PERRY – Friends and neighbors of retired Wyoming County Sheriff's Deputy Joseph Mlyniec who heard on Thursday that he was being charged with murder were trying to rectify that with the person they know.
And they were failing.
A friend of more than 40 years called the situation "mind-boggling."
"It's way, way out of character for Joe," said Perry Town Supervisor James Brick. "It's just a shock to most everybody in town here. He was well-respected in town."
Mlyniec was arrested Wednesday afternoon at his home on Route 246 and charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Robert Irvine III, 32, also of Perry. Mlyniec, 60, who serves on the Perry Town Board, is accused of intentionally shooting Irvine in the head, according to court documents.
Authorities did not discuss possible motives for the shooting or disclose any further details about the circumstances.
Mlyniec called 911 at about 5:42 p.m. and two sheriff's deputies arrived at his home about six minutes later, according to law enforcement officials. After "a very brief conversation" with deputies, he was taken into custody.
Authorities said they don't believe anyone was in the residence at the time of the shooting.
Jim Dacey, who said he has known Mlyniec for more than four decades, said he doesn't know anything about what may have happened, but said Mlyniec has battled cancer and recently had hip surgery.
"It's a sad situation," he said.
Irvine had done some work for Mlyniec on his farm last summer, according to a neighbor.
Mlyniec "is being cooperative" and has sought legal counsel, Sheriff Gregory J. Rudolph said. The weapon used in the shooting was a handgun believed to be owned by Mlyniec, who holds a pistol permit, Rudolph said. Authorities said they have yet to determine how many shots were fired.
Investigators continued their work at the home Thursday morning. A State Park Police officer was seen leaving the home carrying a drone, which may have been used to take aerial photographs of the scene.
Authorities declined to comment on any statements Mlyniec may have made.
Dinah Taylor, one of Mlyniec's neighbors, said she was home at the time of the shooting but didn't see or hear anything.
Taylor, who has lived about a quarter mile away from Mlyniec for about 14 years, called him "a great guy." She said she takes care of his animals – five cows, two chickens, three cats and a dog named Maybe – when he's out of town.
Taylor also knew the victim.
During two winters about 12 years ago, Taylor said she had Irvine help her out while she was out of town by checking in at her home and doing things such as watering her plants. She said when she saw him last summer for the first time since a dozen years ago, she recognized him physically but noticed a personality change.
Irvine had "changed dramatically" and was "not the kind of outgoing kid that I remembered," Taylor said, though she emphasized that she was not trying to cast him in a negative light.
Brick said he learned of the incident Wednesday evening when he was attending a meeting. He said he had a call from Town Justice Terry Bogert, which he did not take, and then a call from his wife, who told him the sheriff had been to their home.
Mlyniec's farm bordered his farm, Brick said, adding that Mlyniec's father had operated the farm before his son. Much of the property was rented to large dairy farms, but Mlyniec had some goats, Brick said.
Brick said he last saw Mlyniec Tuesday evening at a fire department meeting, and he briefly discussed town business with him. Mlyniec had just started his second four-year term on the Town Board Jan. 1. Brick said he does not know what might happen with the seat.
"Right now, he's just been accused of something, and until I hear differently, or he resigns, we'll kind of tread water for now," Brick said.
Mlyniec retired as a patrol sergeant in 2008 after a more than 20-year career, according to the Sheriff's Office. He came back as a part-time deputy in 2009 and resigned in 2013 in order to go into full retirement, Rudolph said.
He was arraigned Wednesday night by Wyoming County Judge Michael Mohun, who as acting as a town justice after Bogert recused himself, Wyoming County District Attorney Donald G. O'Geen said.
Mlyniec was held without bail in the Wyoming County Jail. He's due in Warsaw Town Court at 5 p.m. Monday. The proceedings will happen in Warsaw going forward. Felonies can be filed in any justice court within the county where the alleged crime occurred, O'Geen said.
O'Geen and Rudolph said authorities discussed the potential conflict of interest in the case, but they said they felt comfortable handling case because of how long it has been since Mlyniec has been employed by the county.
"We feel very comfortable in the fact that he's been now not working for the sheriff for at least five years and the nature of the circumstances of the case," O'Geen said.
News staff reporter Barbara O'Brien contributed to this story.