well, except when he would fight with his younger brother. It was the usual sibling rivalry, he and his pain-in-the-butt younger brother."
But, Mrs. Pianowski said, as they got older, Mr. Pianowski and his brother, Kyle, became close friends.
Both parents said Mr. Pianowski loved all of his friends. That’s why he lived in Guilderland, his father said.
"He liked being close to his family and friends; that’s what kept him in the area," Ron Pianowski said. "He was very giving and everybody loved him."
Mr. Pianowski and his girlfriend, Lauren Parker, were together for five years. They met through mutual friends and recently lived together.
"He was devoted to his girlfriend; he had big plans," Mrs. Pianowski said.
"He had a great love for her," his father said.
"He was a good student, a good child," Mrs. Pianowski said. "He was a wonderful son."
Mr. Pianowski left high school when he was 16, his mother said. Last year, she said, he got his GED (General Equivalency Diploma).
In January, he began taking classes at Hudson Valley Community College.
"He got his GED and started going to college at the urging of his family, his girlfriend, and his friends," Ron Pianowski said. "We talked him into going."
Mr. Pianowski enjoyed college, his father said.
"He’d always tell me he was getting good grades," he said. "I was very proud of him, as was his mother, his brother, and his girlfriend."
His father went on, "He was doing very well; everything was going for him. He was going into business. I really was proud of him, the way he turned his life around."
Her son was studying business because he wanted to run a bowling alley or be a professional golfer, his mother said.
"He started bowling at eight," Mrs. Pianowski said. "He just hit 299 and he was waiting to hit 300," she said of a perfect bowling score.
Mr. Pianowski bowled in an adult league on Friday nights at Westlawn Lanes, on Western Avenue.
Mr. Pianowski also loved golf. He got serious about the sport three years ago, his father said, as he made friends who played.
In addition to his parents, Ron and Patt Esopi Pianowski, Mr. Pianowski is survived by his brother, Kyle Pianowski, of Guilderland; his grandfather, Raymond Esopi, of Cape Coral, Fla.; and his girlfriend, Lauren Parker, of Guilderland.
He is also survived by his uncle and aunt, Robert and Barbara Pianowski, of College Park, Md.; his cousins, Julie and Jennifer, of New York City; and numerous close friends.
A funeral was held Wednesday. Arrangements were by the New Comer-Cannon Family Funeral Home, in Colonie. Entombment was in St. Agnes Cemetery, in Menands.
Memorial contributions may be made to Christ the King Church Building Fund, 20 Sumpter Ave., Albany, NY 12203.
Man stabbed at mall during fight
GUILDERLAND A 25-year-old man, who is probably a gang member, was stabbed at Cross-gates Mall on Saturday, police say.
Just after 8:30 on Saturday night, near an escalator that leads to mall security offices, police say, two men fought while a group of people stood around them.
As security guards and police officers came to intervene, members of the group ran away. Po-lice suspect that they are gang members, Guilderland Lieu-tenant Curtis Cox told The Enterprise.
An officer was able to catch one person involved in the fight and discovered he was bleeding, Cox said. He was stabbed two or three times, Cox said, in the up-per back and the side.
"He was extremely uncooperative and remains so," Cox said. The victim refuses to give police any information about the incident, he said.
His wounds were not life-threatening, Cox said, but Guilderland’s Emergency Medical Service workers took him to the hospital. The victim didn’t want to go to the hospital, Cox said, but police insisted.
The victim was stabbed with a knife and Crossgates security found the weapon in the mall and turned it over to the police for evidence, Cox said.
Police don’t know who stabbed the man, Cox said. The attacker is described as a black male with a thin build, who is possibly in his early 20’s. With the victim not cooperating, police have little hope for finding the accused.
"As of yet, if we have no info to go on, it’s still an open case," Chief James Murley said. "But, I remain doubtful it’ll move for-ward."
Gangs at the mall
The presence of gangs in one of the area’s largest gathering places has caused increased violence and arrests. This has made mall management pay for more police officers at Crossgates and consider a curfew.
Last week, Ron "Cook" Barrett, senior gang-prevention specialist for the Capital Region Gang Prevention Center, told The Enterprise about gang members at the mall.
They gather at Crossgates because it’s a common place where thousands of teenagers and young adults go, he said.
"They love the excitement," Barrett said. "They like to cause a scene and it’s talked about back at school. It boosts their reputations."
With gang members from Albany, Schenectady, and Colonie trying to cause scenes at the mall, violence is likely, he said.
For three years, Guilderland Police have noticed gang members gathering at Crossgates Mall, Murley said earlier.
"They have the right to go there," Murley said. "They just have to conduct themselves in an appropriate fashion....For the most part, they do what everyone else does; they go to the mall to enjoy themselves."
The best way to control violence in the mall is to be proactive and Guilderland is doing this, Barrett said. Increasing security at the mall and working with experienced Albany officers are positive steps toward stop-ping violence and arrests at the mall, he said.
Murley said more meetings are scheduled next week with mall security and Albany County District Attorney David Soares, to discuss controlling violence at the mall.
ZBA grants garage variances
GUILDERLAND At last Wednesday’s zoning board meeting, of the four variances the board granted, Joseph Messier’s application to build a garage attached to his home received the most deliberation.
Messier, of 25 Cross St., asked for a variance to construct a 20-by-24-foot, two-car garage on the side of his home. The zoning law requires an eight-foot side-yard setback and Messier asked for a five-foot setback.
Town planner Jan Weston wrote in a memo to the board that, although she has no strong planning objections, Messier’s garage will affect his neighbor’s view.
Chairman Bryan Clenahan told the board that Messier is "doing a big expansion" to his home, but only needs a variance for the garage setback.
"You have a compelling case," Clenahan told Messier. "But, the garage will be tight to your neighbor’s property."
The way the houses are situated, Messier said, his neighbor’s front yard faces the opposite direction. "The houses are re-versed," he said.
Board members later decided that, with the uniqueness of Messier’s property, and that 31 neighbors received notice of his application, but did not oppose it, the impact on the neighborhood was acceptable.
Clenahan also questioned if Messier’s request were substantial.
"In the grand scheme of things, five feet isn’t [substantial], but, when you’re talking about eight feet required and five proposed, that’s over half," Clenahan said.
Messier’s building plan for expanding his house is configured around the garage, he said. The second-floor addition will be on top of the garage.
Clenahan then tried to negotiate Messier’s moving the garage slightly forward or reducing the size. But, Messier said, with his porch and with needing a 16-foot-wide door, he can’t reduce the size.
"What if you gave us a foot to the side and put bushes in"" asked Clenahan.
"I’ll put bushes in without the foot," Messier said.
"Six inches"" Clenahan asked.
"Three bushes"" Messier asked.
The board was satisfied then, with Messier saying he will landscape the area around the garage.
Granted a variance to Gail and Claude Pickett, of 2758 Furbeck Road, to allow the construction of an attached garage in a side yard;
Granted a variance to Herb Hoelzli, of 4 Willow St., to permit a 12-by-20 foot carport attached to his home; and
Granted a variance to Stephen and Ethelyn Weiss, of 700 Wasentha Way, to allow a six-foot stockade fence in the front yard of their corner lot.
Goodhart’s world music goes cosmic
GUILDERLANDFor a man interested in the cosmic inter-connectivity of things, Rich Goodhart must be impressed with how he’s come full circle.
As a young man, he listened to the ’70’s progressive rock of Yes, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, and David Allen and his band, Gong, which Goodhart calls "the ultimate pinnacle of psychedelic art-rock music." Goodhart heard something he liked in that music.
"Among a lot of elements in that music that attracted me, there was this exotic element all those bands would bring in," Goodhart said.
That exotic element, the sounds of instruments and music styles from beyond the Western world, was the first step on a path that has taken Goodhart, of Guilderland, to become a respected and versatile world musician.
On his latest recording, Earth Spiral Water Sound, Goodhart convinced his hero, Allen, to join him in the studio for two songs, which Allen co-wrote.
"It was wonderful," Goodhart said. "It was really like working with some sort of Buddha in the studio, some sort of Zen master."
Earth Spiral Water Sound, Goodhart’s fifth album, recorded on his own label, Beginner’s Mind Productions, was released this month. Although Goodhart calls his previous disc, The Gathering Sun, his "best in terms of composition," he says of Earth Spiral Water Sound, "Overall, I think it’s the best in connecting my truest and deepest thoughts about music."
As with his previous albums, Goodhart plays a host of instruments, many of them unfamiliar to the average listener: dousongoni, dulcitar, sanza, African drums (djembe, sogo, kidi, ashiko), talking drums, doumbek, frame drums, kanjira, clay pot, udu, bendir, bazouki, melodica, jaw harps, keyboards, bamboo sticks, berimbau, conga, shakers, tambourine, bells, quartz bells, and vocal parts.
And though the instruments are foreign, the compositions are not always. Not a musical purist by any means, Goodhart, like his prog-rock predecessors, brings in rock, jazz, and funk sounds equally with world beats.
"It just makes natural sense that all those elements work together," Goodhart said, "that it doesn’t sound forced."
Besides, Goodhart likes to do his own thing with his music, "mixing it up in the internal realms," he said.
"I’m just a white boy from up-state New York," he said. "I don’t try to be Native American, I don’t try to be African, I don’t try to be Middle Eastern in my music."
After attending a concert by Oregon, one of the earliest groups in world music movement, Goodhart took a bold step. He approached group leader Collin Walcott backstage, told him he was interested in learning tabla, drums from India, and asked if he knew a teacher within 50 miles of Albany.
Walcott said he didn’t, Goodhart recalled, but told Goodhart he would teach him himself, if he were willing to drive to Oneonta, at least an hour away.
"So that’s what I did for the next year," Goodhart said. "I consistently went out to his home."
A year later, however, Walcott died in a car accident in Germany. Goodhart still wanted to continue learning new instruments.
For two years, he studied at the California Institute of the Arts, learning a multitude of instruments and styles: northern Indian, Ghanaian, Javanese and Balinese, and Korean, to name a few.
With each new instrument, Goodhart found it easier and easier to adapt to completely different modes of playing.
After studying in California, Goodhart returned to Guilderland. He started trying to write his own songs.
"I was always interested in composition," he said. "That seemed to be the most important thing to me."
Goodhart couldn’t easily ex-plain his approach to writing. Teaching at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck a few years ago, he was asked to teach a course in songwriting, he said. He declined.
"I ended up not teaching a songwriting course because it really made no sense to me," Goodhart said. "What I do as a writer, I couldn’t teach because there’s no process. It’s just an idea comes."
He revised his statement. There is a process, he said, a process of clearing the mind of worries, reaching a state of clarity, mentally and physically.
"And then you just see what comes," he said.
Sometimes, what comes is a riff or melody that he later expands into a full composition. Other times, what comes can’t be replicated. For example, the last track on Earth Spiral Water Sound, "Sound Spiral Water Light," is a 13-minute improvisation on the dulcitar, a hybrid of the dulcimer and guitar Goodhart created. Goodhart has since not been able to match the improvisation he did for the CD.
"I’m still trying to figure out what I did on that," Goodhart said.
"Personal mind trip"
"I am very happy with where the music has taken me," he said. "It has taken me places, internally and externally, that I couldn’t have gotten to other-wise."
His most regular gig right now is accompanying Shahram Shiva, an Iranian translator of the poems of Rumi, a 13th century Persian mystical poet. As Shiva reads the poems, Goodhart plays along, creating what he calls a "multitextural musical experience."
At the Omega Institute in 1999, Goodhart and Shiva invited the spiritualist and best-selling author, Deepak Chopra, who was visiting the institute, to join them onstage. Chopra read his own Rumi translations.
The collaboration led to three years of Goodhart and Chopra occasionally performing together, culminating in a CD and a DVD. Those recordings remain unreleased by the record company, which cites their "low profit potential," Goodhart said. Meanwhile, he’s in limbo, on the brink of national exposure.
"It puts you through a whole personal mind trip that some idea of success seems to be dangling in front of you," Goodhart said. "So, there’s that sense of hope. Once you go though it a couple of times, you just learn it’s all part of the business that we’re all subject to."
Commercial success doesn’t mean too much to Goodhart, but he does acknowledge that selling more CD’s means more people are listening to his music. He’s happy to scratch out a living playing his music and teaching classes, but said he wishes he had a wealthy benefactor to pay his expensesEarth Spiral Water Sound drained his bank account.
But it’s not the fame he plays for. It’s not even the music he plays for. Goodhart says he doesn’t play "music for music’s sake," or just to play things that are faster and more difficult.
"There’s something else there," Goodhart said, "a spiritual energy of transformation. This goes even for the Beatles. Their music was never just about the music. There was a spirit inhabiting the music and it was about that spirit energy."
Goodhart tries to tap that energy in his own music.
"Along with that energy and that spirit is the element of nature," he said, "the holistic consciousness that is in the natural world."
"I feel it’s all connected," Goodhart said. "It’s the same energy and my Qigong work is reflected in the music."
Lately, he’s been studying sound healing, a method, dating back to ancient Egypt, of healing the body through sound.
"It works with a reality that has been corroborated by modern quantum mechanics, that the essence of all material in the universe is vibration," Goodhart said.
In the 1980’s, he said, his right hand began to hurt, limiting his playing and stymying doctors. But, because he continued to play, he said, it healed itself spontaneously through the music.
"A blessed experience"
Two years ago, he said, he decided not to learn any new instruments and instead focus on perfecting his technique on the ones he already knows.
"That’s about when I started to learn native American flutes," Goodhart said, laughing, and then grabbing a long wooden flute and playing a tune. Many of his instruments he has built himself.
"It’s been a very interesting and unconventional life," Goodhart said. "I would not trade it for anything. It’s an in-credibly blessed experience, and I’m thankful for it every day."
Plans approved for new doctors’ office
NEW SCOTLAND Tee-time is out, the doctor is in.
Omni Development Company’s proposed office building for two doctors at 1882 New Scotland Road has been approved by the town’s planning board.
Construction will begin "in the summer at the latest," Omni Executive Vice President Charles Carrow told The Enterprise on Tuesday.
The building will be 10,457 square feet and have two main-door entrances, one for each medical group. One of the entrances will be to the side of the building, so the parking lot wraps around the building, civil engineer and land planner Dominick Arico explained to the planning board.
The building will be one story, with brick on the bottom and siding above the brick.
Omni used common design features of other commercial buildings and houses along the Route 85 corridor, so the office would blend with the surrounding community and be aesthetically pleasing, Carrow said.
Omni plans to have public sewer service from the Heldervale Sewer Extension, and public water from the town of Bethlehem. The water is there, Carrow said; he just needs to get a letter from Bethlehem.
Planning board member Robert Smith reiterated at last Tuesday’s meeting that the board’s approval is contingent on Omni’s securing water and sewer.
Based on planning board recommendations, the developers chose to have one driveway connection to Route 85, rather than two. Planning board member Cynthia Elliott commended Arico and Carrow for their "nice use of a single entrance" and "nice landscaping plans."
Omni will plant trees to "hide" the parking lot, Arico said, and more trees on the eastern side of the building to create a buffer for neighbors, Carrow said.
Carrow said this Tuesday that he has secured a physician’s group as one tenant, but occupants for the other half of the building have yet to enter into a lease agreement.
Dr. Angel Millora and his group of four doctors will be consolidating their current three offices, at three different locations across the Capital Region, into Omni’s new building in New Scotland.
Millora told The Enterprise that one of the group’s offices is just down the street on Kenwood Avenue in Slingerlands, another is on Delaware Avenue in Albany, and a third office is in Schodack.
The three other doctors in the practice are Virginia Lazaro, José Nebres, and Sumitra, who uses only her first name profession-ally, he said.
Millora said that his group is moving into the New Scotland building because the doctors needed a larger space and be-cause they wanted to update their equipment and offices. He also stated that this was a good location for them because it wasn’t far from one of their existing offices and their many Slingerlands patients.
Carrow had explained this to the planning board in December and told The Enterprise this week that he plans to be back at Town Hall in the near future to move forward with the plans for Phase Two of construction.
He said, by developer’s standards, the town has been developer-friendly.
Omni’s proposal for subsidized senior apartments on Mountainview Road in the village of Voorheesville is currently in the concept review phase, Carrow said.
He said that the proposed senior condos on Route 85, the proposed senior apartments in Voorheesville, and the existing Omni assisted-living complex on Carman Road in Guilderland are all development projects that Omni got involved with because the company believes these buildings and services are tremendous assets to a town.