Fulton and Montgomery counties' three cities have had several high-profile police cases in recent years, at least two of which involve murder. They remain unresolved and continue to baffle, to some degree, both the police and the public.
While the public perceives resolution of these cases as moving along at a snail's pace, authorities in the counties say they don't necessarily disagree. Still, they say they are actively trying to solve the cases, although the lack of witnesses and hard evidence continue to hamper investigations.
"There is nothing new at this time," Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira said recently, regarding the July 2010 Gloversville stabbing death of Johnstown resident Brian Morrison on Bleecker Street. He was found dead after someone had cut him in the neck, authorities say.
Kellisue Ackernecht of Johnstown has been considered a missing person since she disappeared in 2008.
Other unsolved city cases in the area include the March 2 double homicide of William McDermott and Cheryl Goss, who were found stabbed to death in McDermott's Amsterdam apartment.
Johnstown police have their own ongoing investigation. They still are seeking clues in the Sept. 30, 2008, disappearance of Kellisue Ackernecht, whose burning car was found early the next morning on West Montgomery Street. Police consider her a missing person and maintain there is still no evidence any crime was committed against her.
In the Gloversville and Amsterdam cases, the perpetrators appear to have gotten away with murder.
Gloversville Police Chief Donald VanDeusen says the death of Brian Morrison continues to be thoroughly investigated from all angles.
"We continue to follow up on any and all leads that come to us," VanDeusen said.
But he said this murder investigation is "like any other case" in which leads were more plentiful in the beginning, but have slowed down and are "sporadic" with time.
Morrison's body was found July 6, 2010, near the sidewalk at 147 Bleecker St. in Gloversville. He was a buildings and grounds employee with the Gloversville Enlarged School District.
Derek A. "Deke" Kenney, 42, of 157 Handy Road, Mayfield, was charged with second-degree murder by Gloversville police on July 9, 2010, after police said he fatally stabbed Morrison on Bleecker Street. Charges were dismissed Oct. 26 of that year after Kenney's attorneys argued grand-jury proceedings against Kenney were tainted because witnesses lied.
Those witnesses have since been convicted.
There have been no other arrests in Morrison's death.
Kayla Bowman, 23, of 81 E. Main St., was sentenced in March by Fulton County Court Judge Polly A. Hoye to 20 days in the county jail as part of a plea agreement. She also received three years of probation. Sentencing was based on her Jan. 6 guilty plea to one count of third-degree hindering prosecution.
An indictment from a county grand jury in July 2011 charged Bowman and Rebecca Abraham, 37, of Warren Road, Mayfield, and Stephanie Moore, 20, of 162 Bleecker St., Gloversville. The indictment accused the women of lying about and concealing facts related to the Morrison case.
Bowman had faced charges of punishable false written statement and two counts of third-degree hindering prosecution.
Abraham was sentenced by Hoye in September 2011 to 30 days in the county jail, three years of probation and a $200 surcharge. Sentencing was based on her July 29, 2011, guilty plea to one count of third-degree hindering prosecution.
Moore also previously pleaded guilty to one count of felony first-degree perjury, and in October 2011 received 90 days in the county jail and five years of probation.
In an interview with The Leader-Herald the day after Morrison's death, Moore said she was walking along Bleecker Street when she found Morrison.
Kenney has been charged with several unrelated misdemeanors and violations in the months since his murder charge was dropped, including disorderly conduct and trespassing. He filed a federal lawsuit against the city in July, saying his rights were violated when he was charged with murder.
Sira has said the three women lied to police and omitted facts, related to the events that led to Morrison's death, specifically involving 27-year-old Derrick Paul of Gloversville.
Authorities said in October 2010 that multiple witnesses reported seeing Paul punch Morrison to the ground that night. Paul has not been arrested in the case, but police labeled him a "person of interest" in fall 2010.
Sira has said the women were friends with Paul and withheld information to protect him.
VanDeusen said Paul today remains a "person of interest" in the case.
"We're looking at various aspects of Paul's activity that evening," the Gloversville police chief said.
He declined to answer questions about Kenney for legal reasons and declined to say if anyone else besides Paul is a person of interest.
"I don't want to say at this time," VanDeusen said.
He said a knife was in police possession in the case, but not the "main stabbing" knife that may have killed Morrison. He said to his knowledge all the people associated with this case are still in the immediate area and "still available" for questioning.
VanDeusen said the state police's Major Crimes Unit assisted the morning of the discovery of the body, which was removed by ambulance after authorities arrived. Police and emergency personnel responded to the scene, and the unresponsive Morrison was taken after midnight to Nathan Littauer Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
In a "perfect world," VanDeusen said, Gloversville police would have preferred the body not be moved before police arrived. He said EMS personnel had to "follow protocol."
The chief said area police agencies all have assisted in the case, and he defended Gloversville police efforts to solve Morrison's murder.
"I don't feel we're overwhelmed," VanDeusen said. "But we're not ego-driven here. If somebody has the ability to assist us in any way, shape or form, we're welcome to all those suggestions.
With the now 3 1/2-year disappearance of Kellisue Ackernecht, Johnstown police have something even more baffling to deal with - no evidence of a crime. But many in the area continue to speculate, wondering whether she might have been a victim of foul play.
Ackernecht was last seen leaving her job as a night-shift manager at the Rite Aid pharmacy on Route 30 in Amsterdam about 9:40 p.m. on Sept. 30, 2008. The 1998 Saturn sedan she was driving home was found on fire after 1:45 a.m. Oct. 1 in Frog Hollow, a wooded neighborhood at the bottom of the Montgomery Street hill on the west side of the city.
Jayson Ackernecht reported his wife missing to authorities around 2 a.m. The Ackernechts lived together, with their young daughter, a few blocks from the fire scene, at 330 W. Main St.
Johnstown police officers have gone to Syracuse and other areas following tips, and the department used a psychic early in the case, but nothing was found. City police have conducted many searches, including one with the assistance of a state police helicopter over the wooded area near the Ackernecht home. Officers have searched homes, they say. Police and forest rangers did several foot searches with cadaver dogs. Police and the St. Johnsville Dive Team also have combed the banks of the Cayadutta Creek, following it downstream toward Sammonsville.
Johnstown police Lt. David Gilbo, lead detective on the case, said recently a little pond uphill from the Cayadutta between the creek and the burned car was dredged, but nothing was found.
The missing woman's family has conducted its own searches in both Fulton and Montgomery counties and has tried to publicize the case through national media outlets.
Gilbo said his department has received between 300 and 350 leads in the Ackernecht case. Now, they have slowed down to a trickle.
"Actually, we get two or three different leads or questions on a monthly basis," he said. "I'm not going to discuss our theories on the case because it's still an active case."
Just like in the Morrison case, Gilbo said the JPD has relied on many area police agencies for expertise in the case. But he said the Federal Bureau Investigation can't be called in because there is still no evidence a crime was committed. He said Kellisue Ackernecht is still considered a "missing person" at this time.
Gilbo says he continues to keep in touch with family and those who operate the website findkellisue.wordpress.com.
He called the case one of the most "frustrating" cases he's had in many years of law enforcement.
"We have no eye-witness accounts from when she left the [Rite Aid] parking lot to the city of Johnstown," Gilbo said.
People with information about the Ackernecht case may call city police at 736-4021. People with information on any Fulton County case also can call the Fulton County Crime Tips Hotline at 736-5561.
In the city of Amsterdam, police continue to probe the double homicide of McDermott and Goss.
Amsterdam police Lt. Det. Kurt Conroy said this past week that leads still come in.
"We're continuing to follow them up," he said. "They've slowed down."
Conroy said the main part of the investigation still hinges on several pieces of possible DNA evidence being analyzed by the state police lab, which he said could still take awhile.
"That's the reality," Conroy said. "It's not like the TV shows where you've solved the case right away."
In March, Conroy said both victims had a history of involvement with drugs, but he stopped short of saying the murder was directly drug-related.
"We don't know if the motive was drugs or money," he said.
Amsterdam Police Chief Gregory Culick said police believe the suspects and the victims knew each other. No weapon was found at the scene, but there were signs of a struggle.
Within days of the double homicide, Culick said he was confident the killer or killers would be found.
"We've never had an unsolved homicide in Amsterdam," he stated. "DNA and forensic examination being what [they are, the crime] will be solved."
People with confidential information on the Amsterdam murders can call 842-1100.