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Falls man denies charges of cocaine sale, possession

LOCKPORT -- Derrick M. Royster, 28, of 24th Street, Niagara Falls, pleaded not guilty to a nine-count drug indictment Friday in Niagara County Court.

Royster denied six counts of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance and three counts of fifth-degree possession. He is accused of selling powdered cocaine in Niagara Falls on Oct. 11, Jan. 4 and Jan. 9.


Red Cross assists 12 after apartment blaze

Twelve people were being assisted by the American Red Cross after fire broke out late Friday afternoon in their Lincoln Place apartment complex in the Town of Lockport, Niagara County sheriff's deputies reported.

The fire apparently started in Apartment B at 6558 Lincoln Place just before 6 p.m. as the result of a cooking accident, deputies said. Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke and fire conditions on the third floor of the building.

All of the occupants of the building were evacuated safely.

Firefighters contained the blaze to the room where it started, but there was extensive smoke and water damage throughout the building, officials said.

Two firefighters were taken to Lockport Memorial Hospital for treatment of heat exhaustion.

Damage was pegged at $35,000.


Guilty plea entered in Niagara Towers arson

LOCKPORT -- A man who had been charged with setting a fire in the hallway of a senior citizen apartment building Dec. 2 pleaded guilty Friday in Niagara County Court.

Stephen J. Page, 27, of Panama Street, Town of Niagara, admitted to fourth-degree arson and faces up to four years in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 7 by Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr.

Page said in court the fire started through "careless smoking." Police had accused Page of torching the curtains in a third-floor hallway at Niagara Towers, 901 Cedar Ave., but Page told them the fire started with a discarded cigarette. Broderick had dismissed a second-degree arson charge, carrying a maximum 25-year prison term, because of insufficient evidence.


Lockport man admits theft of $5,000 from neighbor

LOCKPORT -- A South Street man who stole about $5,000 from an elderly female neighbor pleaded guilty to fourth-degree grand larceny Friday in Niagara County Court.

Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr. scheduled sentencing Sept. 5 for Hardy E. Sandstrom, 53, who stole the money between August 2005 and April 2006, Assistant District Attorney Brian E. Seaman said.

He said Sandstrom had been doing work for the woman, a neighbor in the same apartment house, and became involved with helping her pay her bills. Sandstrom wrote a check to himself to accomplish the theft, Seaman said.

An identity theft charge was dropped as part of the plea bargain. Sandstrom had been accused of connecting the victim's bank account to his account on the online auction site eBay, Seaman said, but Sandstrom asserted he had the woman's permission to do so.


Lockport burglar admits to two bar thefts

LOCKPORT -- A Lockport man who liked to burglarize bars and restaurants admitted to two such break-ins Thursday in Niagara County Court and is expected to confess to as many as eight more as part of the plea deal.

Robert A. Abernathy, 39, of no fixed address, admitted to two counts of third-degree burglary and faces up to 14 years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 30 by Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza.

He admitted to break-ins May 29 at the Summit Street Saloon and June 1 at Wagner's, both in Lockport. Assistant District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann said Abernathy was believed to be responsible for other recent break-ins at the Pleasant Valley Tavern and Dool's Third Base in Lockport, Dee Jay's in Wrights Corners, and the Walmore Inn, Sawyer Creek Hotel and Suzanne's in Wheatfield.

Hoffmann said a co-defendant, Mark D. Hensel, 45, of Tremont Street, North Tonawanda, has been charged with felonies for allegedly driving Abernathy to and from many of the burglaries.


Man gets probation in $74,282 metal thefts

LOCKPORT -- A Sunset Drive man avoided jail Thursday in connection with the theft of $74,282 worth of aluminum cylinders and other aluminum from two area businesses.

Niagara County Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr. said his "gut reaction" was to send Dustin D. Cumbie, 20, to prison, but he didn't want the young man to lose his job and not have a chance to make restitution: one-third of the value of the stolen metal. The judge placed Cumbie on five years' probation and ordered him to start paying $500 a month.

Cumbie, along with John T. Duboy, 26, of East Avenue, North Tonawanda, and Alan J. Herrick, 31, of Garden Street, Lockport, pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree grand larceny for the thefts from Gasport Welding and Fabricating between last September and December, and from Brigham Concrete in Lockport in January. The aluminum was sold as scrap in Niagara Falls.

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