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Hilltown Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 23, 2011
Arrested for attempted murder
By Zach Simeone
BERNE A man who had a violent childhood was arrested for attempted murder and sexual abuse of a 10-year-old girl on June 20 in Berne.
Adam M. Croote, 23, of 382 Rock Hill Road, New Scotland, was charged by the Albany County Sheriff’s Office Monday with six felony and two misdemeanor counts.
He is on the New York State sex offender registry for being convicted of a second-degree rape in Massachusetts in 2005, when he was 17. The registry says he raped a 25-year-old “non-stranger” without force. Croote was given five years of probation.
As a child, he had witnessed his father, Michael Croote, shoot and kill his pregnant mother, Wendy Croote. A custody battle between his grandparents ensued. His mother’s mother, Margaret Zibura, and her husband, Frank, took Adam Croote to Kansas; living under assumed names, they raised him as their child. After three years in Kansas, when Adam Croote was 6, the FBI arrested the Ziburas for custodial interference, and Linda Koerner, his father’s mother, who lived in Westerlo, was given custody.
Croote is a distant relative of the girl he is accused of abusing. The girl’s mother, who is a relative of the murdered Wendy Croote, said her family had just recently gotten acquainted with Adam Croote.
She said of the paternal side of the family, “They had told our side of the family, ‘If you want to see Adam, it will be on our conditions,’ and we were never allowed to see him… Up till three months ago was the first time we had contact with him.”
She went on, “I had just come across him on Facebook, and I started messaging him back and forth. I asked him questions to make sure he was the right person, just started talking to him, we started a separate Facebook group for his maternal grandparents and family so they could all talk to him….
“He said he didn’t even know where his mother was buried. He didn’t know the circumstances around his mother’s death, so we’ve been trying to inform him without overwhelming him.” His father, she said, is still in prison in Georgia.
She went on, “He was in the house when his mom was killed. He was only 2 years old. When he was on a visit with his maternal grandparents, when he was 2-and-a-half or 3, he told them he saw Daddy shoot Mommy. When they asked him in the last few months, he said he had no memory of it.”
After 20 years with no contact, the Berne family was introducing Adam Croote back into the family, she said. “This was the only time he’s ever babysat for us,” she said. “One day, he was sitting there when we were talking about how we needed someone to baby-sit for an hour after school, and he volunteered. We had no idea about the thing in Massachusetts. We had no reason to distrust him at that point…He had never mentioned it, and we never thought about researching it online or anything.”
Undersheriff Craig Apple said, “This is probably one of the most heinous cases I’ve seen in some time.”
Apple described the events of June 20 this way: “Mr. Croote…had come across the family over the weekend at, I believe, a car show, or some family-style event. The father of the child mentioned how he needed somebody to help get his daughter off the school bus. So, at that point, our guy, Mr. Croote here, stepped up and said, ‘I can do it. No problem.’
“So, Monday comes along, and Croote goes to the bus stop and gets the child off the bus. Brings the child to her house. And they go in, and they wanted to play a video game, so they started to set it up. She goes in the kitchen to get a snack, she comes back, and he’s naked, and he sexually assaults her.
“The young girl obviously screamed. He basically tried to snap her neck, and tried to strangle her. She continues to fight and scream, and I’m not sure what prompted him but, thank God, he got up and got out of there.
“The phone started ringing; it was the girl’s father. Eventually, she answers the phone and tells him what happened. He calls the mother, who doesn’t work too far away, and she called 9-1-1.
“The guy flees the scene, gets picked up in New Scotland by the State Police. The child was transported to the hospital, she was treated, and she was released later on that night. She’s home resting, and obviously traumatized, both physically and emotionally.”
Apple concluded, “This would be a horrific thing for any child. She’s a remarkable child, and she’s expected to make a full recovery.”
The Enterprise is withholding the child’s name, her address, and her parents’ names in keeping with the newspaper’s policy of not identifying victims of sexual assault.
The girl’s mother got a voice mail on her cell phone the afternoon of June 20 and finally got through to the house. “I was able to talk to my daughter,” she said. “All I could understand was that something had happened. The person that was babysitting her was not in the house. She had already spoken to her dad and he was on his way home from work.”
When the mother got home, she said, her daughter was in shock.
“Initially, I just made sure she was OK,” said the mother, “and I went to go look at her room, and I wasn’t allowed to because the sheriffs had been here and they taped off her room, which I understood, but my first thought was to make sure she was physically OK.”
The 10-year-old girl was treated at the Albany Medical Center Hospital and released in the early morning hours of June 21.
“Luckily,” said her mother, “she doesn’t remember a lot of it because he choked her till she was unconscious. And she woke up later on, and that’s when she started calling me and my husband. She doesn’t have a lot of memory of what actually happened.
“Whether that’s because she was out or she mentally blocked it, we don’t know yet. But whenever she says she’s angry, I say, ‘You have a perfect right to be,’ and we try to just help her as much as we can. We’re going to set up for counseling later today,” she said on Wednesday.
She also said a meeting was planned with Albany County’s district attorney. Heather Orth, the spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, declined comment.
Croote has been charged with:
Second-degree attempted murder, a Class A felony;
First-degree rape, a Class B felony;
First-degree criminal sexual act, a Class B felony;
First-degree sexual abuse, a Class D felony;
Second-degree strangulation, a Class D felony;
First-degree aggravated sexual abuse, a Class C Felony;
Forcible touching, a Class A misdemeanor; and
Criminal obstruction of breathing, a Class A misdemeanor.
Croote was arraigned by Judge Kenneth Bunzey in Berne Town Court and remanded to Albany County’s jail without bail.
A jail spokesman said Croote declined interviews.
The girl’s mother said of the planned meeting with the district attorney, “I think that’s when I’m going to get more information on what’s going on.”
As the family had to deal with the murder of Wendy Croote, she said, “I just wanted to make sure from us that we had everything we could in case it had to go to trial or anything, make sure they had everything they possibly need. I never want him out.”