Bad things happen. Over ten years, lots of bad things have happened. YNN has been there to try to make sense of it all. Our Bill Carey, who's been taking a look back at some major stories of the past decade, says despite all the bad news, there are always some signs of hope.
CENTRAL NEW YORK -- Local and federal officials used every law they could to put an end to gang shootings on Syracuse streets. There’s been progress, but the shootings go on, sometimes claiming innocent victims, caught in the crossfire.
A rival gang member had targeted Rahsad Walker. He missed. Rashad Walker Jr., age 2, was killed.
"Now a bullet has a two-year-old’s name on it. That’s crazy," one woman said.
Kihrary Blue, an athlete at Henninger High School, made the mistake of riding in the wrong car. There were members of a gang inside. Again, a rival gang member opened fire on them. Kihrary Blue was killed.
Adam Theall, 21, had had problems with police before. There were problems at his home in 2010. Troopers arrived. Theall confronted them, a shotgun in one hand, his three-month-old son, Eithen, in the other.
"And he shot and killed his child at that time," a member of the State Police said.
Theall was shot by State Police, but survived. Convicted of murder, he was sent to prison for 25 years to life.
Alan Jones, 27, would be sent to prison on manslaughter charges. Police said he had strangled his stepsister, Erin Maxwell, 11, in Oswego County. Social workers also faced accusations. That they had failed to step in to rescue the girl from living conditions best described as awful.
Jenni-Lyn Watson’s life was anything but awful. She had moved on to college to follow her dream of becoming a dancer. She’d come home for Thanksgiving and disappeared. A massive search was launched.
"The quicker we can locate Jenni-Lyn and bring her home, the better the chance of having her home alive," Onondaga County Undersheriff Warren Darby had said.
The search would end badly. The girl’s body found in a park. An ex-boyfriend, Steven Pieper, later admitted he killed the girl after a failed attempt at reconciliation.
David McNamara was the father of Katie Socci’s child, but Socci had moved on. When she disappeared from her Auburn home in 2011, police focused on McNamara. The woman’s body was found buried along a walking path. McNamara eventually admitted guilt.
Occasionally, we have glimpsed the face of evil. Case in point, Jeffrey Cahill. He had beaten his wife with a baseball bat early in 1998. He was free on bail when news came that Jill Cahill was finally out of a coma and showing signs of recovery. Fearful she could testify against him, Cahill disguised himself as a janitor, went to her hospital room and poured cyanide down her throat. Jill died. Cahill’s plot was uncovered. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. A sentence overturned by an appeals court.
"What is tragically ironic about this case is that you imposed your own death sentence on the mother of your two children and now you have escaped that very sentence," said Onondaga County Court Judge Anthony Aloi.
Judge Anthony Aloi sent Cahill back to prison for 37 years to life.
At first, it was a routine murder investigation. But police called to an apartment building on West Onondaga Street soon began turning up more bodies. They claimed Nicholas Wiley was a serial killer. He was convicted of at least three killings and is in prison for life.
Evil seems an inadequate word in the case of David Renz. Facing federal child pornography charges in early 2013, Renz was free under electronic surveillance. Later, investigations would show federal probation officials ignored alarms showing Renz tampering with his electronic bracelet. He had removed it one night in March. At Great Northern Mall, he confronted Lori Bresnahan and a 10-year-old girl as they left a dance class. The young girl was raped. Bresnahan was forced to drive to Verplank Road where she fought with Renz. The little girl escaped. Bresnahan was stabbed to death.
"I'm truly sorry for my actions and I am prepared to accept the consequences for them," Renz said.
The consequences? Life in prison.
Stacey Castor is due to spend a long time in prison as well. Convicted of killing her husband, David Castor, poisoning him with anti freeze. Investigators believe she did the same to her first husband, Michael Wallace, nine years before.
As police closed in, Castor attempted to shift blame to her daughter, feeding her an overdose and writing a suicide note in her name, taking blame for the two deaths. A jury found Castor guilty.
"Who had the opportunity and the timeline? Who had the opportunity to do the things that were done? That’s what we based a lot of our decision on," one juror had said.
Kavin Schaus also qualified as a face of evil. Authorities eventually proved four incidents of abuse of young girls.
In 2004, police and neighbors launched a massive search after Schaus abducted a four-year-old girl, Brittany Fish, from a Syracuse street. Two days later, by chance, a property owner visiting a vacant building he owned in DeWitt heard moaning from beneath a tarp outside the structure. Lifting the tarp, he found Brittany Fish alive.
"I believe there’s a divine intervention in everything that happens and, I believe, obviously today, there was divine intervention to make us find Brittany," then Syracuse Police Chief Dennis DuVal said.
Schaus went to prison for 20 years to life.
In 2005, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children recognized a young survivor as a hero.
We had seen the faces of evil, but in the case of Brittany Fish, we also had a glimpse of hope.