Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Where Everyone Knows The Murderer: Catching The Real Bike Path Rapist

On The Trail of The Bike Path Rapist
Originally uploaded by lorenzodom

I thought I’d put in a plug for one of my best friend’s work. He’s a producer at NBC Dateline and on Monday night one of his shows premiered on TV to rave reviews (see comments on Rayner’s blog).

It can now be seen online on

As the following article denotes, the redemption of an innocent man, imprisoned for 22 years, and the capturing of the real Bike Path Rapist, highlighted the notion that Buffalo, with a population of over 275,000, is actually a small town, that is getting smaller.

It is ever-shrinking, not only in the sense that since 1950 Buffalo’s population has diminished as its industrial base declined—in the last 7 years alone, almost 6% of its people have moved elsewhere—but also in the more dramatic light that this investigation shined on the fact that many people had everyday, seemingly quite provincial connections with the serial rapist and killer of three.

Needless to say, this gave those involved a poignant sense that—indeed, it is a small world after all.

Strangely enough, this it’s-a-small-world-in-Buffalo phenomena hit home for me this past summer as well.

For while Rayner was in the throes of his investigative journalism on the case, unbeknownst to him, it so happened that I was dating a law student from Buffalo, who was in New York City for an internship.

One evening, fresh from one of his trips to Buffalo, which is 6 hours and 400 miles north of New York City, Rayner stopped by my apartment for a visit.

It so happened that Becca was visiting too, and so when I mentioned that she was from Buffalo, his eyes popped open and he was suddenly inspired to ask her if she happened to know the woman he had just started dating—the woman who would eventually move to New York City from Buffalo and become his live-in girlfriend, the woman who I would come to consider a good friend and who would eventually end up working directly across the street from me on Park Avenue, the woman with whom I would share our television debut, the woman who was a photographer and a fire dancer….

Becca smiled and immediately said, “Yes, you mean Karen? She used to live in the apartment directly above me…”

Needless to say, I too have come to believe that indeed—it is a small world after all.

On The Trail of The Bike Path Rapist
by Rayner Ramirez

One of the safest towns in America reignites a cold case that haunted police for decades after the mysterious killing of a middle class professor's wife and mother of four. Keith Morrison travels to Buffalo, N.Y. to report on the death of Joan Diver and the possible return of the town's "bike path rapist," Dateline

Buffalo, NY: The City of Good Neighbors is "not a small town, but a big room with a large couch." Local historian Bill Zimmerman says that it’s the type of town where everyone knows everyone -- or soon will. From my experience working on this story Buffalo truly is a city of good neighbors.

Perhaps one of the strangest coincidences in this story that reflects Buffalo’s small town feel is that Anthony Capozzi’s sister Pam Guenther attended the same high school only a couple of years behind Altemio Sanchez.

The multi-agency task force was made up of more than a dozen investigators; each brought with them their own personal history of the legendary bike path rapist.

Bike Path Rapist Take Force at Niagara Square, Buffalo, NY

Chief Scott Patronik from the Erie County Sheriff’s Department grew up with Detective Lissa Redmond who happened to attend the same high school as one of Altemio Sanchez’ rape victims.

State Police Captain Captain Steven Nigrelli’s father was a Sergeant in the Buffalo Police Department and his uncle was an investigator on the bike path rapist’s second murder victim.

Amherst Police Detective Joseph LaCorte was on patrol when Linda Yalem was killed in 1990 and has continued to work on the case since.

The tragic killing of Joan Diver, mother of four, brought the four agencies together four agencies -- the Amherst Police Department, the Buffalo Police Department, Erie County Sherriff's Department and the New York State Police. With the advent of modern-day DNA technology identifying the assailant's genetic make up as possibly Hispanic and the unprecedented cooperation and information-sharing between the agencies, the 20-year-old cold case was solved quickly.

Within two months of the formation of the task force, the suspect and admitted bike path rapist and killer was apprehended.

Many of the investigators consider this the best case of their career, not simply for solving a case but also for the silver lining of the investigation: the exoneration of Anthony Capozzi, wrongly imprisoned for more than 22 years.

Detective Dennis Delano (left) with Anthony Capozzi at a party to celebrate his release

As Detective Alan Rozansky said "I told my kids, I’ve been here 36 years. You'll hardly remember who I arrested. But you remember the one person that was innocent that got out because of our police work."

A party to celebrate Anthony Capozzi’s release was thrown by the very same restaurant where Sanchez had dinner with his wife and where investigators collected the glass and napkin that yielded DNA evidence that linked Sanchez to nine rapes and three murders.

In the end, Altemio Sanchez apologized for his crimes at his sentencing. He is serving 75 years but that brings no comfort to his victims or the children who will grow up without their mother.

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