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Infamous homes' notorious pasts can make them a challenge to sell

They are houses of infamy, sites of horrific crimes that gripped the community:

*A modest home with gray siding and a wooden porch in Kenmore where a teenage honor student fatally stabbed his mother, father and brother before slashing his forearms in an unsuccessful suicide attempt.

*A well-kept brick ranch in Niagara Falls, where a son bludgeoned his mother to death with a baseball bat, beginning a crime spree that ended with his arrest in Nova Scotia a decade later.

*A stately mansion in East Amherst, where a doctor who provided abortions was fatally shot through a kitchen window by a sniper hiding in the woods.

But what happens to these homes after the crime scene is cleaned up, the TV cameras leave and the headlines give way to other stories?

"It kind of gives you chills. That was some intense stuff that went down in that house," said Dale Saladyga, who lives with his wife and 14-year-old son in the Kenmore home where John Justice killed his family.

Some local houses of infamy have fallen into the hands of the City of Buffalo over the years, and were razed.

For those that sold, some buyers knew what violence took place within those walls. Others did not.

"They need HOUSEFAX, like CARFAX," said Taz Reza, referring to vehicle history reports she'd like to see replicated for homes. Reza's parents unknowingly bought an East Side house where a double murder occurred eight years earlier. New York State law does not require disclosure of a property's criminal history.

Generally, homes where notorious crimes occurred can take longer to sell, and may sell for less than their full-market value, given the psychological effect a past crime can have on a prospective owner, according to real estate agents and academics.

"It really speaks to how important people's homes are to their security and sense of identity," said David F. Schmid, an associate professor of English at the University at Buffalo, who is writing a history of homicide in American popular culture.

Some crime homes become tourist attractions, often as part of a true-crime tour.

The well-maintained Victorian home in Fall River, Mass., where Lizzie Borden was suspected of killing her father and stepmother -- she was acquitted at trial -- is now operated as a bed and breakfast, for example.

But the house in Des Plaines, Ill., where John Wayne Gacy killed 33 boys and young men in the 1970s was demolished and replaced with a new home that has a different house number, Schmid said.

In that vein, a grass-strewn, city-owned lot is all that remains of the house at 297 Bissell Ave. in Buffalo, where Willie Jackson Jr. shot and killed his 3-year-old daughter and the mother of his estranged girlfriend.

"They want it gone," said Kathleen R. Pierino, an associate professor of criminal justice at Hilbert College and a retired state police investigator, speaking of a crime house's neighbors. "It doesn't matter who moved in, it's the house that has the bad mojo."

But most of the local murder-scene homes The Buffalo News examined are still standing, and inhabited, and they blend in well in their neighborhoods.

"The more ordinary they are, and the more ordinary the surroundings are, the more compelling they become in a weird sort of way," Schmid said.

>Pellet holes in the wall

Joseph and Pamela Paterno were newlyweds hunting for their first home when they overheard an agent in a real estate office trying to interest someone in a home on Alder Place in the Town of Tonawanda.

"And then I heard the Realtor say, 'Yes that's the one. What do you mean you don't want to see it?' " Joe Paterno recalled. "And my wife was like, 'They're talking about that house those people were killed in.' "

It was months after Philip J. Glaser had gunned down his estranged wife, Elizabeth Casino Glaser, and her parents, Michael and Nancy Casino. Glaser later surrendered after he kidnapped his wife's divorce attorney and engaged police in a lengthy stand-off in Erie, Pa.

On July 27, 1983, Glaser kicked down the front door, followed his estranged wife into her parents' bedroom and killed the three with a shotgun, shattering the window and leaving pellet holes in the wall, said Tonawanda Police Lt. James Szabo.

Joe Paterno said the first night in the house was "creepy," and curiosity seekers used to slowly drive by, but they haven't regretted their purchase.

The Paternos waited to tell their children -- including their daughter, who lived in the room where the killings occurred -- about the home's history.

"We never told them about the incident until they were in their 20s. My daughter still doesn't know the full story," he said. "She thought they were killed in the basement or something."

>Parties and graffiti

Dale Saladyga waited two years before telling his son that John D. Justice fatally stabbed his parents, John W. and Mary Dubill Justice, and younger brother, Mark, in their Mang Avenue home in 1985. Justice also killed Wayne Haun in a car accident that day.

Dale Saladyga and his son moved into the Mang Avenue home in 2009 after the elder Saladyga met his wife, Kristin, whose parents had bought the house and fixed it up for her.

He said the home had fallen into disrepair before Kristin and her parents took hold of it. Young people were breaking into the house to hold parties, and someone had spray-painted "Justice killed here" inside.

Previous owners removed the side door where Justice's attacks on his mother and father began, replacing it with a wall, and the kitchen was expanded and a deck was added.

Saladyga said his neighbors never bring up the killings, but he and his wife occasionally surprise visitors with the news.

"It's a pretty good conversation starter," said Dale Saladyga.

>A challenge to sell

Anti-abortion activist James C. Kopp is serving a life sentence for his assassination of Dr. Barnett A. Slepian in October 1998 at Slepian's home on Roxbury Park in East Amherst.

The house was sold in 2006 for $710,000 to Marc and Sherrie Korn, according to Erie County real property records and court papers filed in a federal fraud case lodged against Marc Korn. The Korns did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Thomas L. Gatley didn't want to talk very much about his home, on 70th Street in Niagara Falls, which he bought in 1999.

Eleven years earlier, William Shrubsall beat his mother, Marianne, to death there.

Shrubsall received youthful-offender status and served only 16 months in state prison. He later began a series of assaults on women on both sides of the border that ended with his arrest in 1998 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"It brings up a bad history," Gatley said in a brief interview.

One former Hunt Real Estate agent talked about how difficult it can be to sell a home where a well-publicized murder occurred. "It was a challenge," she said of selling a Clarence home where a man fatally stabbed his wife in 2004. "It was just a matter of people's perception of the property."

The house stayed on the market longer and eventually sold at a lower price than it should have for that time period and the neighborhood in which it was located, she said.

>Taken aback by news

Laws vary from state to state, but in New York, sellers and their agents aren't required to reveal a home's criminal history because it is not considered a "material defect," said Michael Schiavone, a lawyer who focuses his practice on commercial real estate and business law.

However, if a prospective buyer asks a direct question about that history, the seller and the seller's agent need to answer truthfully, said W. Clark Trow, who served as chairman of the real property law committee of the Erie County Bar Association.

"You can't say, 'I don't know,' if you do know," Trow said.

Reza is one person who believes New York State needs to change its disclosure law.

Her parents bought a home on Rother Avenue, off Sycamore Street, in 2009 without knowing that an elderly couple was viciously stabbed to death there in November 2001 by a man they'd hired months earlier to do odd jobs around their house.

The house had changed hands several times since Henry and Eugenia Kaminski, both 83, were killed by Robert L. Smith, who hoped to steal items to sell to feed a crack cocaine habit.

MD Rezaur Rahman, Reza's father, bought this house to move his family here from Florida because he liked that the home was in a peaceful neighborhood near a church.

The family said no one on the street has mentioned the murders, which they learned about from a Buffalo News reporter.

In an interview conducted in the living room, where the elderly couple was killed, members of the Rahman family were taken aback by this news.

They wish they'd known about the murders before they bought the house, to which they've made substantial improvements, but they remain quite happy with their home.

"It's past -- nothing we can change anything about it," Reza said.

email: swatson@buffnews.com