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Drunk driver gets 4 to 12 years in prison for causing crash that fatally injured 10-year-old boy

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Darien man who caused a collision while driving drunk that fatally injured a 10-year-old boy was sentenced Friday to an indeterminate sentence of 4 to 12 years in prison, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Officials said Nicholas M. Rich, 35, was driving recklessly at a high rate of speed while under the influence of alcohol when he caused a collision with another vehicle on the night of Oct. 13, 2023 in Lancaster. The crash happened at the intersection of Broadway and Schwartz Road.

Photo: Erie County District Attorney’s Office

The collision fatally injured Levi Zielonka, who died at St. Joseph’s Campus in Cheektowaga. The driver and passenger of the vehicle were taken to ECMC with physical injuries, as was Rich.

Rich pleaded guilty in November to one count of aggravated vehicular homicide, the highest sustainable charge. Rich’s driver’s license was revoked as part of his sentence.

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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.

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Cheektowaga lifts overnight winter parking ban

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Town of Cheektowaga announced Friday it is lifting its overnight winter parking ban effective immediately.

Residents are asked, in the event of significant snow, to remove their vehicles from streets to allow plows to get through.

The parking ban was put into place on Dec. 1 after originally being delayed.

The Town of Tonawanda and City of Buffalo also lifted winter parking regulations in recent days due to favorable weather.

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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.

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Man accused of murder allegedly fled to Mexico in victim’s car

WARSAW, N.Y. (WROC) – A local man wanted for murder by the Warsaw Police Department is believed to have fled to Mexico.

According to the Wyoming County District Attorney’s Office, the Warsaw Police Department was called for a welfare check on 53-year-old Cheryl Cook on Nov. 7. Cook was found dead in the residence, and authorities said the autopsy indicated the cause of death was strangulation.

At the time of her death, Cook was said to be living with 41-year-old Michael Bellaire.

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The DA’s Office stated that since the investigation on Nov. 7, multiple law enforcement agencies across the United States have been searching for Bellaire. Police said Bellaire was last seen crossing into Mexico operating Cook’s gray 2012 Toyota Corolla.

On Feb. 12, the Warsaw Police Department obtained an arrest warrant for Bellaire for the following charges: Murder in the second degree, strangulation in the first degree, tampering with physical evidence, and two separate counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree.

The grand larceny charges were said to concern allegations that Bellaire stole Cook’s motor vehicle and her credit cards. 

Anyone with information is asked to call the Warsaw Police Department at 585-786-2000.

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Man arrested, charged after Jamestown shooting incident

JAMESTOWN, N.Y (WIVB) — A 47-year-old Buffalo man is facing multiple charges for his alleged involvement in chasing a victim and firing shots at their vehicle in Jamestown.

Thursday, at approximately 10:14 a.m., Jamestown police said they responded to the area of Beechview and Clyde avenues for a reported shooting incident. During an investigation, police said Javier Baez allegedly “became enraged” at a victim for unknown reasons in the area of Falconer Street.

Baez and the victim were operating vehicles at the time of the incident, according to police. They said Baez chased the victim, who also had two passengers inside their vehicle, to the area of Beechview and Clyde and allegedly displayed a pistol then fired multiple shots at the victim’s vehicle, striking it multiple times then fled the scene.

No injuries were sustained by the occupants of the victim’s vehicle.

Police said Baez was later located at a residence on Bush Street after an investigation. He was taken into custody without incident and a loaded 9mm pistol that had a large capacity feeding device with it was recovered during a search, police said.

Baez was transported to the Jamestown City Jail and charged with the following:

Criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree

Criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree

Criminal possession of a firearm

Reckless endangerment in the first degree (three counts)

He was held without bail pending arraignment.

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Emily Miller is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2022. See more of her work here.

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National Engineers Week at Buffalo Museum of Science inspiring engineers of the future

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — If you’re curious about the profession of engineering, this week, the Buffalo Museum of Science is encouraging children to ask questions, problem solve and learn more about the connection of science and engineering.

“Everything about engineers week is about curiosity, discovering, and just playing around to see what sparks your interest,” said Gabrielle Graham, Community Engagement Manager at the Buffalo Museum of Science. “The skills are everything from these gross motor skills of controlling how hard you strike a ball to something like sorting and observation and which is also really important to the work that engineers do. If you aren’t able to identify the problem you won’t be able to solve it.”

Along with their Curious George Exhibit, this week they’re offering programs to inspire children to learn more about engineering. Click here to see the list of programs offered through Saturday.

“Being an engineer is not something that just happens overnight, it’s something that happens over a very long period of time, maybe starts with an interest of how things work,” said Michael Voigt, Senior Engineering Manager of Moog. “That curiosity is really in engineering, what is the origin of engineering and is in all of our minds as we solve problems today.”

The programs at the Buffalo Museum of Science are sponsored by two globally known companies, that are found right here in the Western New York community, Moog and Linde. These companies not only represent the amount of our neighbors that work in the field of engineering everyday, but also represent that their work is found almost every where you turn.

To hear more about Linde, watch the interview below:

To hear more about Moog, watch the interview below:

For more information on National Engineers Week with the Buffalo Museum of Science, visit their website here.

Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.

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1 in custody after stabbing on Carolina Street

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — One person is in custody following a stabbing on Carolina Street on Thursday afternoon, according to Buffalo police.

The stabbing occurred on the 100 block of Carolina just before 2 p.m. Thursday. The male victim suffered non-life threatening injuries.

Any charges against the alleged male assailant and currently unknown.

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Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.

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Western New Yorkers affected by widespread cell service outages

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Many people woke up this morning to no cell service after most of the major providers reported widespread outages lasting for much of Thursday.

At its peak, more than 70,000 AT&T customers were without service – that’s in addition to the thousands of others who have Verizon, Cricket and T-Mobile as their providers also experiencing outages.

“I turned my phone off like five times, tried to restart it. I was Googling why the SOS was showing up,” said Suzanne Lesswing, who has AT&T as her service provider.

She said she dropped her daughter off at her in-law’s before heading to work, but made sure they knew how to get in contact with her in the meantime.

“I used my desk line to call my mother-in-law and I go ‘this is my office line if you need to call me, call me here,’ because normally when I have my phone, it will go off with anything going on,” Lesswing said.

She’s not alone – in fact, tens of thousands were without cell service Thursday following nationwide outages, causing frustration for those affected.

“It was around 11 when I tried to text my wife, and she never responded and I had heard earlier that my stepson’s phone wasn’t working,” said Brian Hines, a Cricket customer. “We’re so used to being able to be in contact…that it’s a problem. It’s kind of gnawing on my mind about that. But 20 years ago, you wouldn’t even consider it. They’d get ahold of you somehow.”

Kristen Kimmick realized her cell phone wasn’t working when a text message to a friend with an Android bounced back.

“Luckily I work from home, so with that I’ve got phone service over the internet, but if I leave my house I can no longer text people, I can’t call anybody. If I go to the grocery store and need to check if I have to pick up an extra item, I can’t do that,” Kimmick said. “I know there’s a lot of other people out there that are having many more inconveniences than I am, but it’s still frustrating nonetheless.”

Emergency service officials across Western New York said these outages did not impact them, and that people were still able to call for help if needed.

Chautauqua County Undersheriff Richard Telford said their call center actually saw an increase in residents calling 911 just making sure their calls would go through.

“If it puts somebody’s mind at ease, we’ll take that 30 second phone call, we’ll let them know they got through,” Telford said. “If something goes wrong, whether it’s this outage or something else in the future, think of maybe a Facebook message or a Twitter message to a friend to say ‘hey, maybe you can get ahold of 911 and let them know what’s going on.'”

At this time, AT&T is reporting the majority of its network has been restored. The FCC and the Department of Homeland Security are now investigating what caused this outage.

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Marlee Tuskes is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.

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NY-26 GOP candidate Gary Dickson: “I think the people need to have a choice”

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — West Seneca town supervisor Gary Dickson, who is on the Republican ticket for the 26th Congressional special election in April, says he is running because he believes that “the people need to have a choice” in the race with State Senator Tim Kennedy.

Dickson was nominated by the Erie County Republican committee on Wednesday to run against Kennedy in the April 30 special election.

Dickson is a U.S. Army veteran who also spent 27 years with the FBI. He has been a community leader in West Seneca since he retired from law enforcement in 2015. He said Thursday that the fact that he is not a career politician will help him.

“My Army service and my service in law enforcement, it’s all about service and it’s about defending the protecting the innocent or the vulnerable,” Dickson said. “I think a lot of people get in law enforcement because they want to right a wrong. They see things are not going well and they want to be part of the solution. I would hate to go through my life and not feel I was making things a little bit better when I left than they were when I came.”

Dickson touted that the Town of West Seneca has not raised taxes for residents in four years, as well as the fact that he believes in term limits and is in his final term as the town’s supervisor.

“Not everybody has the answer, people need to rotate through and let other people have a shot,” Dickson said.

He said that he also believes that Kennedy, who has been a State Senator since 2011 “deserves to have a good candidate opposing him.”

“This is not the coronation of Tim Kennedy. This is an election, and I think he deserves to have a good candidate opposing him,” Dickson said.

Kennedy and Dickson will face off in the special election to replace Brian Higgins, who stepped down in February to become the president of Shea’s Performing Arts Center. Higgins had represented Western New York in Washington since 2005.

New York’s 26th Congressional District represents Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Lackawanna, Tonawanda, North Tonawanda, among other municipalities.

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Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.

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Allentown barber sentenced for engaging in sexual conduct with underage victim

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A Kenmore man who ran a barbershop in Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood has been sentenced to six months in jail for engaging in sexual conduct with an underage victim in 2018 and 2019, the Erie County District Attorney’s office said Thursday.

Justin Barker, 36, engaged in the conduct on multiple occasions with a victim who was less than 15 years old between March 2018 and October 2019. The crimes occurred in Amherst and Buffalo.

Barker ran “The Standard” barbershop on Allen Street in Buffalo, which is now listed as “permanently closed.”

Barker pleaded guilty in November to two counts of second-degree criminal sexual act. A final order of protection was also issued on behalf of the victim until February 2034. He will also have 10 years of probation with sex offender conditions, while he will also be required to register as a sex offender.

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Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.

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2 charged in Wilson after multiple dead animals found at residence

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Two people were charged in the town of Wilson after deputies found animal feces, dead animals both in the interior and exterior of the home on Thursday, according to the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office.

Authorities arrived to a residence on Randall Road on a welfare check where they discovered goats, pigs, cows, and chickens deceased outside of the home. Also found living outside the home were pigs, cows, chicken, and geese.

Inside the home sheriffs found trash, animal feces, and numerous animals. Of the animals found were five dogs, two cats, shrimp, crabs and at least two deceased turtles.

Robert W. Wilcox, 23, and Alexandrea M. Mann, 20, were each charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and released on appearance tickets.

Two children were also living in the home, and are now in care of the family members.

Wilcox and Mann signed over the animals to the SPCA and the SPCA will continue investigating the animal portion of the incident.

The town of Wilson’s building inspector responded to the residence and ruled the house condemned.

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