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Retirement Party Scheduled For Oswego County Undersheriff

OSWEGO, NY – Robert J. Lighthall recently announced his intent to retire from his position as Undersheriff with the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office effective March 31.

Undersheriff Lighthall’s career in law enforcement began nearly 34 years ago on May 24, 1977 when he was hired as a Correction Officer with Oswego County.

He was promoted to the rank of CO II – Corporal in June of 1979.

His career continued with an appointment to the position of Deputy Sheriff on January 11, 1981.

He had the pleasure of continuing through the ranks of Sergeant and Lieutenant and was appointed to the position of Undersheriff on January 1, 1999.

In his honor, a retirement party will be held at the Castaways Riverside Restaurant located at 916 County Route 37, Brewerton, on April 2.

Cocktails will begin at 6 p.m. with dinner to follow at 7 p.m.

Attendance is by reservation only ($20 per person) and will be paid at the door.

For reservations, please contact Linda Baker at 349-3307 or by e-mail at lbaker@oswegocounty.com

Undersheriff Lighthall Recalls His First Job

The following is is an excerpt from an August 2000 article about several people recalling their very first jobs.
OSWEGO, NY – Oswego County Undersheriff Robert Lighthall has stuck with his employer ever since he joined the workforce.

“I started as a corrections officer at Oswego County Jail; that was my first job. I’ve only had one employer,” he said. “I started in 1977, right out of college. The only W-2 form I’ve ever had was from the Oswego County Sheriff’s Department.”

Lighthall says he did some dairy farming when he was growing up, “but this has been it as far as work in the ‘real world.’”

He actually started with the Oswego County Sheriff’s Department while still in college.

“I finished my last exam, and went to work the next day,” he said. “I had to beg my supervisor to change my work schedule so I could have time off for graduation.”

The change in lifestyle took a little getting used to, he admits.

“All of a sudden, I was working midnight to 8 a.m. for 13 weeks with no time off (being trained),” he remembers. “It made a lasting impression on me that’s for sure. I’m still here.”

Lighthall has held every rank in the department up to his current position as undersheriff.

He admits he was never really concerned about moving up within the department.

“I would concentrate on learning the job I was in and doing the best I could in that position,” he said.

He added that he would also study the next step up.

“I just wanted to do the best job in the position I was in. If I felt ready to move up, then I would consider seeking a promotion,” he said.

He isn’t in any rush to move up right now, either.

“I’m still learning,” he said.

He said he’d support Reuel Todd if the sheriff decides to seek reelection.

But, who knows what the future will bring after that?

Oswego County Mourns the Loss of Former Sheriff

OSWEGO COUNTY, NY – Former Oswego County Sheriff Charles F. Nellis died Saturday morning at this home in Parish.

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Former Oswego County Sheriff Charles F. Nellis

Nellis joined the New York State Police in 1956, retiring in 1977 as a Senior Investigator to become Oswego County Undersheriff. Nellis served as Oswego County Sheriff from 1984 through 1998, retiring after four terms in office.

“His first term was a three-year term,” Undersheriff Robert Lighthall explained. “The term length changed and he served four years for each of his last three terms.”

Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd served as Nellis’ Undersheriff for the entire 15 years.

“Chuck was a great guy,” Todd said. “He was a Marine, he was a cop and he was very much a family man. … He was a cop even after he left this office. He just loved to serve his country, the state and the county.”

Summing up his demeanor, Todd regarded Nellis as “honest and fair.”

“When it was time for business, he was all business,” Todd said. “When it wasn’t, he was such a fun guy to be around. … He was tough, too, and made it clear that if someone did something wrong, all they had to do was be honest about it. He didn‘t accept a lie.”

Todd said that Nellis had a great sense of humor.

“We would get laughing all the time,” he said.

Todd recalled one instance when the department was cited for problems at the former jail. Standing in front of a somber commission, Todd was told that he couldn’t speak about the county’s case because he didn’t speak at the right time.

“I looked at Chuck and he looked at me and we just started laughing,” Todd said. He said the laughter spread throughout the room, to the dismay of the commission.

“They were furious,” Todd said. “The whole room was just laughing. … They actually had to adjourn.”

Todd said Nellis also had a soft heart for children and people who were in need.

“He had a very compassionate side, especially for kids,” he said.

Todd noted that Nellis’ “baby” during his county service was the new public safety center.

“It was very instrumental in getting the new public safety center,” Todd said. “It was his baby. He worked very hard for it, he fought for it and he got it.”

Lighthall said he worked with Nellis, both as a union leader and an officer.

“I had the opportunity to work with him, both as an Undersheriff and as Sheriff,” Lighthall said. “He promoted me twice, first to sergeant and then to lieutenant. … He was an upstanding guy and very professional.”

Oswego County Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann said while he never had the opportunity to work with Nellis while he served as Sheriff, he knew him well as a constituent and fellow Republican.

“He lived in Parish,” Leemann said. “I knew him, I liked him, I honored him and I respected him. … He was a former Marine. We are like a band of brothers.”

Leemann said Nellis was active in the Republican party when he decided to run for his Legislature seat.

“He supported me when I decided to run,” Leemann said. “He carried my petitions and worked really hard. He said, ‘If you are a Marine, you are alright with me.’”

Leemann noted that Nellis was in relatively good health until his wife, Virginia, was diagnosed with cancer.

“His health went downhill after that,” Leemann said.

“He wasn’t worried about taking care of himself,” Lighthall said. “He spent every minute with his wife.”

Nellis’ wife died Sept. 15. He is survived by his two sons, John and Peter. Peter Nellis retired from the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office this past September.

Father Fuming Over Lack of Notice

OSWEGO COUNTY, NY – The father of a Hannibal boy who is believed to have sustained severe brain damage at the hands of his former daycare provider says it is outrageous that his family did not receive notification of her early release from jail.

Elroy Edwards said as the victim, his son should have been informed that Audrey Arnold was granted a conditional release earlier this month.

“They let her out and did not contact or notify my son,” Edwards said. “This is outrageous. We had a right to know that the woman who hurt our child was being released.”

Arnold, who was found guilty of endangering the welfare of a child March 31, was sentenced to serve one year in jail June 3; convicted of causing injuries to Fajo Edward while he was in her care May 31, 2006. Fajo was three-months old at the time.

Monday, Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd said that Arnold was granted “local conditional release” by the state parole board. Arnold will serve a one-year parole sentence from the day of her release, which was Sept. 12.

Edwards said he believes the system is flawed.

“The process should be in favor of the victim, not the criminal,” Edwards said. “They should have notified us. It seems that the criminal gets more support than the victim. This is unacceptable.”

Notified by Fulton Daily News Tuesday that Arnold had been released from the Oswego County jail, Edwards was in disbelief. He spent the day Wednesday confirming her release and asking to state and local officials why his family was not notified.

Edwards spoke with Oswego County District Attorney Donald Dodd, Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann and Assemblyman Will Barclay. He is meeting today with Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd and has made contact with Senator Darrel Aubertine.

Edwards pointed out that Arnold resides two doors down the street from his home.

“Thank God I didn’t just run into her,” he said. “I don’t understand the whole procedure or process. I am still trying to flesh that out. But I am not going to rest until I get to the bottom of this.

“It seems to me that in Oswego County, criminals are allowed to remain free,” he added. “Audrey wasn’t arrested for two years and didn’t go to jail until after the trial.”

Referencing the Erin Maxwell homicide investigation, Edwards said, “God rest her soul. She was killed and nobody has been arrested. … The response here is just not adequate.”

“I am at a loss,” Edwards added. “Just when you think you are turning a corner, something happens. … For now, I am trying to stay strong and get through today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.”

Oswego County Undersheriff Robert Lighthall explained that victim notification is not part of the inmate release process at the jail.

“We release people every day,” he said. “We couldn’t make notifications for every release we have.”

For that reason, Lighthall said that Oswego County joined the fight years in the late 90s to implement the VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) system.

Lighthall explained that anyone can register for notification of a prisoner’s release from any facility through the national victim notification network.

The service allows crime victims and other citizens to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders 24 hours a day. The public can register to be notified by phone, e-mail or text telephone when an offender’s custody status changes by registering online or through the participating state or county toll-free number.

“When you register, you are notified within 15 minutes of an inmate’s release from any facility,” Lighthall said.

While victims are notified of parole hearings at the state level, Lighthall noted that victim notification is not required in the rules for local conditional release.

“I feel bad for the Edwards family that the state did not notify them,” Sheriff Todd said. “But we don’t have any control over that. They made their decision before we were even notified that they were contemplating it.”

Lighthall pointed out that while Oswego County used to have a Local Conditional Release Board, it has since been eliminated.

“The state parole board took over the program in September 2005,” he said. “The state has jurisdiction over any inmate getting local conditional release from our facility.”

Inmates apply to the state parole board for a conditional release review. The sheriff’s department maintains application packets that are provided at an inmate’s request.

Lighthall noted, however, that local conditional releases are rare in Oswego County.

“We have had 15 applications since the state took over the program,” Lighthall said. Of those, he said Arnold represented the third inmate whose release was granted.

The first, Francis Smith, was granted local conditional release in January 2007. The second, Donna Towne, was released in June 2007. Lighthall noted that Towne had served 141 days of her sentence on a drunk driving conviction. She violated her parole and returned to the county jail in June 2008 to serve the remaining time she owed on the original sentence. She was released Aug. 22.

“Even if you screw up on the last day of your parole, you do the rest of the time you owed,” he said.

Within the application terms, Lighthall said the sentence has to be a determinate sentence in excess of 90 days. Inmates have to serve at least 30 days to apply and have to have served at least 60 days to be released.

Inmates who receive an intermittent sentence, a split sentences or a family court sentence are not eligible for the program. Those sentenced to serve probation after incarceration are also ineligible.

“You can’t do parole and probation at the same time,” Lighthall explained.

When local conditional release is granted, a one-year parole sentence begins that requires regular visits with a parole officer including weekly scheduled office visits and unannounced visits at home or work at any time. Parolees are also required to pay $30 per week while they are under supervision.

Parolees are not allowed to leave the boundaries of their county without permission.

Lighthall noted that if Arnold had served her full sentence, she would have been released June 2, 2009. If released early for “good time” (which gives inmates one day off of their sentence for every two days served with good behavior), she would have been slated for release Feb. 1, 2009.

Because Feb. 1 is a Sunday, Lighthall said she would have been released Jan. 30, 2009 because weekend releases are prohibited but the jail could not have held her beyond the time she owed.

In all, Arnold served 101 days of her one-year jail sentence. She declined comment Wednesday morning.

Bridgeport Man Critically Injured, Arrested After Crash In Mexico

MEXICO, NY – A Bridgeport man sustained serious injuries Tuesday evening in a crash in the village of Mexico.Still hospitalized, Randy J. Wright, 24, of 9431 Lakeshore View Drive, Bridgeport, is facing charges from the accident, according to police.

Oswego County Undersheriff Robert Lighthall explained that Wright was traveling westbound on Main Street in the village at approximately 10:34 p.m., when his 1993 Ford pickup truck struck the north guardrail on the bridge over the Little Salmon River.

“His vehicle spun across the road and struck a house at 3243 Main Street, severing the gas meter,” Lighthall said.

Wright was subsequently airlifted to University Hospital in Syracuse. He is listed in critical condition this morning, according to a hospital spokesperson.

No other injuries were reported.

Lighthall noted that fire and EMS personnel evacuated the area around the house after the gas meter was severed.

“National Grid was on the scene,” he said. “They had it capped before midnight.”

Lighthall said Wright was arrested and has been charged with driving while intoxicated and speed not reasonable or prudent.

The investigation continues.

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