KERHONKSON – More than fourteen years ago, on March 24, 1996, a 15-year-old youth, Joseph Martin, disappeared. He was last seen by his brother around 10:40 p.m., when he climbed out his bedroom window of his home in Samsonville, having told his brother he was going to meet some friends, drink some beer, smoke some pot and watch the great comet of that year, Comet Hyakutake, which was passing close to Earth.
What happened instead was that Joseph Martin was brutally murdered by his "friends" — 15-year-old Alexander Barsky and 17-year-old Daniel Malak — at a cabin on the Malak property. Martin, it would be found, many years later, was beaten to death with a metal pipe.
Now, at last, Daniel Malak has been convicted of Murder in the Second Degree for the killing of Joseph Martin. Alexander Barsky, after a plea-bargain for his testimony against Malak, was found guilty of Manslaughter in the First Degree, and received the maximum sentence of three-and-a-third to 10 years in prison. He is currently serving that sentence.
After Martin's disappearance in 1996, Barsky and Malak were interviewed by state police, and said that though there had been a prearranged meeting with Martin, he had never shown up. Malak stated that he and Barsky had gone to the "quarry," drunk some beer and watched the comet.
The reason that Malak and Barsky killed Joseph Martin was that Martin had supposedly "ripped off" Barsky. The meeting was a setup, and Barsky and Malak intended to punish Martin.
In 1996, however, no body was found, and the case grew cold.
John Tobin, Chief Assistant, Ulster County District Attorney's Office, said Wednesday, "The conclusion we draw from this case is that you can't give up. What turned this case around was that the State Police never gave up on it. It was a missing person case for 12 years, and during that time they received hundreds of leads, in which people claimed to have seen Joseph Martin or to know where he was. Dozens of troopers and investigators worked on the case."
Senior Investigator Stan O'Dell, at the Ellenville State Police Barracks, said, "A new investigator, Peter Cirigliano came into the unit. He was assigned the Joseph Martin Missing Persons case. He was brand new and he had fresh eyes. You know when you don't know there's a box, sometimes you see outside of it. Anyway, it took him a few months to get his feet under him, and he came up with some ideas. One of which was to go back and re-interview these two kids."
By that time, Daniel Malak was doing 20 to life for the murder of 62-year-old George Allison, from New York City, who was shot to death in his weekend home in Samsonville.
"We felt that Barsky would be the person to talk first," said O'Dell. "So we interviewed him, and that led to a polygraph test and we had some problems with his results. We continued to interview him and eventually he confessed to being there when Martin was murdered."
"Barsky's conscience was killing him," said John Tobin. "Eventually he led police to the crime scene and the burial site. That's where they found the bone fragments and the tooth."
"Barsky told us that Malak hit Martin with a steel pipe," said Stan O'Dell. "He took us to the location where the body had been hidden and our forensic people went in. They literally had to sift through the dirt."
The reason for that was that six years after the killing of Martin, Barsky dug up the skeletal remains, took them to New York City and disposed of them in a dumpster. They have never been found.
"Barsky didn't get everything," said Tobin. "Hidden in the dirt was the tooth and a fragment from the jawbone. Doctor Michael Warren of the University of Florida, a Forensic Anthropologist, determined that the fragments of bones were from a human aged between 14 and 16. The fragment of the jaw bone was fractured, and in his opinion it was caused by a lateral blow struck with great force. This was consistent with Barsky's testimony that Martin was hit on the head at least twice with a metal pipe."
During his trial, Daniel Malak expressed no remorse.
"His face was expressionless throughout the trial," said John Tobin, "even when the verdict was announced."
Malak is scheduled to be sentenced on October 22 at Ulster County Court in Kingston.
John Tobin said, "He's never getting out of prison again. We don't want him out, ever, he's clearly a sociopath."
Senior Investigator O'Dell said, "Pete Cirigliano was brand new, and I was very fortunate to be his supervisor. He did a wonderful job. But, it's never one person on these things, it's a team. Other investigators contributed to this as well as the polygraph operator. Fortunately it came together and justice has been served."