The Citizen's top 10 most-read stories of the week.
Auburn police locate missing boy
The Auburn Police Department announced Wednesday they located a boy first reported missing on Tuesday.
According to a news release from 1:35 p.m. Wednesday, police located 12-year-old Jonathan Parker, who the department had asked for the public's assistance in finding earlier in the day.
In the release announcing Parker was located, the department thanked the public for their assistance.
Parker was reported missing Tuesday after leaving his Auburn residence of his own accord, according to the original release.
Auburn man accused of selling stolen item to pawn shop
Auburn police said a man stole a Blu-ray disc player Monday and lied on the form he filled out while selling it.
Auburn Police Department Deputy Chief Roger Anthony said Mikal S. Holbrook, 20, of 24 Merriman St., stole the disc player from a home on Francis Street around 3 p.m. and then sold it for $15 at Pawn King around 4:30 p.m.
Anthony said the theft victim reported it to the APD that same day. Holbrook lied on Pawn King's forms where sellers confirm their identify and verify that the object they sold was obtained legally, Anthony said.
Holbrook was charged with first-degree falsifying business records, a felony, and petit larceny, and was released on an appearance ticket.
ICE arrests, detains former Auburn farmworker for alleged visa fraud
A former Auburn farmworker has been charged with visa fraud for allegedly faking her identity and submitting false paperwork that claimed she was in the country legally, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
The woman, whom officials believe was using a fictitious name, was arrested on a warrant April 2 in Scipio Center. Court documents refer to the woman as "First Name Unknown Last Name Unknown, aka Floriselda Aguilar."
The woman had been employed by Dickman Farms Greenhouses and Garden Center in Owasco from January until early March, when she left the farm. She was not employed by the farm at the time of her arrest, Dickman Farms owner Dave Dickman said Tuesday.
According to the ICE agent, an I-9 employment verification form that the woman gave the farm contained a valid Social Security number, but the number does not belong to a Floriselda Aguilar. The worker also provided an alien registration card to the farm for her eligibility to work. Like the Social Security number, the information on the card was valid, but it did not belong to her. The paperwork "all looked completely legit," Dickman said.
The farmworker's arrest took place after a complaint was submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York by a deportation officer with Immigration and Customs Enforcement on March 18.
In the complaint, the officer said his agency had been given information by a source who has "provided reliable and credible information on numerous occasions in the past."
The woman was still in federal custody Tuesday, a spokesperson for ICE said. According to the court case's stipulation, Aguilar and her attorney were granted time to "review the evidence in this case for both parties to potentially negotiate a pre-indictment resolution."
Easter excitement: Multiple generations attend egg hunt in Auburn
AUBURN — For Brad Beardsley, the community Easter egg hunt in Auburn is a family tradition.
Beardsley, who was at the annual hunt at Hoopes Park Saturday with his granddaughter Aurora Beardsley, said between taking his children when they were younger and now his grandchildren, he estimated he has been at the hunt for 28 consecutive years. Aurora, 5, held onto a stuffed rabbit she won at the event like it was a dear friend.
"It's just a great family, community gathering," Beardsley said.
Children and adults swarmed the park for the event, which has been going for 70 years. The Owasco-Fleming Kiwanis Club hosted the festivities, which also featured appearances by Auburn Fire Department personnel and the Easter Bunny.
Children ranging from toddlers to age 9 were able to take part in the search for candy-filled treasure, with different age ranges separated into different sections. Of the 9,000 eggs at the park, some were worth special gifts such as stuffed rabbits. The grand prize, a bike donated from Walmart, meant finding a special egg in each age section. Before the event began, Serenity Jones, 2, pointed at nearby eggs from behind yellow tape, shouting "Egg!" as she looked at different bulbs. Serenity's father, Wyatt Jones, said he believes the event is a tradition for people.
"They've been doing this for the last 70 years, so it's pretty much part of the community," he said.
Bridgette Greenfield's eyes ballooned as she said she came to the event for candy. Bridgette, 7, was armed with two Easter baskets and planned to bolt for the larger eggs. Bridgette's grandmother Jackie Couture said she loves watching children have fun at egg hunts.
"Their joy is my joy," she said.
At 10 a.m. the tape dropped to the ground as a siren signaling the hunt's start ripped through the air, with children making mad dashes for the goods scattered on the grass as adults cheered them on and helped out. Every single egg was gone in a matter of minutes.
After the search, Lori Hadden helped granddaughters Londyn Humphrey, 5, and Arden Humphrey, 4, separate the eggs from the candy. Hadden's niece Tiffany Garrigan helped as well, as Tiffany's son Logan Johnson played with the stuffed rabbit he won. At one point, Logan, 9, dove the rabbit into his candy, as if his newfound furry companion was snacking on the goods.
Kiwanis Club president Willard Schwarting said 240 pounds of Tootsie Rolls were donated for the event. Club member Lee Brew said it took 15 hours for all of the eggs to be filled. Her said he believed multiple generations got in on the fun.
"It's like a family tradition, you know?" Brew said. "There's probably people here that took part in it when they were kids."
Ryan: Cases of some STDs spiking in Cayuga County
Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month, observed each April, is an opportunity to raise awareness about what STDs are and how they impact our lives, and to understand why it’s important to prevent, test for and treat STDs. The surge of STDs endangers the health of too many in the United States. Most of us will have a sexually transmitted disease or infection in our lifetime. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is not a reportable disease to health departments, is estimated to impact more than 80 percent of us.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2013-2017:
• Syphilis cases nearly doubled
• Gonorrhea cases increased by 67 percent
• Chlamydia cases remained at record highs
What do these diseases and numbers look like in Cayuga County? Of the reportable communicable diseases, chlamydia is the highest in Cayuga County. Cases of chlamydia have remained consistent over the past five years, with an average of 240 in each of those years. So far for 2019, we have seen 66 confirmed cases.
Second highest is gonorrhea. Gonorrhea cases in Cayuga County have been trending with the national rates. The majority of cases are being diagnosed in 20-40-year-olds.
Here are the numbers of cases of gonorrhea over the past five years, with a notable increase in 2018:
• 2014: 16
• 2015: 24
• 2016: 21
• 2017: 22
• 2018: 108
So far this year, we already have 12 confirmed cases.
We have not really seen an increase in syphilis cases like other parts of the New York state and across the country. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, there was one case diagnosed in each of those years. In 2018, and so far for 2019, we have not have any cases of syphilis diagnosed.
What could be the reason for these increases? One thought is that many of these diseases are treatable, leading individuals to perceive there is no real long-term health consequence from having them. But that is not the case, and we will discuss that later. Another factor is the new culture of meeting people online and casually hooking up without protection.
Many of these diseases and infections do not present with symptoms, so unless you are getting tested and then treated, you may not realize you are infected and therefore could be spreading it to more sexual partners. Leaving these untreated can lead to infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, miscarriage, premature birth and cancer, just to name a few.
The Cayuga County Health Department subcontracts our STD clinic to East Hill Family Medical. Confidential, walk-in STD testing is available from 4 to 7 p.m. Mondays. Here, patients can be tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV. Testing for STDs is through either urine or blood, or both.
If you cannot make it to the Monday evening clinic, contact East Hill Family Medical’s Reproductive Health Services at (315) 253-8477 or easthillmedical.com. The office is located in Metcalf Plaza, 144 Genesee St., Suite 401, in Auburn.
Some downtown Auburn business owners say back-in parking is causing problems
AUBURN — It’s been almost a year since back-in, on-street parking was installed along a downtown strip of Genesee Street in Auburn. The goal behind ditching front-angle parking was to cut the risk of accidents on the busy street. Some downtown business owners, though, feel as if they’re paying a toll for the new parking design.
In May of last year, C&S Companies, an engineering firm, informed the Auburn City Council that there had been 53 accidents on Genesee Street from 2011 to 2014. Fourteen of the accidents were directly related to front-angle parking, the firm said during a presentation on the city’s Genesee Street Paving Project.
Since the project received state funding, Auburn had to abide by New York Department of Transportation regulations which prohibit backing out into traffic. This meant the front-angle system had to be replaced.
“I would’ve rather seen parallel parking,” said Susan Waby, owner of Regenerations, a home décor shop on Genesee Street.
Waby believes the back-in parking outside of her store has something to do with a dip in business.
“I get a lot of feedback on it,” she said. “People come in and say, ‘what’s up with this parking?’ It’s affecting business.”
To correctly back in to a parking spot, vehicles must pull ahead of a space, and then back their vehicle in. Waby’s biggest concern is holding up traffic.
Sometimes, she sees drivers pull U-turns into spots, which means they cross the double yellow lines and park on the opposite side of the road.
Mike Sigona, who owns Thirsty Pug Craft Beer Market, located in the Genesee Center, has similar views of back-in parking. He said he’s seen vehicles behind parking cars get impatient and cross into the oncoming lane to get around them.
“We figured that once construction would be over — when it would no longer be a mess downtown — that it would get better. But with the back-in parking, it’s bad.”
Sigona said that his business is down 30% this year.
One alternative to parking on Genesee Street is the city’s parking garage on Lincoln Street, where the first two hours of parking on upper levels are free. For some older people, like Waby’s 88-year-old mother-in-law, parking in the garage, she said, is “easier said than done.”
Auburn man sentenced for high-speed chase through Cayuga County
AUBURN — An Auburn man who led police in a high-speed chase in Cayuga County last year has been sentenced to up to seven years in prison.
Brandon Millhoff, 42, of 1 Chedell Place, was sentenced in Cayuga County Court Thursday by Judge Thomas Leone. In August, Millhoff hit three police vehicles during a chase that began in Cato and ended just outside of Auburn, when state police halted their pursuit for public safety concerns. No one was hurt, and Millhoff was found and arrested the next day. Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann noted Thursday that Millhoff was found with over 500 milligrams of cocaine when he was arrested.
Millhoff pleaded not guilty to 27 counts when he was arraigned in October 2018. On April 12, he pleaded guilty to four felonies, 12 misdemeanors and two traffic infractions.
On Thursday, he was sentenced to 1 1/3 to 4 years for third-degree criminal mischief, a class E felony; 2 1/3 to 7 seven years for two counts of second-degree criminal mischief, a class D felony; and 2.5 years plus one year of post-release supervision for fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. The sentences will run concurrently. Millhoff was granted a shock camp order, and his minimum stay in prison will be six months. He was also ordered to pay over $1,000 in fines and over $7,000 in restitution for the damage to the police vehicles.
Budelmann said that he hopes Millhoff takes "the options and counseling available to him while he is in prison." Millhoff apologized to the community and said he was "thankful no one was hurt."
Also in court
• A Weedsport sex offender was deemed a moderate risk of re-offending and is being released.
Richard Scott, 76, of 34 Hillside Lane, pleaded guilty in April 2016 to possession of a sexual performance by a child and tampering with physical evidence, both class E felonies.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Brittany Grome Antonacci said Scott had child pornography involving a 7-year-old girl in May 2015. Scott admitted when he pleaded that he tried to delete the pornography and hide the hard drive.
Leone gave Scott the determination. Scott's defense attorney, David Elkovitch, argued for a lower designation, and after Leone made the designation, Elkovitch argued for a downward departure to get Scott a lower designation, citing Scott's age and health problems.
Elkovitch also argued that since Scott, who had been brought into court in a wheelchair, had not made sexual contact with a child, "there is a very low risk to offend." Grome Antonacci argued against this, citing Scott's 1993 plea to second-degree aggravated harassment, a class A misdemeanor, in which Grome Antonacci said the defendant had repeatedly called a 14-year-old girl and had been "making sexual remarks" to her at age 50. She said Scott's age and health problems then "did not stop him from committing a crime."
Leone denied the downward departure. Scott is set to be released under parole and must register as a sex offender.
Six-year-old killed, others seriously injured in Seneca County crash
A Seneca Falls child was killed and two other children were seriously injured in a crash in the Seneca County town of Junius on Saturday, state police said.
Troopers responded to a two-vehicle fatal accident on Route 318 and Burgess Road in the town of Junius around 4:15 p.m. Mary Taylor, 26, of Seneca Falls, the driver of a westbound minivan on Route 318, slowed down to attempt a left turn onto Burgess Road and was struck from behind by a flatbed truck. The operator of the truck, Meroe Hurst, 19, from Seneca Falls, was not injured. The truck was registered under Finger Lakes Dairy Services.
The minivan driver and her 6-year-old daughter, Camyra Watts, were transported to Geneva Hospital, where the daughter was pronounced dead. The mother was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
State police first reported on the crash Saturday night, and released the names of the drivers and the 6-year-old victim on Sunday.
Taylor had two other daughters in the minivan, troopers said. An 11-month-old and a 3-year-old were airlifted to Strong Memorial Hospital with serious injuries.
The State Police Collision Reconstruction Unit and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit responded to the scene. The investigation remains ongoing.
Repeat Fleming sex offender, freed in 2017, arrested for parole violation
A Fleming man convicted of multiple child sex crimes dating back to 1985 was arrested on a parole violation last week, according to records from the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
Roger Kulakowski, 65, was arrested April 10 for violating one of the conditions of his parole, according to a DOCCS spokesperson. Details of the violation were not available, but it was not a new crime, the spokesperson said.
In 1985, a Cayuga County jury convicted Kulakowski of sodomizing a 5-year-old girl his former wife babysat for, and was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison, according to previous reports from The Citizen.
Kulakowski was released from prison after serving approximately eight years and was rated a level-two sex offender with a moderate risk of re-offending.
In 2000, Kulakowski began a high-profile custody case for his daughter and her half-sister against their maternal grandparents.
After two years, the grandparents relented and gave up their challenge, saying at the time they felt "backed into a corner" and unlikely to win a trial because of a previous agreement with Kulakowski.
Cayuga County Family Court Judge Peter Corning, who presided over the case, had also granted Kulakowski custody of the children in 1999 after a neglect petition was filed against their mother.
Defending that original decision, Corning expressed doubts on Kulakowski's conviction, stating he was was convicted on the testimony of a 4-year-old and a disgruntled wife and had never admitted any crime, even before a parole board.
"I was and I am convinced that Mr. Kulakowski is not a predator, and not a danger to these children," Corning said at the time, pointing to a psycho-sexual evaluation indicating Kulakowski was not a predator.
However, in 2014, Kulakowski pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree criminal sexual act for sexually abusing two girls over the course of several years, prompting Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann to describe Kulakowski as a "monster."
Originally facing a life sentence, Kulakowski was given five years in prison as part of a plea agreement, a sentence both Budelmann and Judge Thomas Leone felt was too light, but agreed to as it both spared the victims from testifying and kept him behind bars for at least some time.
In late 2017, Kulakowski was released on parole and rated as a level three sex offender with a high risk to re-offend.
Kulakowski will now appear before an administrative law judge who, depending on the severity of the violation, will either release Kulakowski to parole officers or order him sent back to prison.
UPDATED: Auburn police locate missing 14-year-old
The Auburn Police Department reported Thursday afteroon that Mikel S. Gainey, 14, had been located, hours after the department had asked the public to help locate him.
Gainey left his residence at 3 Spring St., without his mother's permission, at approximately 3:30 p.m. Sunday, the department said in a news release.
The APD expressed thanks to the public and the New York State Police for helping find the teen.