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Person reportedly jumps from Grand Island Bridge

A person reportedly jumped off the North Grand Island Bridge on Thursday, prompting a multi-agency search of the Niagara River.

Around 5:40 p.m., a motorist reported seeing someone jump into the river from the bridge. The Border Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard, state police and the Grand Island Fire Company all took part in an extensive search of the river between the bridge and the "point of no return" marker not far from Niagara Falls.

The victim was not located as of 9 p.m., and search efforts were suspended for the night. State police and the Border Patrol are investigating.


Attorney seeks suppression of suspect's statements

LOCKPORT -- The defense attorney for Kim I. Tipton, a Lewiston man accused of cutting a 10-year-old girl's throat after he sexually assaulted her, will try Sept. 7 to suppress Tipton's statements to police.

The Niagara County Court hearing was scheduled after a pretrial conference Thursday between Assistant Public Defender Robert Viola and prosecutors Holly E. Sloma and Elizabeth R. Donatello.

Tipton, 32, of Jarrett Drive, allegedly entered the girl's Niagara Falls home about 5 a.m. May 21.

Tipton has pleaded not guilty to a 16-count indictment accusing him of attempted murder and a long list of sex offenses, including predatory sexual assault against a child, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.


Fire heavily damages home being built on Grand Island

Fire caused an estimated $325,000 damage to a Grand Island home under construction -- for a firefighter, town fire officials reported Thursday.

Following a neighbor's report of heavy smoke coming from the eaves, firefighters responded to 303 Park Place shortly after 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. They found the two-story dwelling fully involved in flames, according to Kevin Koch, chief of the Grand Island Fire Company.

Firefighters had to evacuate the interior when it was discovered the floor joists on the first floor were weakened by the fire.

A ladder truck from the Brighton Volunteer Fire Company in the Town of Tonawanda played a critical role in fighting the fire on the second floor, officials said.

The fire was declared out at 9:44 p.m. Fire Investigator Chuck Berlinger reported that it started in the basement and quickly spread upward.

The cause remains under investigation by Berlinger and his counterparts from the Erie County Sheriff's Office, Steve Merboth and Shawn Hediger.

Authorities said the house is owned by Joel Kruppa, a Niagara Falls firefighter, who wasn't home when flames broke out.


Lockport man gets 2 years for cocaine conviction

LOCKPORT -- A Michigan Street man was sentenced to two years in prison for drug possession Thursday by Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III.

Martin R. Stephen, 42, had pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Lockport police found five small bags of cocaine under Stephen after they wrestled him to the ground Aug. 7, 2010, outside the Casa Montego nightclub on Heath Street. Police were there investigating a reported shooting.

Stephen, who was not a suspect in the gunfire, was accused of interfering in the investigation by allegedly telling a witness he didn't have to answer questions.


Eucharistic minister accused of fleecing woman

A South Buffalo man who befriended an ailing 86-year-old woman by bringing her Holy Communion while she was hospitalized has been charged with stealing from her bank account, police said.

Robert J. Hooper, a eucharistic minister, met the woman at a local hospital last spring and struck up a friendship that continued after she was released, police said.

Hooper, 57, of South Park Avenue, managed to obtain the woman's bank card and made two withdrawals totaling $2,500 from an ATM machine at Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, according to authorities.

South District Officer James Reese, assisted by district Detective Thomas McCarthy, charged Hooper with two counts of grand larceny and two counts of criminal possession of stolen property.


Man with long rap sheet admits guilt in drug case

LOCKPORT -- A North Tonawanda man pleaded not guilty to a seven-count drug indictment Wednesday in Niagara County Court.

Bail was set at $40,000 for Paul N. Sciandra, 47, of Vandervoort Street, who is charged with two counts each of third-degree sale and third- and fifth-degree possession of controlled substances, along with one count of fourth-degree sale.

Sciandra allegedly sold oxymorphone March 9, hydrocodone March 16 and cocaine March 21 to a police informant in North Tonawanda who was wearing a recording device. Assistant District Attorney Peter M. Wydysh said Sciandra's 51-page rap sheet includes a wide range of crimes in several states.