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Attica farmer killed when ‘fight got out of hand’

ATTICA – Charlene M. Mess killed her husband when “a fight got out of hand,” a police source told The Buffalo News.

Two civilians in a large search party found Douglas W. Mess’s body in a manure and compost pile Monday evening, and troopers later charged his wife of 30 years with murder.

The 52-year-old Wyoming County farmer was reported missing shortly before noon Monday by his children, after he failed to show up for work at another farm, and authorities first believed that they were searching for someone with medical needs.

But after further investigation, State Police charged Charlene M. Mess, 48, with second-degree murder. She later was held without bail following her arraignment before Warsaw Village Justice William Blythe.

“I will not comment on any admissions or any motive,” State Police Capt. Steven A. Nigrelli said at a late-morning press conference Tuesday.

Douglas Mess was declared dead at the scene by the Wyoming County coroner. An autopsy was scheduled to be done Tuesday by the Monroe County medical examiner’s office.

Asked whether there were any visible signs of how Mess had been killed, Nigrelli said, “It was tough to do an initial on-scene examination.”

Troopers responded Monday to the Mess residence, at 1229 Exchange Street Road, following a report from the victim’s son, Douglas G. Mess, that his father was last seen at his home at 8 p.m. Sunday.

“We just started as a missing-person investigation, possibly medical-related,” Nigrelli said. “The father was last seen Sunday night. He has some medical ailments... He left the residence without his medicine.”

State Police at Warsaw set up a search of the roughly 350-to-500 acre farm. The search team included more than 20 troopers, the State Police K-9 and aviation units, as well as family, friends, other farmers and volunteer firefighters.

Shortly before 7 p.m. Monday, the two civilians found the concealed body in the manure and compost pile measuring roughly 14 by 12 feet and 4 foot deep. Investigators said they weren’t sure whether Charlene Mess participated in the search.

In response to a question of whether State Police had investigated previous trouble at the Mess family’s farmhouse, Nigrelli replied, “It’s a well-known family, for good reasons.”

Nigrelli also was asked how the family’s children, four adult sons, reacted to the loss of their father and the arrest of their mother.

“Traumatic,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy night for those kids.”

Attica Town records show that the Mess family’s home, barn and land were assessed at $220,000 last year. The property is classified as a dairy farm, and other records show that Charlene Mess has received wool subsidies from the government.

Following a State Police press release about the killing, troopers closed Exchange Street Road with 5-foot-high signs and barricades. The home and farm are on the east side of Exchange Street Road, south of Lindsey Road.

Police tape surrounded the west side of the home and parts of the back of the property Tuesday morning. Close to 10 vehicles, including five marked police vehicles, were at the scene, including one State Police SUV behind the home.

While the manure mound was not visible from areas where reporters were allowed, cows could be seen drinking out of what appeared to be a creek bed in the rear of the property.

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com

and lmichel@buffnews.com