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.


It had been 18 years to the day since the Buffalo Bisons played their very first home opener at the sparkling new ballfield now called Dunn Tire Park -- and Bob Patterson, who had pitched that inaugural game in 1988, returned Friday night to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.Much has changed, of course, since that April 14, 1988.Gone is the glimmering prospect of a Majo…

Jason R. Lyon text-messaged his wife's cell phone Wednesday morning with the happy news they had been waiting for: "I'm good to go," he typed. "I love you."Six months earlier, the 28-year-old Iraq War veteran's life had been turned upside down when he failed a physical for a mail carrier job in Hamburg because of an ankle sprain he suffered during combat.That came as a sho…

Marge Vimmerstedt had a feeling that she was paying a smidgen less than normal as she shopped Thursday afternoon at the Walden Galleria for three pairs each of shoes and jeans.The Cheektowaga great-grandmother had in fact saved 4 percent -- because the state officially repealed its sales tax on clothes and shoes under $110 on Saturday. "Oh, that's why," exclaimed Vimmerste…

Three years ago, Rajendran Velautham, a member of Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority, fled his native land after being jailed and tortured.The rice farmer was forced to leave his wife and three children in Jeffna, his home village, to relocate more than 8,700 miles away to Buffalo.He found an apartment on the West Side and a job as a housekeeper for a West Seneca nursing ho…

She just didn't know what to do about her elderly mother.Alzheimer's had ravaged the once strong, independent woman's mind. It had gotten especially bad the last three years, after she was widowed.The bills were piling up. Then the mother's Social Security checks began to disappear after her son and his girlfriend moved in.The bank had put a hold on the 75-year-old mother'…

It was well above the 60-degree mark late Thursday afternoon in Niagara Falls, and Jane Stewart, production designer of "The Savages" couldn't help but be a little disappointed by the weather."You can almost see the breath," she said exhaling, desperately hoping to see a puff of white frost in the air -- a key detail that would help capture that perfect wintry look she nee…

Buffalo Police Officer Cedric Littlejohn and his teenage half-brother, Ke'one, have their father in common.But their lives could not have been more different.Officer Littlejohn is a decorated cop. Ke'one, who had run away from a group home for troubled youths, was gunned down in broad daylight Thursday. Ke'one Littlejohn, 16, was chased down Sherman Street and shot several…

Sheriff Timothy Howard, meet your namesake: Sister Timothy Howard.The religion and reading teacher at St. James School on Davidson Avenue got the surprise of her life when the Erie County sheriff who shares her name walked into her classroom.This nun with more than 30 years' teaching experience giggled like a schoolgirl."Nice to meet you," she said."If you haven't figured …

He didn't have to go to Iraq.But it was just like Pfc. Benjamin C. Schuster, his family and friends said, to volunteer to go.And in doing so, the 21-year-old Grand Island soldier paid with his life."Ben is and always has been my hero," said Brandan Jones, who grew up with Schuster, in delivering a eulogy Monday honoring his lifelong friend.More than 400 people packed St. J…

The Buffalo police parking ticket blitz is taking a toll. Business at Diggin' It gardening store on Elmwood Avenue was down by half last month, compared with previous Februaries."My sales plummeted," said Lacy Abbott, owner of the seven-year-old Elmwood Village business. Robert DiPasquale, owner of Cozumel Grill & Tequila Bar in Allentown, said he lost customers who had be…

Buffalo police say they are enforcing a new "zero tolerance" policy on parking violations that has quadrupled the number of tickets normally issued.But the police don't seem to be enforcing their new policy on cars right under their noses -- around police headquarters in downtown Buffalo.Every day, scores of vehicles park in the "No Standing" and "No Parking" zones in fron…

When Mena Coote's water broke in her St. Catharines, Ont., home, she never dreamed that nine hours later she would be giving birth across the border in Buffalo -- to two tiny citizens of both the United States and Canada."It was a little bit crazy," Coote said Monday of her preemie twins.The babies will enjoy dual citizenship for their entire lives simply because their Can…

Myo Thant's journey has brought him from Burma to Buffalo. On Thursday, the former political prisoner who was an aide to Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi became a U.S. citizen in a downtown courtroom."I'm kind of sad," admitted the slight, 35-year-old man minutes after being sworn in as one of the country's newest citizens. "I feel this is selfish. I cannot be hap…

A 15-year-old Cheektowaga girl fired the rifle that killed a Kuwaiti-born teenager Sunday after an overnight party, apparently believing that the weapon wasn't loaded, police said Monday."They thought the gun was empty," Cheektowaga police Capt. John Glascott said.Monday, investigators were trying to piece together what took place in the garage apartment on Ivanhoe Road, w…

They come from a time when you could trust a stranger, and your children and grandchildren took care of you.But more and more, Erie County's elderly are finding out the hard way that not everyone out there has a heart of gold -- and the network of people looking out for them is worried it will only get worse as the elderly population continues to grow."Most common," said p…