June 25, 2007

Body of missing McGraw man found near Route 366 in Etna

Missing Man

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Tom Harkness, of Etna, talks with Robert Ralyea’s son, Rich Ralyea, who is being consoled by wife Darcy at the scene of the accident. Bertha Stegall-Raylea, left, the companion of Robert Ralyea, waits for the vehicle in which Raylea was found to be removed from the bank of Fall Creek.

Staff Reporter

ETNA — Almost a week after a 66-year-old McGraw man was reported missing, he was found dead near his vehicle about 60 feet northwest of Route 366 on Sunday afternoon.
Police said the body of Robert Ralyea was found on a steep embankment near Fall Creek, next to the green minivan he had been driving when he disappeared. The van apparently flipped after hitting a tree, police said. A family member and a friend who had been searching for Ralyea spotted one of the van’s tires in the brush — the only part of the vehicle that was visible — and reported it to State Police in Dryden.
Sgt. Jeffrey Dorward, a station commander at the Homer State Police barracks, said Ralyea, who had been headed toward Cortland judging from subtle tire marks on the road, probably veered off the road as a result of a medical condition before hitting the tree 150 feet from the road.
Dorward said he suspects Ralyea did not die from injuries in the crash. Investigation showed Ralyea had been wearing a seat belt and the vehicle’s airbag had deployed. Dorward said damage to the vehicle indicated the accident had not been that serious.
Family members said Ralyea had a history of heart trouble.
Police suspect Ralyea was able to free himself from the wreckage before dying.
Ralyea’s body was sent the morgue at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, Dorward said, and today it will be transported to Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton for an autopsy.
State Police and Ralyea’s family, friends, neighbors and community residents had been looking for signs of Ralyea daily in ravines and ponds along roads from Newfield, where Ralyea had last been seen, to the Cortland area.
Connecticut resident Darcy Ralyea and Marathon resident Lisa Hawks — respectively a daughter-in-law and friend of Ralyea’s — said they were looking for his van in the ravine northwest of Route 366 in the afternoon when they spotted the tire.
The rest of the vehicle was covered in trees and brush and could not be seen, they said.
“They (trees) had probably fallen from the storm,” Hawks said, referring to Tuesday’s afternoon’s thunderstorm.
On Sunday, family and friends of Ralyea’s said the fallen trees probably explain why a State Police helicopter searching the area had not seen the vehicle, nor had members of a search party when they went past the site earlier in the week.
Tom Harkness, who lives at 515 Route 366, across the street from the scene of the accident, said he was not surprised no one heard or saw Ralyea’s van go into the ravine Monday afternoon. He said neither he nor his wife, Elli, were home at the time, and other neighbors usually are out and about on weekday afternoons.
He added that weekday afternoon traffic on Route 366 typically is light.
Ralyea was last seen alive at 11:45 a.m. Monday, when he left Bob Wrisley Auto Repair in Newfield, where he had delivered a brake cable for his employer, Parts Plus of Cortlandville. He apparently was driving east, back toward Cortland County, at the time of the accident, police said.
Dorward said State Police had made finding Ralyea a priority over the past week. He said about 12 officers had been searching for him during the day between Newfield and Cortland, including one trooper in a helicopter.
“We were putting all of our resources into it,” he said.
More than 30 of Ralyea’s family, friends, coworkers and community residents also had made finding Ralyea a priority through their searches, and at least 10 of them, including his partner, Bertha Stegall-Ralyea, his son, Rick Ralyea, and his neighbors Lisa and Mike Fisher, gathered across the street from the accident location on Sunday afternoon as crews evaluated and cleaned up the scene.
Rick Ralyea, who last week had left his Navy base in Groton, Conn. temporarily to look for his dad with the search party, said a psychic the group spoke with last week had been correct about some of her assertions about what happened to his dad and incorrect about others.
He said she was correct about Ralyea being near water — he was just in front of Fall Creek — and near a bridge — one wasn’t too far away.
He said she was incorrect about Ralyea being near yellow flowers and a red barn.
Stegall-Ralyea said she had a wonderful 25 years with her partner, and is sure she was the last thought he had before he died.
“I’m sure he was hollering for me,” she said Saturday, in between recalling her husband’s love for his family and friends, the card game “Scat” and watching bull riding on television.
“Every time he got sick he’d holler for me.”




Woman admits neglect

Staff Reporter

A trial scheduled to begin today in the case of a former local nursing home employee accused of neglecting two patients was canceled after the employee pleaded guilty Friday to lesser charges in County Court.
Theresa Loy, 51, of 88 Port Watson St., Cortland, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree falsifying business records, a felony, 17 counts of second-degree falsifying business records and 17 counts of willful violation of state health laws, misdemeanors, Friday.
She was indicted on numerous felony and misdemeanor counts while working as a licensed practical nurse at Northwoods Rehabilitation and Extended Care Facility, on Kellogg Road in Cortland.
She was one of five employees charged by the state Attorney General’s Office as a result of a 2005 investigation and the last of the five to plead guilty or be found guilty at trial.
Steven Nadeau, 40, of Cortland, was found guilty during a jury trial in March of the same misdemeanor counts the others pleaded guilty to but was acquitted on the felony charges. He was sentenced to three years probation in April.
Judy Abreu-Boswell, 24, of the Bronx; Mary Kenyon, 40, of Cortland; and Renee Fulmer, 30, of East Freetown, all pleaded guilty in May to numerous charges of willfully violating state health laws and second-degree falsifying business records, misdemeanors.
Abreu-Boswell is scheduled for sentencing on Aug 16. Kenyon and Fulmer are both scheduled to be sentenced on July 13.
The former employees were charged after the Attorney General’s Office conducted a three-month investigation during which investigators placed a hidden camera in the room of a comatose patient at the Kellogg Road facility.
Investigators said the employees repeatedly neglected to provide proper hygiene and physical therapy care to the man between January and March 2005. The employees were also accused of filling out paperwork stating they provided the care when they had not.


Race caps first year for class

Staff Reporter

MARATHON — Jaimie Edwards wasn’t sure she would like her sports management class, but nine months later she is thrilled she took it.
“It has been really fun,” Edwards said in between taking down runners’ times on Saturday for a 5-kilometer run the class organized and put on. “It makes us feel like we can actually do stuff and we’re still in high school.”
Edwards, 17, an upcoming senior at Marathon High School who plans on majoring in sports management when she goes to college, was one of 12 students who took part in Marathon High School’s first sports management class this past school year.
The students organized and hosted two fundraisers over the course of the year, including Saturday’s race, in hopes that the events will take place annually.
Todd James, who teaches the class, said he helped start the sports management class in response to changing curriculum trends statewide.
“Jon Greenwald at the state Education Department does a great job of keeping business teachers updated as to what the trends are in curricular areas,” he said. “Marketing has been changing so much from marketing to sports marketing that we modified our program to add it, and because of that we dropped our marketing program.”
James said the sports management class is one of 13 classes students can take to graduate with an advanced Regents diploma in business and technical education. He said he helped create the “business and technology” sequence, which requires five classes, some of which can replace foreign language classes, as part of his internship project for his administrative degree three years ago.
He said he only knows of three schools in New York state that offer the special business and technology sequence, including a Syracuse city high school and Cincinnatus High School. He said it makes sense to offer a variety of courses related to business and technology.
“If you go back and look statistically at the amount of kids that attend college and the amount that go into the business area, it’s a large portion of the kids,” he said.
The idea behind the new sports management class is that each semester the students will market a different sports event. Sometimes the event could involve fundraisers for nonprofits, as was the case this year, and in other cases it might involve working to boost attendance at events, such as the high school’s sporting contests, James said.



Homer High students graduate, families celebrate

Staff Reporter

HOMER — About 200 family members from 10 states came to celebrate Patrick Cleary’s graduation from Homer High School Saturday.
Sixteen of them got to see him receive the special Shawn Falter Memorial Scholarship, and the rest got to hear all about.
Falter, a 1999 Homer grad, was killed in an ambush in Karbala, Iraq, in January. The award in his honor goes to a graduate with outstanding moral character who puts forth extra effort in all he or she tries to accomplish.
Joanne Cleary, of Homer, said after the graduation she could not be prouder of her son, who is always the boy who is helping out behind the scenes, whether it is playing soccer or lacrosse, or in another area.
“He’s kindhearted,” Cleary said, a few tears welling in her eyes. “He always has been.”
Patrick Cleary, who will be attending Longwood University in Virginia for business with a marketing focus, was one of 161 Homer High School seniors graduating Saturday in the Park Center at SUNY Cortland.
During the ceremony, student speakers recalled special moments and funny memories shared by classmates. Honorary speaker and high school physics teacher Harold Fuller shared one method of living that has guided him since his high school days, and the graduating students, their families and friends acknowledged life would soon be different.
Fuller, who had been chosen to speak by the senior class, told the students that the “surge and hold” method of living has guided his life since he first learned it from his track coach in high school.
He said when things are going well in your life, you should “surge,” meaning in track you should pass the runner in front of you, or in life you should work to better yourself. Fuller said when life is tough and painful one should “hold,” or keep going but wait until things get better before surging, or improving, again.
“Don’t be intimidated,” he said. “Take that step toward improving yourself,” he said. “Then you’ll look around and say ‘What the hell happened?’”