Suspect is arrested but not charged in death of Lois Decker, 73
HILLSDALE–The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the murder of lifelong Hillsdale resident Lois Decker, 73, who was killed at her Cold Water Street home, Sunday, November 20.
Authorities became aware that Mrs. Decker was murdered when they tried to contact her because her car was involved in an accident.
According to a press release from Columbia County Sheriff David W. Harrison, Jr., the case began to unfold when deputies were called to the scene of a one-car rollover accident on State Route 23 in Martindale, Sunday, November 20 at 6:42 p.m.
Two local people came upon the accident in separate vehicles and stopped to assist the young man involved in the crash.
While the Good Samaritans tried to help the driver of the 2006 Hyundai Accent, he allegedly attempted drive off with a vehicle belonging to one of the Samaritans. He was prevented from stealing the car by both people who had stopped to help. The young man then fled the scene on foot, went to a nearby house and within a few minutes allegedly stole a 2011 Ford F-150 pickup truck from an attached garage.
As part of their investigation into the car accident, deputies attempted to telephone Mrs. Decker, owner of the crashed Hyundai. Unable to reach her, Sergeant John DeRocha then went to Mrs. Decker’s home and found that she had been murdered.
Deputies issued a teletype and radio Be-on-the-Lookout-for (BOLO) bulletin to all law enforcement agencies for the stolen Ford pickup truck and included in the message that the person operating the stolen pickup truck was possibly involved in the Hillsdale homicide.
State Police Sergeant Fred Mueller spotted the stolen truck at the intersection of Warren and Sixth streets in Hudson at 9:56 p.m.
Shafiqul Islam, 21, who was alone and driving the truck, was taken into custody by Sergeant Mueller and turned over to Sheriff’s Office investigators.
Mr. Islam is charged with third degree criminal possession of stolen property, a class D felony, for being in and possessing the stolen pickup truck. The release from the Sheriff’s Office says Mr. Islam is a suspect in the death of Mrs. Decker but has not been charged for either stealing her car or her murder.
He was initially arraigned before Columbia County Judge Jonathan Nichols and sent to the Columbia County Jail without bail. Tuesday morning, Mr. Islam, represented by Public Defender Mike Howard, appeared in Hudson City Court and was sent back to jail without bail to await a preliminary hearing on the stolen property charge, November 25.
Mr. Islam, previously of Hudson, was staying at the Mount Washington House in Hillsdale. He is a Level 2 sex offender and is currently on parole for a 2008 conviction and three-year prison sentence on a class D felony — promoting a sexual performance by a child less than 17 in Hudson.
Mrs. Decker’s body was taken to St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, where an autopsy was performed by Pathologist Dr. Geoffrey Hubbard. Though the Sheriff’s Office release said that exact cause of death should be determined by the procedure, no information about how she died had been released by press deadline Tuesday. Both County Coroner Angelo Nero and Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant James Andrews told The Columbia Paper that officials are awaiting the results of lab tests.
According to Hillsdale Supervisor Art Baer, Mrs. Decker’s Cold Water Street property abuts the town park in the hamlet, which is behind the former town hall, now the Sheriff’s Office substation.
“The community is shocked,” said Supervisor Baer, who recalled another Hillsdale murder five years ago.
On February 6, 2006, retired school teacher George Mancini, who lived on Breezy Hill Road, was stabbed and bludgeoned to death in his home by William Demagall.
Mrs. Decker, who was a familiar face in the Roe Jan School cafeteria where she was head cook for more than 20 years, had only been at her Cold Water Street address for about a year, according to Hillsdale Councilman Augie Sena, who said her daughter bought her mother the house so she could be closer to the hamlet.
Bette Gallup, also a Hillsdale resident, who lives across the way from Mrs. Decker said, “She sure did not deserve it.”
Mrs. Gallup said she saw Mrs. Decker the morning of the murder at Sunday services at the Hillsdale United Methodist Church. “She sits right behind me,” said Mrs. Gallup, who said joked with Mrs. Decker that they could wave to each other across the park now that the leaves are off the trees.
Mrs. Gallup described Mrs. Decker as “very active in the church” and “a wonderful woman,” who babysat for young boy until he recently started school. She also helped out at a local nursery school.
The Sheriff’s Office called the State Police Forensic Investigation Unit from Poughkeepsie to assist with processing the Hillsdale crime scene.
Coroner Nero, Columbia County Assistant District Attorneys David Costanzo and Jay Radez are also assisting in the investigation.
The Sheriff’s Office asks anyone with information concerning any of the incidents to call 518 828-3344. More information regarding the investigation will be released as it becomes available.