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Stolen road signs honoring slain trooper are recovered

A hunter in the Town of Pomfret recovered one of the two stolen road signs honoring the late Trooper Joseph A. Longobardo, State Police reported Monday. Troopers later recovered a second stolen sign in the same vicinity.

Capt. Steven A. Nigrelli, State Police zone commander for Chautauqua County, reported that the hunter, who was not identified, contacted troopers in Fredonia to report he found one of the two "Joseph A. Longobardo Memorial Drive" signs in a field.

It was found about a mile from the site along Bacheller Hill Road where it was stolen only hours before a memorial service was held there honoring Longobardo.

State police conducted subsequent searches of the area and eventually found the second stolen sign in a wooded area off of Bacheller Hill Road.

Sometime between 11:30 p.m. July 13 and sunrise July 14, thieves disconnected the posts holding the signs and unscrewed the hardware holding the signs to the posts. The posts were found the next day discarded in a nearby creek.

About 100 people arrived at the July 14 memorial service to find the two large signs marking Bacheller Hill Road had been stolen. The site was near where Longobardo and Trooper Donald Baker were ambushed by then-fugitive Ralph "Bucky" Phillips on Aug. 31, 2006.

Longobardo died within days of the shooting. Baker was seriously wounded but survived.

Troopers held a second memorial service on Aug. 31 -- the first anniversary of the shootings -- and dedicated a section of Route 60 with replacement signs as "Trooper Joseph A. Longobardo Memorial Drive."

Despite that rededication, Nigrelli said state troopers were grateful for the return of the original markers.

"Even though we replaced the original signs, it means a lot to us to have these signs back," Nigrelli said. "We want to preserve the dignity of the memory of Trooper Longobardo."

Chautauqua County sheriff's deputies are continuing an investigation into the theft of the original signs.


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