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Amsterdam police chief defends actions in boys’ deaths

Sunday, July 14, 2013
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— Amsterdam Police Chief Gregory Culick said his department acted immediately and followed every possible lead in the missing persons case last year that resulted in the discovery of two murdered teens in a soybean field.

He wants to set the record straight now, he said in an email issued to reporters late Friday night, because the suspects in the case have been sentenced and because of remarks said by the dead boys’ families to media.

The Daily Gazette covered the sentencing Thursday afternoon in Montgomery County Court, where two Amsterdam boys, Matt Phelps and Anthony Brasmeister, were sentenced to two concurrent terms of 15 years to life and two concurrent terms of 25 years to life, respectively.

Phelps is believed to have shot dead 13-year-old Jonathan DeJesus and 16-year-old Paul Damphier in a field behind his home last July. Brasmeister was there as well. The aunt of DeJesus told The Gazette that her nephew’s hands were found cut off and stored in a plastic bag.

The victims’ mothers also told The Gazette that Amsterdam police weren’t initially interested in investigating their sons’ disappearance as a missing persons case. They said that days after the boys had gone missing, the family was left to put up fliers by themselves.

“[Officers] said my son was a runaway and didn’t want to be found,” Damphier told the newspaper, adding that she believed her son’s dark skin might have been one of the reasons for police disinterest.

But Culick said any assertion that Amsterdam police failed to properly investigate the case is absolutely not true.

“This murder of children committed by children was an unprecedented act of evil, never before witnessed in this community,” he wrote. “I grieve for the extreme loss suffered by the families, but I will not have my officers maligned for having done everything within their power to bring this case to its conclusion, nor will I allow misinformation to take root as fact. The blame for this horrific act rests solely on the guilty.”

Culick said that from the very moment police received the missing persons reports on July 10, 2012, his department conducted numerous interviews, searched locations and investigated leads. Missing persons reports were sent out statewide through the state’s eJusticeNY computer portal within hours of the initial report.

Several people criticized the department for not sending out an Amber Alert, added Culick, but that was never an option because his department never received any of the information required by New York state law to issue one.

And despite Facebook posts from people who knew the missing children suggesting that they had run away and didn’t want to be found, Amsterdam detectives “were not led into complacency” and followed every lead with “extreme professionalism and tenacity,” wrote Culick.

They checked various locations and conducted interviews in Amsterdam, Gloversville and Schenectady. They even investigated a lead all the way out in Ray Brook, a hamlet near Lake Placid in Essex County.

In sum, more than 50 leads were investigated in the case before police located the boys, he said. They had been shot dead one day before the missing persons reports had been filed.

 
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