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POLICE & COURTS

Batavia merchants battling wave of shoplifting episodes

BATAVIA -- A pair of 'marts at the city's northwest border have been victimized by a wave of shopliftings.

The Genesee County Sheriff's Office points to rash of seven cases over the past few days at Walmart and Kmart. Shoplifters targeted mostly women's clothing and accessories.

Five women were arrested, and all were ticketed to appear in the Town of Batavia Court. A 25-year-old Batavia woman also was charged with harassment after struggling with security.

Similar incidents recently have targeted Target and Bed Bath and Beyond stores, as well as other outlets in the Batavia Towne Center on Veterans Memorial Drive.

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Helmetless motorcyclist accused of being drunk

STOCKTON -- A Pennsylvania motorcyclist was not wearing a helmet and was intoxicated when he wrecked his bike Sunday evening on Stockton-Cassadaga Road in Stockton, Chautauqua County sheriff's officials said.

John R. Luchs, 66, of North East, Pa., was operating a Harley-Davidson motorcycle westbound on Stockton-Cassadaga Road just before 8:30 p.m. when he went off the road, struck a guardrail and was ejected from the bike, police said.

Luchs was flown by helicopter to Hamot Medical Center, Erie, Pa. for treatment of undisclosed injuries.

Charges pending against Luchs included an unsafe lane change, not wearing a helmet and driving while intoxicated. The investigation is continuing.

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Felony DWI charge lodged against Ashford motorist

An Ashford woman charged with felony driving while intoxicated was driving under the influence of narcotics Tuesday afternoon, Erie County sheriff's officials said.

Heather J. Dryden, 33, was stopped on Route 39 in Concord.

Dryden, deputies said, was driving after she took a Lortab pill.

She had been convicted of DWI in 2008. Dryden was additionally charged with felony aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle for driving with a license revoked from the previous DWI, deputies said.

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Man burned badly in blast dies from his injuries

A Town of Tonawanda man burned in an explosion in his apartment last Wednesday morning died Monday in Erie County Medical Center, authorities said.

Jonathan Smith, 23, suffered serious burns over much of his body. Town of Tonawanda detectives have said they believe Smith intentionally opened a gas valve, sparking the explosion in his apartment at 9 Hale Court.

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Search for two swimmers continues on smaller scale

The search for two swimmers who reportedly disappeared in the Lower Niagara River on Sunday evening continued Tuesday and is expected to resume today -- though scaled back considerably.

State Parks Police Sgt. James Riddle said that although police agencies have been alerted to the possibility of drownings, there have been no reports returned of missing persons.

Riddle said a patrolman will be stationed in the gorge and continue the search on a day-to-day basis."

The search commenced just after 6 p.m. Sunday after a witness told police he had seen two men swimming in the Lower Niagara beneath the Whirlpool Bridge who appeared to be in distress, then saw them swept down the river.

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Sanborn woman pleads guilty in painkiller case

A former employee of a controversial Niagara Falls pain doctor took a guilty plea Tuesday, admitting she conspired to possess drugs with intent to distribute.

Theresa Gansworth, 25, of Sanborn, pleaded guilty to the felony before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. She admitted that she was a pain pill addict when she worked in the office of Dr. Pravin Mehta, whose Niagara Falls office was shut down after his drug arrest in January, Assistant U.S. Attorney John E. Rogowski said.

While working in the office in February 2010, Gansworth tricked Mehta into signing a blank prescription form. She then forged his signature on other prescription forms and used them to illegally obtain the painkiller Lortab at Niagara County pharmacies, Rogowski said.

After an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Niagara Falls police and other agencies, Mehta was arrested Jan. 27. Police said Mehta prescribed more narcotic painkillers during a 2 1/2 -year period than the other 157 doctors in Niagara Falls combined.

Mehta surrendered his medical license in February, and felony drug charges are still pending against him.

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Girl rescued from creek dies in the hospital

The 13-year-old girl pulled from Cazenovia Creek on Monday afternoon died Tuesday in Women & Children's Hospital, authorities said.

Police said the girl, whose identity has not been released, slipped into the water near the Cazenovia Street bridge at about 4:30 p.m. A man and others went into the water and pulled her out, authorities said.

Emergency responders rushed her to Mercy Hospital. She was later taken to Women & Children's.