A press release from the State Police this week about the unsolved killings of two men in Washington County more than 30 years ago got some media attention, and people wondering if something new was going on with the case.
Not from what I am hearing.
The State Police Cold Case Squad put out the following press release on Tuesday:
Cold Case Tuesday – State Police continue to assist in the investigation into the 1988 deaths of two Washington County men
On Monday, September 12, 1988, an individual checking animal traps in a heavily wooded area off Lily Pond Road in the town of Hartford, discovered the body of white male. The individual contacted the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies responded to the scene, searched the area and located a second deceased male. The New York State Police assisted in processing the scene for forensic evidence. The preliminary investigation suggested foul play and determined both men had been dead for several days.
The victims were identified as 57-year-old Frederick Pauling and 37-year-old James Checkush, both of New York City. One of the men was shot to death, and the other died from severe blows to the head. Pauling owned a second home on Dick Hill Rd in the town of Hartford, which was a short distance from where the bodies were located. It is believed that the men were killed inside the residence and then dumped in a well-known party area off Lily Pond Road.
If you have any information, please contact the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at 518-746-2475.
I have spoken regularly to a number of the investigators who are now handling the case, and they tell me there has been nothing new since they made a new attempt in 2017 to talk to their main "person of interest" in the deaths, Joel O'Keefe. There have been a number of other interviews, but no notable progress.
O'Keefe has steadfastly maintained to police and The Post-Star that he had nothing to do with the deaths. Police believe he had a business relationship related to the marijuana trade with one of the men.
That case status has not changed. And in light of some issues that apparently occurred decades ago with preservation of evidence in the case, there has not been any other real movement in the case in recent years.
The Cold Case Squad's protocol includes periodic efforts to seek media attention to drum up new leads, and that was what took place with the press release this week.
-- Don Lehman