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Fatal stabbing stuns Amherst neighborhood Police continue probe in quiet cul-de-sac

Police questioned, then released an acquaintance of Dr. Joseph D. Matteliano on Thursday as they searched for information about the 64-year-old dentist's stabbing death.

As they continued their investigation today, Amherst police had no suspects in custody as of late this morning, Capt. Timothy Green said.

Detectives say the evidence uncovered so far suggests that this was no random killing, that Matteliano more likely was killed by someone he knew.

"We've pretty much ruled out burglary, robbery, anything like that," Green said today. "We didn't find any forced entry [or anything missing]."

Meanwhile, stunned neighbors on the secluded cul-de-sac where the homicide occurred said the killing injected an unusual sense of vulnerability into a neighborhood so quiet that one resident said it was like living in a bubble.

"Nobody comes into this neighborhood unless they know someone here. You can get lost in here," said Sue Hessenthaler, who lives across the street from the modest split-level home where police found Matteliano dead, shortly after he called 911 at 2:30 a.m.

Most of the 15 families on Kim Circle, southeast of Maple Road and Millersport Highway, were awakened about 3 a.m. by police knocking on their doors, checking with and questioning residents. An Erie County Sheriff's Department helicopter hovered overhead as police searched the neighborhood for Matteliano's attacker.

Matteliano, who was separated, had two daughters and several grandchildren. Family members said Thursday they did not wish to comment.

Matteliano graduated from the University at Buffalo in 1964 with a bachelor's degree in sociology. He was a 1972 graduate of the School of Dentistry, serving as class president one of the four years he attended, according to UB spokesman Arthur H. Page.

Matteliano practiced dentistry at an office on Union Road in West Seneca. In his off hours, he played saxophone and piano with a local jazz group.

Matteliano also spent much of his free time in the summer aboard his 32-foot power boat, neighbors said.

Once or twice a week he also jammed with musicians in a basement studio that he had soundproofed, according to Paul Vance, his next-door neighbor.

"We're very, very shocked," Vance said. "This was a nice guy, a wonderful guy. You couldn't ask for a better neighbor."

Vance said his daughter saw Matteliano Wednesday night as she was putting out the garbage. They exchanged greetings and nothing seemed amiss.

His friends on the street also couldn't make any sense of why Matteliano would become the victim of such a violent attack.

"A stabbing is such a personal act that you just figure it has to be someone who knows him," Vance said.

As they continued their search for the killer, police were tight-lipped about the stabbing, including details about where the attack took place, where the victim was stabbed and whether a weapon was recovered.

Hessenthaler recalled a man in his 30s who lived with Matteliano until last summer, but who has not been seen in the neighborhood since then. When neighbors asked about the young man, she said, Matteliano would just say, "He's had a hard life."

But it was not unusual for Matteliano to extend his help to others, especially his neighbors, according to Hessenthaler and other Kim Circle residents.

Several remembered Matteliano as a generous man who opened his backyard pool to all, and was the first to help if he saw someone in need.

"He was one of the nicest men," Hessenthaler said.

She recalled that, "One night when my husband was in pain, [Matteliano] came over to help." She added: "And when he'd see my husband struggling with something, he would come over and ask if he could help."

Many of the neighbors stayed home from work Thursday as they tried to cope with their shock. "It hurts," Hessenthaler said. "Someone that good should not have to suffer."

News Staff Reporter Harold McNeil contributed to this report.

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