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Erie County sheriff's investigators are searching for witnesses to help them solve the murder of Frank C. Dennies, who was found beaten to death in his Sardinia farmhouse five years ago this week.

Hoping to add momentum for detectives Thursday, Sheriff Patrick M. Gallivan announced that an anonymous $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Dennies' killer or killers.

The body of the 64-year-old farmer was found at 2 a.m. Feb. 15, 1996, at the bottom of the cellar steps in his Genesee Road farmhouse by his wife, Loretta, who had just arrived home from baby-sitting a granddaughter.

Dennies was fatally beaten in the upper body and head with a blunt object.

"There is somebody out there with information," Gallivan said. "There are a number of leads that have pointed us to possible suspects."

Missing, though, is "a key piece of evidence," Gallivan explained, that would provide "the probable cause to make an arrest."

No one has been ruled out as a possible suspect, the sheriff added.

The investigation was stymied early on when unnamed individuals hired lawyers and refused to cooperate with investigators.

"There was some unusual activity the night of the homicide," said Sheriff's Detective John D. Politow-ski, explaining that there was a big fire near a barn on the property.

The attacker or attackers, Gallivan said, might have disposed of evidence in the fire. But investigators, he said, were able to retrieve other items, possibly including the murder weapon.

In the years since Dennies' death, the family has torn down the old farmhouse where the killing occurred. Gallivan said he does not know why the building was razed.

The last time Dennies was seen alive was at a grain mill in Springville at 2 or 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, 1996.

"This case is very solvable. We just need a break," Politowski said.

Investigators say Dennies was clad in outdoor clothing, leading them to believe a fight might have occurred outside his home or just after entering the residence.

"No information is too trivial. Our detectives are anxious to speak with anyone who may have seen anything on or around the Dennies' farm from Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, 1996, through the morning of Feb. 15," Gallivan said.

Anyone with information should call 662-6150.

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