Car fire claims life of farm worker and his dog

COPAKE FALLS—A man and his little dog died in a vehicle fire June 14 at about 12:04 a.m.

Following a June 15 autopsy by Dr. Jeffrey Hubbard at Ellis Hospital, the Sheriff’s Office identified the fire victims as Rudy Martinez, 32, of 543 North Mountain Road, and his small dog, possibly a Chihuahua.

The cause of death was determined to be “inhalation of fire gases.”

A fire in a car parked in this driveway near a mobile home at 543 North Mountain Road, Copake Falls, claimed the life of a man and his pet. Photo by Lance Wheeler

Mr. Martinez was sitting in his 2006 Volkswagen GTI, which was parked in the driveway of the mobile home where he lived, when the car caught fire. The Volkswagen was owned by and registered to Mr. Martinez, who was employed on the Main family’s Berkshire Valley dairy farm.

Mr. Martinez lived in the mobile home, located on the farm, with a roommate, who was “not around” at the time of the fire, Sheriff’s Office Senior Investigator Kevin Skype told The Columbia Paper in a phone interview Wednesday.

The investigation indicates the cause of the fire is not suspicious in nature; though it could have been mechanical or electrical, Lieutenant Wayne Lopez said by phone.

We do not have all the answers,” said Sr. Inv. Skype and due to the extensive damage done to the car by the fire, the exact cause cannot be determined at this time.

As for the circumstances, the investigator said, there is no indication that Mr. Martinez smoked. He said, it was “not unusual for Rudy to sit in his car and listen to music.”

Columbia County 911 dispatched the Hillsdale Fire Company and Community Rescue Squad for a reported vehicle fire in the driveway at 543 North Mountain Road, June 14 shortly after midnight, according to the initial press release from Sheriff David P. Bartlett.

Deputies also responded to assist the fire company.

When units arrived, the vehicle was fully engulfed in flame. After the fire was extinguished, deputies saw a body in the front passenger area of the car. In addition, a dog was also located in the vehicle.

This fire is still under investigation at this time by Sheriff’s Office investigators, New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, the Columbia County Cause and Origin Team and Columbia County Coroner Bernadette Powis, who responded to the scene along with the Columbia County Fire Coordinators Office.

Sheriff’s Office investigators are awaiting lab and toxicology reports.

Investigating at the scene for the Sheriff’s Office were Sheriff Bartlett, Undersheriff John Davi, Captain John DeRocha, Senior Investigator Skype, Investigators William Dunspaugh and Ian Boehme, First Sergeant John Rivero, K9 Sergeant Heath Benansky, Deputies Daniel Keyser and Matthew Leonard.

Firefighters were back in service at 7:51 a.m.


Jermaine Williams, 26, of Chatham was charged on a warrant for criminal obstruction of breathing, second degree unlawful imprisonment, both class A misdemeanors, and second degree harassment, a violation, by Deputy Brian McSween, May 31 at 4:47 p.m.

Mr. Williams is accused of choking a female while preventing her from leaving a private residence in the Village of Chatham. In addition, he allegedly smacked the victim in the face. He

was arraigned in Chatham Village Court and was released on his own recognizance to return to court at a later date.


Reneldo Harrington, 37, of Hudson was charged with third degree assault and petit larceny, both class A misdemeanors, by Deputies Ted Blank and Daniel Keyser, June 1 at 3:23 a.m.

Mr. Harrington is accused of punching a female victim in the head and then stealing her cell phone at a private residence in Stockport. He was arraigned in Stockport Court and was released on his own recognizance. He was to appear back in court at a later date.


Edgard Duche, 31, of East Elmherst was charged with being a fugitive from justice, a felony, by Deputy Timothy Gladwin, May 21 at 4:20 p.m.

Mr. Duche was wanted on a felony warrant in Northampton County, PA, for conspiracy-forgery-unauthorized act in writing. He was arraigned in Greenport Court and was sent to the Columbia County Jail with no bail.

To contact Diane Valden email

Mother and son charged with stealing from disabled man


HUDSON—A Columbia County Grand Jury returned a 14-count indictment June 6, charging a man and his mother with working together to commit numerous crimes in connection with endangering the welfare of and stealing from an incompetent or disabled person.

Jeffrey Yeh, 51, and his mother, Annette Loos, 75, both of Stockport, were each charged with one count of second degree forgery, a class D felony; one count of first degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, a class E felony; two counts of fourth degree grand larceny, class E felonies; two counts of fourth degree criminal possession of stolen property, class E felonies, and one count of third degree computer tampering, a class E felony.

According to the indictment:

*Around April 1, 2018, the pair allegedly forged a document with intent to defraud, deceive, or injure another

*Between April and August 2018, they allegedly knowingly and unlawfully acted in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental and moral welfare of a person who is unable to care for himself because of physical disability, mental disease or defect

*In July and August 2018 they allegedly unlawfully stole property valued at more than $1,000

*On August 18, 2018, they allegedly knowingly and unlawfully possessed stolen credit card, debit card or public benefit card, with intent to benefit themselves

*On August 18, 2018, they allegedly knowingly and unlawfully used or accessed a computer, computer service or computer network without authorization and intentionally altered the computer data of another person and did so with intent to further the commission of a felony.

Mr. Yeh was additionally charged with six additional counts of fourth degree criminal possession of stolen property and one count of computer trespass, a class E felony.

State Police Investigator James Sokolowski investigated the case and arrested Mr. Yeh, who is represented by Trey Smith, Esq. and Annette Loos, who is represented by Attorney John Hillman.

The mother and son were arraigned before Columbia County Judge Richard Koweek and were released on their own recognizance with District Attorney Paul Czajka’s consent.

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