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State criticism gives hope to mother of 1998 murder victim

For more than seven years, Louella Dzialak has done everything she could to pressure Buffalo police into bringing her son's killers to justice.

She finally carved out a possible opening, following the release of a state report that criticizes the Buffalo Police Department for its handling of her son Timothy's killing.

And now, with the new Buffalo police administration considering a new Cold Case Squad that would reopen such investigations, Louella Dzialak has reason to be optimistic again.

"I'm hoping they do something about it and solve Timmy's case," she said. "They've told me it's not a whodunit, and it's not an unsolvable case. So solve it."

Timothy Dzialak, 25, was the victim of a gruesome homicide. On Nov. 8, 1998, he was beaten and shot twice, before his body was set on fire near railroad tracks in the city's Black Rock area.

The investigation focused on two Black Rock brothers, who were labeled in open court as potential suspects. No arrest was made.

New York's Commission of Investigation, responding to a complaint from the family that was sent to them by a local elected official, has delivered a mostly critical report on the Buffalo Police Department's role in the investigation.

The state investigation didn't find credible evidence to support most of the allegations against the Police Department and the Erie County district attorney's office, the report stated.

"Nevertheless, the commission did find several glaring flaws in the BPD's investigation, including a failure to take additional simple steps, ask key questions and [preserve] information, and a failure to receive, handle and secure evidence properly," the report said.

Top Buffalo police officials haven't vowed to reopen this case, but the possibility seems greater with the hoped-for creation of a squad to revisit such investigations.

"We certainly are looking into the possibility of establishing a Cold Case Squad that would investigate cases like this," Chief of Detectives Dennis J. Richards said. "As we reorganize the Detective Division, that's one of many options that we're looking at."

The state Commission of Investigation, which has a mandate to investigate any matter involving public safety and public justice, also found the police case-management system deficient and determined that the department should have been more thorough and aggressive in its investigation.

The report was especially critical of the mishandling of a gun found near the homicide scene and turned over to police; one officer reportedly refused to take the gun, and another left it in his police locker for almost a month, according to the report. The gun later found in the locker was not used in the killing.

Louella Dzialak said "it doesn't take a rocket scientist" to know what conceivably could have happened to a gun that was in a locker for almost a month.

"I put all my faith in those detectives to solve the case," she added. "But for them to do all that they did wrong, it's appalling."

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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