Maki Becker, The Buffalo News
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Maki Becker

Maki Becker is the breaking news and criminal justice editor at The Buffalo News.


Three-year-old Alicia Wityee picked up an alphabet block from the back of a wooden toy truck and showed it to her mom. "I?" she asked. Her mother, Lalpan Mawii, took a peek. "Look at it again," she told her daughter. "T," Alicia said, barely audibly. "Louder. I can't hear you," her mother gently coaxed. "T!" the girl said clearly. Alicia graduated this…

Two Purple Hearts, each earned more than half a century ago on the other side of the world, were awarded Monday at a ceremony at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park on National Purple Heart Day. One of the medals went to Mykola "Nick" Shwec of Buffalo, who'd received a Purple Heart medal once before, but because the commendation was never recorded on h…

Driving up Parkside Avenue along Delaware Park this weekend, you may have noticed an unusual sight. Next to the lodge on the old lawn bowling court, a few dozen people dressed in white are playing croquet. Not the sort of croquet people play in their backyards, but rather six-wicket croquet, a game that has a small but passionate following of players around the world. …

State troopers were awaiting the results of toxicology tests on a man whose pickup drove into a house on Evans Street in the Village of Richburg in Allegany County early Saturday, state police said. The incident took place just after 2:30 a.m. Troopers found Richard D. Sexton, 47, of Bolivar, still seated in the driver's seat of a red pickup that had hit the house, dama…

Notices alerting residents of Clarence about coyotes in their neighborhood were hand-delivered to properties on Stonebriar Drive Friday, three days after a coyote attacked a small dog while its owner was nearby outside. "As you are aware from the most recent unfortunate incident in your neighborhood, there are coyotes in your neighborhood," the notice from Town Supervis…

Adam Keller was busy landscaping early Tuesday afternoon in the backyard of his home in Clarence Center when he heard his little shih-tzu-poodle mix, Spencer, squeal in pain. He first wondered whether Spencer had gotten hurt while rough housing with Keller's other dog, Lucy, a pit bull. Then Keller saw what he thought was a third dog fighting with his pets. But it wasn'…

Three weeks after Kristina Gassman learned that her 4-year-old daughter's debilitating exhaustion and mysterious bruises were symptoms of leukemia, she walked out of the Buffalo Ronald McDonald House on West Ferry Street with her two sons. It was morning, and they were on their way to spend the day with Claira at Women & Children's Hospital a couple of blocks away. …

A pharmacist at MacLeod's Drugs in Niagara Falls was arrested Tuesday morning after he was accused of coercing a female customer to take off her clothes in front of him before he would fill her prescription, authorities announced. The pharmacist, Robert W. Kenzia, 81, also is accused of threatening to tell other drug stores not to fill her prescriptions unless she compl…

A girl was injured in a two-car crash Wednesday morning in the village of Silver Creek, the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office said. The incident took place at about 10:20 a.m. at Central Avenue and Hanover Street. The driver of one of the vehicles, Robert Fisk, 87, of Silver Creek, was issued a ticket for failure to yield the right of way. He was scheduled to appear…

An Erie County Sheriff's deputy came to the rescue of an owl that became entangled in a soccer goal net Tuesday at Veterans Park on Grand Island. At about 11:30 a.m., the sheriff's office reported on its Facebook page, deputies received a call about the stuck owl. Deputy Angela Kopacz responded and freed the tangled-up raptor. "After a brief 'once-over' the De…

A car stopped in the Town of Wethersfield with no windshield, doors or a license plate and with an ax in the roof led to the arrest of the driver on charges of driving while impaired by drugs, the Wyoming County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday. After receiving a report about a "suspicious vehicle" on Monday, deputies pulled over a car with many missing parts driven by Jar…

Tips to the Crimestoppers tipline led to the arrest of a Buffalo man in the July 14 armed robbery of a Grand Island gas station, Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard said Monday. Michael Church, 39, was arrested July 21 on charges of first-degree robbery, a felony and misdemeanor menacing and petit larceny counts. A little after 10 p.m. July 14, Crimestoppers report…

A 14-year-old boy accused of shooting another 14-year-old with an air rifle has been charged with a felony count of second-degree assault, the Erie County Sheriff's Office said Monday. Deputies began an investigation on June 25 after the victim was taken to Women and Children's Hospital in Buffalo. The boy had been shot with a pellet gun on June 22 in the Town of Elma. …

When Chelsea Ellis began making plans for a trip across the world to Nepal, the Buffalo teacher didn't just consult travel guides. She went to her students at school who had grown up in refugee camps there. She gave them copies of a map of the South Asian country and asked them to label where they had lived and where they thought she should visit. One student, Prakr…

Call it a hat trick. The powerful storms that spawned two tornadoes in the Southtowns Thursday, ripping through Hamburg, Orchard Park and Holland, also produced a third tornado: this one near Angelica in Allegany County. "The same storm put down multiple tornadoes," said National Weather Service meteorologist Aaron Reynolds Friday. The first tornado, an EF2, struc…