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POLICE & COURTS - Niagara

Fire at lumber company causes extensive damage

NORTH TONAWANDA -- The 35 hourly employees at R.A. Miller Hardwood were instructed not to report to work on Thursday and today, after a fire destroyed kilns, a boiler room and a dryer/storage building in the wholesale hardwood lumber company on Wednesday.

Nearly 100 firefighters fought the fire at 35 Industrial Drive. Damages have been estimated in the millions of dollars.

Christopher Miller, one of the company's owners, said company officials met throughout Thursday with fire marshals and insurance adjusters.

"The cause is still under investigation. We expect to know more and have a report on Monday morning," said Miller.

He said office and salaried staff will continue to report to work.

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Air search launched in effort to seize pot

LOCKPORT -- The Niagara County Drug Task Force and sheriff's aviation unit conducted a major air search and marijuana eradication program throughout the county on Wednesday.

Investigator Anthony Evans said 95 marijuana plants were seized in Youngstown, Wilson, Hartland and Pendleton in a five-hour air search.

He said the plants were spotted from the air and then agents on the ground were called to go into cornfields and hedgerows to pull out the plants.

Evans said 40 percent of the plants were fully mature at 7 feet tall, with a value estimated at $2,000 each, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. He said the remaining plants varied from 3 to 7 feet tall.

"Unfortunately, this has been an outstanding year for growing marijuana," Evans said.

"Normally, we would start air searches when the weather gets a bit cooler, but growing conditions have been excellent. We found several areas where the plants have already been pulled.

"We've received a number of calls about suspicious people, who don't look like farmers, in cornfields in the last few months and we've followed those leads."

Evans said the eradication aims to wipe out the drug, rather than sit and wait to make arrests. No arrests were made Wednesday.

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Fingerprints on note lead to robbery suspect

NIAGARA FALLS -- Using fingerprints lifted from a note to a teller, police said they arrested a woman on Thursday suspected of robbing a Key Bank branch at 800 Main St. last Friday.

Capt. Ernest Palmer, chief of detectives, said the department's crime scene unit was able to pull prints from the note that the woman gave to the teller saying, "Give me stacks of hundreds and twenties," and got a hit on a state database.

Eyvonne P. Robinson, 43, no known address, was found at a Willow Street home Thursday morning and charged with first-degree robbery and grand larceny. She is accused of stealing more than $1,000 from the bank. She reportedly was not armed.

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Probation is extended for teen in '03 stabbing

LOCKPORT -- Vincent J. Dubuc of Niagara Falls, who stabbed a man in the heart with a razor-like blade more than two years ago, was placed on five years' probation Wednesday by Niagara County Judge Peter L. Broderick Sr.

Dubuc, 19, of Pierce Avenue, was denied youthful-offender status and ordered to pay $5,000 restitution to the insurance company of his victim, Damion M. Kraft, 23.

On Aug. 7, 2003, in Niagara Falls, Dubuc attacked Kraft with a scraper used to remove inspection stickers from car windshields after an argument broke out over Kraft's cousin flirting with Dubuc's sister. The blade lodged in the lower part of Kraft's heart and had to be surgically removed.

Broderick had placed Dubuc on interim probation in November 2003 to give him a chance to show he could stay out of trouble. Dubuc pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted second-degree assault.

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Man who shot at son, son's wife gets discharge

LOCKPORT -- A man who said he had been drinking when he fired a gun at his son and daughter-in-law Feb. 23 received a conditional discharge Wednesday from Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza.

Edward Rybarczyk, 57, of South 86th Street, Niagara Falls, had pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree reckless endangerment. The shooting occurred near his home about 4:30 a.m. after some heavy drinking and an argument. Police said five shots were fired from a .38-caliber revolver, but none of them struck anyone.

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Ex-boyfriend pleads guilty to 2 felonies

LOCKPORT -- A Niagara Falls man, accused of assaulting and harassing his ex-girlfriend and burglarizing her apartment, pleaded guilty to two felonies Monday in Niagara County Court.

Lee R. Carter, 25, of Elmwood Avenue, is to be sentenced by Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza Nov. 10 for attempted second-degree assault and first-degree criminal contempt of court.

Carter was charged with assaulting the woman Jan. 1 in Lockport; phoning her Feb. 25 to try to convince her not to testify against him; breaking into her Niagara Falls apartment July 15; and violating a court order by repeatedly phoning her July 29.

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