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11 LEFT HOMELESS BY FIRES IN TWO CITY NEIGHBORHOODS

House fires in South Buffalo and the East Side today left 11 people seeking emergency shelter from the Red Cross, fire officials said.

At 8:39 a.m., firefighters extinguished a blaze at 136 North Parade Avenue. Careless cooking caused the $70,000 fire in the 2 1/2 -story, wood-frame residence, leaving two adults and two children in need of temporary shelter.

The fire also caused $2,500 in exposure damage to a neighboring house at 132 North Parade.

At 8:41 a.m., a fire of undetermined cause started in a 2 1/2 -story, wood-frame home at 37 Como Ave. and damaged homes on both sides. The $90,000 fire left a family of four homeless, authorities said.

The fire spread to 35 Como, causing $20,000 damage there. Three adults in that dwelling also sought temporary shelter from the Red Cross. In addition, a home at 39 Como sustained $15,000 damage, fire officials said.

One firefighter suffered injuries in the Como Avenue fires but was able to remain on duty.

Hospital worker charged
with theft of credit cards

An employee at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, has been arrested after an investigation into credit cards being stolen from patients' and employees' purses, Amherst police reported today.

Detective John Piracci charged Theresa Y. Harris, 33, of Butler Avenue, Buffalo, with two counts of felony grand larceny in the theft of two credit cards. Police identified her as a clerical employee at the hospital.

"We've had quite a few other complaints from both patients and other employees regarding larcenies of items from their purses," Assistant Police Chief Ronald H. Hagelberger said today.

Some of the thefts reportedly came from purses of maternity-ward patients. Detectives believe that some of the stolen credit cards were used at nearby department stores, and police are working with those stores.

Clerk taken by surprise,
robbed of $500 at gunpoint

A robber hiding in the bathroom of a Town of Hamburg convenience store surprised the clerk by pointing a small black revolver at him and robbing him of about $500 early this morning, town police said.

When the clerk at the Unimart store at 3932 South Park Ave. in Blasdell entered the bathroom at about 3:30 a.m., the bandit confronted him with the weapon and forced him to remove the videotape from the store's surveillance camera.

After taking the money, the thief forced the clerk to lie down on the floor and warned him that he would shoot if the clerk got up.

Detectives are looking for a white male, possibly 25 to 35 years old, about 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds with blond hair, a mustache and a tattoo of a skull and crossbones on his left arm. He was wearing a baseball cap with the initials NY on the front.

Man accused of tying up
ex-girlfriend, slashing her

A Buffalo man was apprehended Wednesday at the downtown NFTA bus terminal, where police said he had fled after allegedly tying up his ex-girlfriend with electrical tape and cutting her face with a knife.

Stewart Davis, 37, of Clearwater, Fla., was charged with second-degree assault and unlawful imprisonment by South District Officer John Kujawa. The victim obtained medical treatment on her own after the 8:30 p.m. attack, police said.

Dogs' living condition leads
to cruelty-to-animals charge

After discovering seven dogs living in unsanitary conditions at a Jewett Avenue home Wednesday, Buffalo police charged Richard Stanley with cruelty to animals.

One of the animals, a pit bull, had suffered head wounds that police believe were the result of dog fighting. Two other pit bulls and a Rottweiler were found in malnourished condition, according to Lt. Larry J. Baehre.

All of the dogs were taken to the city's Small Animal Shelter on Oak Street by animal-control officers.

Stanley, 19, of the 200 block of Jewett, also was charged with possession of cocaine and marijuana.

Junkyard fire that burned
15 cars being probed

Buffalo fire investigators today were continuing a probe to determine the cause of a fire Wednesday night at a junkyard on Hertel Avenue and Military Road.

Fire officials said the fire, which occurred at about 7 p.m., involved 15 junk cars that caught fire. No injuries were reported.

Attempted-murder trial
of Pignataro postponed

Former physician Anthony S. Pignataro's trial on charges that he tried to kill his wife has been postponed.

With a child-neglect trial of both Pignataro and his estranged wife, Deborah, about to enter its fifth day in Family Court, State Supreme Court Justice Mario J. Rossetti adjourned the scheduled Oct. 10 start of jury selection in the attempted-murder case until Feb. 14.

Anthony Pignataro has been indicted on charges of attempted murder for allegedly trying to poison his wife with arsenic. He and his wife were charged with child neglect after physicians found elevated levels of arsenic in their children's blood.

Testimony in that case was scheduled to continue today before Judge Marjorie C. Mix.

The children were hospitalized for four days in August, but Pignataro, who needed no treatment related to arsenic, has maintained that he had no hand in his estranged wife's poisoning or his children's exposure to arsenic.

As he awaits trial in the attempted-murder case, Pignataro remains imprisoned for violating parole in an earlier case in which he pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide in the 1997 death of a patient.

Contempt complaint dropped
for writer in City Hall case

A noted City Hall critic and freelance writer has been cleared of a criminal complaint filed by one of his City Hall targets.

City Judge Robert T. Russell Jr. dismissed an Aug. 14 charge of criminal contempt against Richard D. Kern. The judge found no criminal conduct by Kern because the City Hall worker he had been ordered to stay away from was not present when he visited an office there June 13.

It was the second time in three months and the 10th time in the past three years that Kern has been cleared in such a matter.

City Judge James A.W. McLeod issued an order of protection earlier this year, barring Kern from having any contact with Common Council staff member Mildred Castro. In issuing his ruling Wednesday, Russell noted that Castro was not in the room Kern visited that day.

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