Armed man holds his child in home for two hours


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Members of the Cortland Police Department’s Tactical Response Unit arrive on Elm Street Saturday Philip A. Curtis, 31, armed with a semiautomatic rifle, refused to come out of his Elm Street home for two hours while holding his 5-week-old child inside.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A man armed with a semiautomatic rifle refused to come out of his home for two hours Saturday while holding his 5-week-old child inside.
City police said they responded to a domestic dispute at 1:19 p.m. Saturday at 78 Elm St. and found Philip A. Curtis, 31, at the top of a staircase with an AR-15 rifle.
Curtis had been in a dispute with his wife, whose age was not given, when a neighbor heard the noise and called 911, police said. When police arrived at the home, they found Curtis’s wife at the bottom of a staircase and Curtis at the top with the weapon.
An officer ushered the woman out of the house and was then told there was a 5-week-old child still inside, police said.
Police closed off approximately two blocks in either direction and evacuated Erick Hamilton and his family from their home at 76 Elm St.
Hamilton said he took his family to a relative’s house in the city.
“They are real nice people,” Hamilton said about Curtis and his family, adding that Curtis sometimes mowed his lawn for him. “It’s a kind of a shock this happened.”
The Cortland Police Department’s Tactical Response Unit was dispatched to the scene, along with State Police, the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department and a TLC Emergency Medical Service ambulance crew.
Curtis remained in the house for a little more than two hours with the child and several weapons, while police negotiated with him by phone.
Curtis voluntarily came out of the house at 3:30 p.m., leaving the infant unharmed.
Police said Curtis made no demands while he was in the house, and that he just “wanted time to think.”
Police charged Curtis with two counts of menacing a police officer, a felony, and second-degree menacing, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and endangering the welfare of a child, all misdemeanors.
In addition to the AR-15 rifle, police said Curtis also had various hunting rifles as well as most of the components for a Polish AK-47 rifle. None of the weapons Curtis possessed were illegal.
Curtis was arraigned and sent to the Cortland County Jail without bail. He is scheduled to appear in City Court at 3 p.m. today.

Staff reporter Sasha Austrie contributed to this article.



Man charged with killing former Homer woman in Sept.

Staff Reporter

BINGHAMTON — A Binghamton man was charged late Sunday afternoon with killing a former Homer woman on Sept. 20, Binghamton police said this morning.
Michael P. Fitzgerald, 41, of 19 Walnut St., Binghamton, was arrested and remanded to the Broome County Jail without bail.
Sgt. Arnold Nanni with the Binghamton Police Department said that Fitzgerald is charged with second-degree murder.
Fitzgerald was the live-in boyfriend of the dead woman, Joey O. Lansdowne, 32, also known as Joey Corl.
Nanni was unable to say how long the two had been living together, but that it had been “a while.”
The 911 call that alerted the authorities to Lansdowne’s death had been placed by Fitzgerald, Nanni said, and the woman’s death was reported as suicide by strangulation.
An autopsy ruled out the possibility of self-strangulation, and a grand jury indictment was handed up Friday, police said.



McGraw audit warns of rising fuel costs

Staff Reporter

McGRAW — Accountant Matthew McSherry called the McGraw Central School District “fiscally sound” Thursday as he outlined the results of an annual audit.
McSherry, of the firm Port Kashdin and McSherry Certified Public Accounts, also said the district will face challenges in the future regarding its increasing costs of personnel and fuel.
“Contractually all school districts spend 80 to 85 percent of (their) budget on personnel cost,” said McSherry.
He also said things such as the high cost of gasoline would contribute to the challenges facing the district.
“If you are running buses on $3 a gallon, that chews up a lot of money,” McSherry said.
He also said that the cost for retirement has doubled over the last two years. The district paid $336,000 in the last fiscal year, which ended on June 30. In the 2005 fiscal year, McGraw paid $236,000. The district is paying to the New York State Teachers Retirement System and the New York State Employees Retirement, which includes school cafeteria workers and janitors.
McSherry said the school district has used its fund balance to help control the increase in the tax levy.
“The fund balance is the resources available to the district to fund its operation,” he said.
McSherry said the fund is reserved capital, which can be used for building renovations, and unreserved capital, which can be used to “to mitigate or minimize property taxes.”
He also said the district’s fund balance is well below the 2 percent required by the state.
Steve Littlefield, the business manager for McGraw, was not available for comment.