Missing Chatham man found dead in pond

CHATHAM—State Police and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office closed a nearly three-week-long investigation into the disappearance of Benjamin Kaufmann, 33, of Chatham, who apparently shot himself to death.

On August 6, family members reported that Mr. Kaufmann was late returning home from a hike, which sparked a search for the missing man. Shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, August 25, Sheriff’s Office personnel and State Police were called to investigate a report of a body found in a remote pond on private property in the Town of Chatham.

Recovery of the body led to its identification as Mr. Kaufmann. Preliminary investigation revealed that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Several organized searches involving multiple agencies, aviation and canine assets initially failed to find Mr. Kaufmann.

According to an August 26 State Police press release, the extensive investigation not only involved local searches, but the follow-up of numerous leads outside Columbia County. “Although Mr. Kaufmann may have been depressed, there was credible evidence that he was seeking assistance outside of Columbia County. It was not readily apparent whether he had left the area,” State Police Captain Michael A. Jankowiak, Zone One Commander, said in the release.

“So many people, from so many agencies dedicated themselves to searching for Mr. Kaufmann over the past three weeks. Our thoughts are with the Kaufmann family during this difficult time,” Capt. Jankowiak said.


A Columbia County Grand Jury indicted two Kinderhook brothers for first degree attempted robbery, August 18.

The sealed indictment was opened in Columbia County Court August 19 after the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation at Livingston took Michael W. Johnson, 33, of Kinderhook, a former Troy police officer, into custody on an arrest warrant issued by Columbia County Court Judge Richard Koweek.

Michael was arraigned before Judge Koweek on one count of first degree attempted robbery. His brother, Lucas R. Johnson, 27, also of Kinderhook, is already in the county jail on the charge.

Lucas was arrested and jailed June 9 after he allegedly put on a mask and entered Scotti’s Unisex Hair Design at 12 Broad Street in the Village of Kinderhook and demanded money. But he subsequently fled the scene without any. He was arraigned back then and remains jailed in lieu of $15,000 cash bail or $25,000 bond.

Michael was arrested in connection with the same case, which is the subject of an ongoing investigation by State Police and the Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka’s office.

Michael was jailed after arraignment in lieu of $35,000 cash bail or $70,000 bond.

Both were slated for a return court appearance August 27.

The brothers also had an encounter with Hudson Police about six months ago, when Lucas was charged with seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and loitering for the purpose of possessing a controlled substance, both misdemeanors.

Lucas was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Michael, which was pulled over by Hudson Police Detective David Miller, March 10 at 10:23 a.m. on Union Turnpike for a traffic infraction. Lucas was found to allegedly possess 10 bags of heroin valued at $100. Michael identified himself to the detective as a Troy police officer. Hudson Police Chief L. Edward Moore said at the time that Michael had committed no crime, but Hudson Police called Troy Police to verify that Michael was a police officer.

Troy Police subsequently initiated an internal investigation of Michael and suspended him from the force.


State Police from Rhinebeck arrested an Elizaville man in connection with an early morning break-in.

Troopers charged Daniel D. Loper, 29, of Elizaville with first degree burglary, a class B felony; forcible touching; seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and fourth degree criminal mischief, August 22 at 2:45 a.m.

Troopers were patrolling the Tivoli area when they observed a suspicious male between two vehicles on Broadway, August 22 at 2:40 a.m.

Due to recent vehicle break-ins, the patrol turned around to interview the subject who identified himself as Mr. Loper. Simultaneously Dutchess County 911 reported a residential burglary in which the occupant of the residence came in contact with and confronted the suspect. Mr. Loper matched the description of the suspect and he was taken into custody. The resident positively identified him as the person who had entered her home.

He was arraigned in Tivoli Court and was sent to the Dutchess County Jail in lieu of $50,000 cash bail or $100,000 bond. He was scheduled to reappear in Tivoli Court at a later date.


*Six teenage girls from Hudson were charged by City Police in connection with possessing a stolen car, August 13.

Hudson Police received a complaint about of a stolen vehicle, August 13 at 2:20 p.m. The white 1995 Ford Taurus with Pennsylvania plates was stolen from a parking lot in Strawberry Alley. The complainant is a Hudson resident, but the car is registered to her mother in Pennsylvania. The key was stuck in the ignition and the owner was unable to remove it. The car disappeared sometime between 7 p.m. August 12 and 2 p.m. August 13, according to a press release.

Detective Sergeant John Funk was on patrol August 13 at about 4:25 p.m. when he saw a Ford Taurus traveling near Oakwood Boulevard. The car had New York plates, but appeared to have out-of-state stickers in window. It also appeared to have been spray-painted black “in a very shoddy manner,” police said in the release.

A little while later, Officers James Nero and Larry Edelman saw the vehicle exiting the Oakdale Lake parking lot. They followed and pulled it over on North Sixth Street.

The license plates on the car were registered to appear on a 2003 Jeep, and had been reported stolen from a Hudson resident sometime between the evening of August 12 and the morning of August 13.

The vehicle was occupied by six females, all Hudson residents: three 15-year-olds, one 16-year-old, one 17-year-old and one 18-year-old. A can of black spray paint was recovered from the vehicle.

The 18, 17 and 16-year-olds were charged as adults with third degree criminal mischief, an E felony; fourth degree criminal possession of stolen property, a motor vehicle—E felony, switched license plates and unlicensed operation. They were arraigned in Hudson City Court, August 14.

Bail was set for two of the suspects at $250 cash or $1,000 bond and the other suspect’s bail was set at $500 cash or $1,000 bond. They were jailed.

Two of the juveniles were currently subjects of Person In Need of Supervision (PINS) petitions, and were transferred to a youth facility in Middletown. The remaining juvenile will appear in Family Court, the release said.

*Jesse C. Smith, 31, of Hudson was charged with third degree burglary by Hudson Police Officer Patrick Meister at 369 Warren Street, August 2 at 7:12 p.m.

Mr. Smith was discovered in the basement of a church without permission. He allegedly entered through a basement window. He was held for arraignment.

*Fred A. Starke, 38, address not given, was charged with second degree criminal contempt (disobeying a court order) by Hudson Police Officer Brent Rowe at the police station, August 1 at 7:35 p.m.

Mr. Starke allegedly had contact with someone in violation of an order of protection. He was held for arraignment.

*Several people were charged with a violation of Alcoholic Beverage Control Law for prohibited sale of an alcoholic beverage and first degree unlawfully dealing with a child in connection with a police check of local establishments for alcohol sales to minors. All were issued appearance tickets returnable in Hudson City Court August 26.

Charged were: David J. Marston, 38, by Officer James Nero at the Halfmoon Saloon, 48 South Front Street, August 1 at 8 p.m.; Alyssa P. Lewoc, 28, by Officer Christopher Filli at the Vico Restaurant, 136 Warren Street, August 1 at 8:27 p.m.; Alexandra Rose Malmude, 32, by Officer Christopher Filli at DABA, 225 Warren Street, August 1 at 8:52 p.m.; Madison M. Million, 24, by Officer Christopher Filli at the Fish & Game Restaurant, 13 South Third Street, August 1 at 8:59 p.m.; Bridget Gallo, 27, by Officer Christopher Filli at American Glory, 342 Warren Street, August 1 at 9:30 p.m.


Jason L. Calderon, 24, of Hollowville was charged with second degree criminal contempt, a class A misdemeanor, by Deputy Cindy Madison August 2 at 8:15 a.m.

Mr. Calderon is accused of violating an order of protection. He was arraigned in Copake Court and released on his own recognizance pending an August 25 return court date.

*Brittany Moore, 21, of Claverack was charged with second degree criminal contempt, a class A misdemeanor, by Deputies Thomas Bagnall and Joseph Bruno, August 1 at 11:15 p.m.

Ms. Moore allegedly violated an order of protection. She was arraigned in Copake Court and released on he own recognizance pending an August 22 return court date.


Garth A. Poole, 53, of Valatie was charged with third degree assault, a class A misdemeanor, by Deputy Kris Bauhoff, July 30 at 10:30 p.m.

Mr. Poole allegedly punched a person causing physical injury at a residence. He was issued an appearance ticket returnable in Ghent Town Court at a later date.


Jason C. Proffitt, 33, of Albany was charged on a warrant for third degree criminal mischief, a class E felony, by K9 Deputy Travis VanAlstyne, August 7 at 11:32 a.m.

Mr. Proffitt is accused of damaging a vehicle.

He was arraigned in Greenport Court and released on his own recognizance with a return court date of August 25.

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