A Rochester businessman and three alleged associates have been indicted on federal murder charges in connection with the death last year of an elderly Orleans County man who collected comic books.
Police said they believe that home-invasion bandits beat up Homer Marciniak, 77, after breaking into his Medina home last July 5 to steal his comic book collection.
Rico J. Vendetti, 41, a Rochester businessman, was charged last year with hiring people to break into the home and steal the comics, but a federal grand jury has now indicted Vendetti and three other people on murder charges, U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. said Wednesday.
The death of Marciniak -- a soft-spoken and well-liked retired janitor who lived alone -- upset many people in Medina, a rural village of about 6,000 people.
"I think a lot of people in Medina will be very pleased to hear about this," said Police Chief Jose L. Avila, whose department started the investigation. "I know Homer had a bit of a heart problem, but many people in this town believe -- and I agree with them -- that he would not have died that day if not for this incident."
After a lengthy investigation, the grand jury found cause for murder charges against Vendetti and three other Rochester residents, identified by Hochul as Arlene Combs, 26; Albert Parsons, 42; and Donald Griffin, 23.
Vendetti and Combs also face previously filed charges of racketeering and witness-tampering, to which they have pleaded not guilty.
All four of the murder defendants could face mandatory terms of life in prison if convicted of the federal murder charge, Hochul said.
"In this case, what began as a local burglary case has, through the tireless efforts of local, county, state and federal officers, become a federal racketeering and murder case," Hochul said.
Authorities now allege that Marciniak died as a result of wounds suffered when he was beaten after a home-invasion robbery.
According to police, several bandits broke into Marciniak's home in the predawn hours after cutting his telephone lines. When the elderly man awoke and surprised them, one of the thieves allegedly punched him repeatedly and knocked him to the floor.
Police said Marciniak suffered bruises and cuts in the robbery. He was treated for those injuries in Medina Memorial Hospital and released.
Several hours after his release from the hospital, he experienced severe chest pains in his home and died of a heart attack.
"I spoke to Homer that morning, after the break-in, and he was very, very upset about losing the comic books. They were his pride and joy," Avila told The Buffalo News on Wednesday.
In addition to collecting comic books, Marciniak was known in the village for taking his old restored motorcycle to "cruise nights," friends said.
Prosecutor Anthony M. Bruce, who worked on the case with Orleans County District Attorney Joseph V. Cardone, said extensive medical evidence was examined by pathologists to determine whether Marciniak's death was linked to the beating.
In November, Hochul announced that Vendetti was accused of racketeering and interstate transportation of stolen property. It was alleged that Vendetti hired "professional boosters" to break into Marciniak's home and also to steal items from dozens of other locations in Western New York.
Over a period of several years, prosecutors allege, Vendetti sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen property over eBay after hiring thieves to steal particular items for him.
Authorities said Marciniak's comics collection had an estimated value of up to $40,000.
Also working on the investigation were the FBI, the State Police, Rochester police and the Sheriff's Offices in Orleans and Monroe counties.