QUEENSBURY — The Glens Falls man who murdered a mother and daughter last summer was sentenced to 44-years-to-life in state prison Thursday after he heard tearful statements from loved ones of the two victims.
Bryan M. Redden apologized and asked for forgiveness after he heard from the mother, brother and stepfather of victim Crystal Riley, and heard their requests that he spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Riley and her 4-year-old daughter, Lilly Frasier, were brutally murdered by Redden last August, and during Thursday’s proceedings, the case prosecutor revealed disturbing new details about Redden’s actions the day of the killing.
MaryEllen Monroe, Riley’s mother recounted the anguish and horror of finding her two loved ones dead, and the months of pain that have followed. She recounted her granddaughter’s love of her horse, Tater, and said she is “forever lost” until she crosses paths with them again in the afterlife.
“Crystal and Lilly (were) so beautful, so kind, selfless and loving,” she said.
Family members recalled Riley’s love of children, and for her three children. Her two sons were not at her home when the homicides occurred.
“She was a rock who held her children together,” said Crystal’s stepfather, Keith Monroe.
Keith Monroe said the family does not believe the case was a “crime of passion,” but Redden instead planned to rob them. Riley’s 10-year-old son feels guilty that he wasn’t home to protect his mother, he added.
Riley’s brother, Mike, talked of his love and admiration for his sister, and how she and her daughter were “stolen” from the family.
“The pain will never stop, nor will the pain fade, because it’s there every second I’m not with them,” he wrote.
Redden’s lawyer, Martin McGuinness, pointed to his client’s history of psychiatric problems and substance abuse, for which he said his client wasn’t being treated last summer. He said his client cooperated with police throughout the case, and what some described as a lack of remorse was attributable to his mental illness issues.
McGuinness asked Hall to impose a 20-to-life sentence.
Warren County Judge John Hall acknowledged that Redden had a “significant history of mental illness and inpatient treatment for mental illness.”
Hall called the killings “incomprehensible and senseless violence” but pointed out that Redden took full responsibility and had no prior record. The 44-to-life was the agreed-upon maximum as part of a plea deal to which Hall and Redden and his counsel agreed.
Redden, 21, was sentenced for his guilty pleas to first-degree murder, second-degree murder and lesser charges for the killings last Aug. 11 in a Glens Falls apartment building.
He pleaded guilty Jan. 11 for the knifepoint killings of Riley, 33, and her daughter in their Glens Falls home.
Redden claimed he was on a multi-day bender of drugs and alcohol, and didn’t remember what happened.
Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone, though, said the evidence does not seem to show that Redden was highly intoxicated in the hours after the deaths, pointing out that he drove Riley’s car around, went to Aviation Mall and ate Chinese food before he called a woman he knew to see if she wanted to have sex.
Carusone said Redden “ransacked” the home after he washed his hands and took off blood-stained clothes.
“There’s nothing that shows this is a person who was so intoxicated he could not handle himself,” he said.
Carusone said Riley was killed in her kitchen, with knife wounds to her throat and chest. Her daughter also had knife wounds to her throat, and both had been strangled as well.
He said the victims’ loved ones have asked what the motive was, but Carusone said there is no explanation that makes sense.
“His explanation was, ‘I snapped and I panicked,’” Carusone explained. “It is literally a senseless act that has devastated a family. There is no making sense of it.”
Police said Redden told them that he and Riley had been romantically involved, though her family did not know of him and it was not clear what brought him to her apartment that day. He said in an interview last month that he did not know why he went there.
He was a native of West Virginia who had met Riley during the fall or winter of 2016.
Riley worked at a day care center in Glens Falls, and had spent most of her career working with children.
Redden will have to serve 44 years before becoming eligible for parole.
FORT EDWARD — A major landowner has defaulted on $3.8 million in property taxes, precipitating a financial crisis for Washington County.
The county is now suing the property owner, WCC LLC, a real estate holding company whose owners are affiliated with D.A. Collins, a Wilton construction company, to get its taxes.
WCC leased land to General Electric Co. for the dewatering plant that processed sediment pulled from the Hudson River during the PCB dredging project.
WCC has had no income since GE finished dredging and dismantled the site.
The company marketed the location as an industrial park and various companies expressed interest, but no one has moved in.
WCC officials have repeatedly expressed concern about their ability to pay the taxes if they can’t get new companies onto the property.
The tax bill went down significantly after GE moved out and removed many of the buildings, but it’s still considered a developed site because WCC asked GE to leave behind water and septic systems, lighting, roads and parking lots.
The assessed value for the two dewatering plant parcels was lowered from a combined $72.6 million to nearly $37.5 million. That reduced the tax bill from $3.8 million for 2016 to $1.9 million from 2017.
WCC spokesman and D.A. Collins Vice President John Davidson declined to discuss the situation, citing the lawsuit. He also said WCC is not connected to D.A. Collins.
The tax default has already created serious problems for Washington County. The county had to spend $3.8 million of its savings to cover the taxes.
The county is preparing for WCC to default on its 2017 and 2018 taxes as well, for a total of $3.7 million, Treasurer Al Nolette said.
If it does, the county could suffer from a cash flow problem that would make it difficult to pay bills in between times in which it receives taxes and other large chunks of revenue. The county uses its savings to manage cash flow.
The county had $15.2 million in savings before writing off the $3.8 million that has now defaulted. That reduced the county’s savings to $11.4 million. The county also spent $500,000 in savings, reducing it further to $10.9 million.
Assuming the county spends another $500,000 each year and WCC defaults again, in 2019 the county will have only $6.1 million in savings.
“And folks, I don’t know how we operate there,” Nolette said.
That amount would leave the county struggling with cash-flow problems, he said.
Until the lawsuit with WCC is resolved, the county must continue to pay taxes to the Fort Edward school district, the village of Fort Edward and the town of Fort Edward, for WCC. After the lawsuit, those entities will likely take a loss, Nolette warned.
“I have serious concerns about the schools,” he said.
KINGSBURY — The owner of a Route 4 tile and stone business faces 42 criminal charges related to the neglect of dozens of animals on his property, 35 of which died from starvation and lack of water last month, police said.
Jeffrey T. Owens Sr., 38, of Moreau, was charged with five felony counts of tampering with physical evidence and 37 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty after an investigation by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Police said five cows, a goat, two alpaca, seven chickens, 10 turkeys and numerous rabbits were found dead. They were in and around a barn at the back of the 4202 Route 4 property, with buildings for the stone business at the front of the property.
Sheriff’s Investigator Paul Trottier said the animals did not have proper food and water and were in feces-covered stalls, necropsies finding some had taken to eating feces or parts of the barn in which they were held because they hadn’t had food for extended periods of time.
“There was a complete lack of food and water,” Trottier said.
Owens told police he fed them every two to three days, and had been at the barn two days earlier, he added.
At one point, Owens tried to cover dead cows with sawdust and garbage so that police would not find, them, Trottier said. That led to the tampering with physical evidence counts.
The animals were found dead and without sufficient food and water in a field behind his business, Quality Stone Works, on Feb. 13, police said. The felony charges allege he tried to conceal five of the dead cows during the police investigation.
His lawyer, Tucker Stanclift, said Owens denies he did anything improper with his livestock.
“We are in the preliminary stages of trying to decipher what it is they claim he did wrong,” he said.
Owens told a reporter that day at his property that the animals died of natural causes.
“A disease went through the barn,” he said.
Officials said his family had planned to open a “petting zoo” on the property.
Police were called to the property because someone spotted a donkey running loose. A local repossession company that had gone to the home that day to repossess a piece of equipment, and noticed no tracks in the snow to the barn when the most recent snow was six days earlier.
Two donkeys survived, but Owens was accused of neglecting them as well.
Owens was arraigned and released pending prosecution in Kingsbury Town Court. The felony charges are punishable by up to 4 years in state prison each.
Trottier and sheriff’s deputies Carleigh Batchelder and Christopher Murray handled the case.
LAKE GEORGE — School officials are criticizing the new Lake George United for Education group, saying it is making false and misleading claims about the process to eliminate the vice principal position at the high school.
The group has formed to protest the decision to cut the job now held by Cody Conley at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. The district says it wants to restructure the administration and hire an interim K-12 curriculum director instead.
School officials were still trying to find out more information when contacted on Wednesday.
Superintendent Lynne Rutnik said in an email that if the group is interested in supporting the needs of the district, she is excited to form a partnership and collaborate on common goals.
“However, the assertions they claim in the six-page letter not only paint our wonderful school district and its leaders in a negative light, but they are also completely false; the accusations serve to be contrary to what they claim to value,” she said.
One of the group’s main’s accusations is that the board made the decision out of public view, in violation of the Open Meetings Law.
Rutnik said the board followed all proper procedures with regard to the Open Meetings Law in terms of what can be discussed in executive session.
Rutnik confirmed that the actual decision to cut the job will have to occur in public session as part of the budget adoption process. She understands people can have a difference of opinion, but she and the board are committed to this course of action and to “move forward in a positive, transparent and collaborative manner,” she said.
Board President Tim Collins said in an email he takes exception to claims that the board is not willing to share why this decision is being made. The reasons have been explained on the website, in a staff workshop and through one-on-one discussions, he said.
Among the reasons the board wants to change the position is to have a more in-depth focus on curriculum districtwide. Also, the school has less need for the position because of the district’s declining enrollment, he said.
He also disagrees with claims the board has been meeting in executive session illegally to discuss these matters. The law allows the board to discuss “the medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation.”
“What is being misrepresented by this group is that the discussions of the board of education in executive session were about abolishing a position. In fact, the discussions were about a reorganization, (not just abolishing positions) which involved the creation of and appointment of a particular person to a new position (i.e., an assistant superintendent),” he said in an email. “A discussion of the qualifications of a particular person for appointment to such position is appropriate for executive session. Moreover, no action was taken in executive session and therefore there is no actionable violation of the Open Meetings Law.”
The issue is being clouded by irrelevant and untrue comments, he said. The goal is to reorganize the administrative staff for the betterment of the district as a whole.
“The law is clear on this matter — subject to the rights of employees to notice and recall, a board of education has absolute discretion to determine its staffing needs. Boards can abolish positions based upon fiscal or educational needs, including the reorganization of its administrative structure. That is exactly what happened here,” he said.
Robert Freeman, executive director of the Committee on Open Government, disagrees with the district officials. He said the board would legally be allowed to go into executive session if it wanted to remove employees because of their performance.
“If the issue focuses on the position, it’s clear there would be no basis for conducting an executive session,” he said.
He said there is case law on the subject. Among the issues that should be discussed in public session are whether the district could afford the position or whether it wants to change the structure of the administration. It does not matter who the occupant of the position is, he added.
“We public employees have less privacy than anybody else,” he said.
The school board is set to meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Lake George Elementary School.