Many High Profile Crimes Made Headlines In 2012


A number of high-profile crimes and trials captured the north country's attention in 2012.

Most notably: The third trial of Wayne Oxley.

Accused of killing Bernard Trickey Jr. in 2005, Oxley was originally found guilty of the murder, but that verdict was thrown out.

A second trial resulted in a hung jury.

But in February, Oxley was found not guilty and officially became a free man.

Oxley filed a $23.8 million notice of claim against the city of Ogdensburg, its former police chief and several members of the police department claiming he was falsely arrested and a victim of police brutality.

In June, Francis "Terry" Morgia was sentenced to 18 years in prison for fleeing police and causing a crash that killed a Brownville woman.

Darron Morris was given 25 years in prison in September for allegedly shooting and injuring his wife during a domestic argument in 2010.

During a standoff with police at his Sackets Harbor home, Morris also shot himself in the face. Despite that, Morris was ruled competent to stand trial and found guilty.

A fire at a Watertown apartment building in May led to the arrest and conviction of Josh Metzler.

Metzler confessed to starting the blaze, an attempt to kill his ex-girlfriend.

All 11 residents made it out, some of them just barely.
"'Til this day I'm suffering really bad back pain," Jessica Lewis said. "My ankles are always giving out on me."

In November, Metzler was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

There was a rise in cases involving synthetic drugs in 2012.

"Bath salts" and "glass cleaner" have been linked to bizarre crimes.

And in order to get a handle on the problem, the state went after shops accused of selling the drugs.

That included Tebbs Head Shop in Watertown.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing store owner John Tebbetts III, accusing him of continuing to sell synthetic drugs after the state ordered him not to.

Some members of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office found themselves in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

Sheriff's Deputy Krystal Rice accuses Detective Steven Cote of taking pictures of her, allegedly for an online investigation of pedophiles.

Rice says Cote used the photos inappropriately and she sued the department for $50 million. In November, a judge threw most of the charges out, putting Rice's case in jeopardy.

In October, Undersheriff Andy Neff was accused of sexually harassing Michelle Bowens.

Bowens says Neff sent sexual texts and then threatened her when she refused to perform sexual favors for him.

In return, Neff allegedly said he could get Bowens out of her own legal trouble.

Bowens is suing for $1 million.

State police have taken over the investigation into Neff, who remains suspended indefinitely.

Investigations also continue in other high profile cases.

Including the investigation into a fiery accident in the town of Antwerp in July that left six people dead.

Police say truck driver James Mills was simply not paying attention when his rig slammed into three cars on Route 11.

"In this case, it just means that his mind and eyesight wasn't all focused on driving," said state police investigator Rick Hathaway.

The Jefferson County District Attorney's Office is reviewing the case. No charges have been filed.

Over a year later, police are still searching for the person responsible for Garrett Phillips's death.

Authorities say 12 year old Phillips was strangled to death in this apartment building in Potsdam in October 2011.

But the case remains open, a constant reminder for Phillips's family.

"Every day's a struggle to wake up and know somebody's still out there, walking free," said Garrett Phillips's uncle, Brian.

A case making national headlines did find some resolution this year.

Copenhagen native Zach Tomaselli accused former Syracuse University men's basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine of molesting him.

Tomaselli's claim was never verified and the nearly year-long federal investigation into Fine was closed in November.

Tomaselli had trouble of his own, accused of sexually abusing a boy in Maine in 2010.

Tomaselli began serving a three-year prison term in April.

Sunday, December 11, 2016
, Watertown, NY

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