Family members sentenced to probation in girl’s death

Attorney Michael Sussman (foreground) appears with his clients, the Tranberg-Bennett family at their April 1 sentencing in Columbia County Court. Steven Bennett is standing and his wife, Heidi Tranberg-Bennett, is seated to his right. Photo by Lance Wheeler

HUDSON—Six of seven family members have been sentenced to probation in the connection with the death of 12-year-old Evanna Tranberg-Bennett.

According to an April 1 press release from Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka, Columbia County Judge Richard Koweek sentenced Steven Bennett, Heidi Tranberg-Bennett, Venuska Tranberg-Bennett, Svenia Tranberg-Bennett, Petrevena Tranberg-Bennett, Tevania Tranberg-Bennett and Ryan Torres in Columbia County Court.

All of the defendants pleaded guilty December 16, 2020 to endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor. They were all sentenced to probation, except Mr. Torres, who was sentenced to conditional discharge.

All defendants are related to the late Evanna, including her parents, Steven and Heidi.

Chatham Rescue Squad emergency medical technicians responded to a County Route 9 residence in Austerlitz, December 3, 2019, and found the child unresponsive. Physicians pronounced the child dead December 6, 2019 at the Albany Medical Center. After a months-long investigation, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Senior Investigator Mark Dunspaugh charged the family members.

When they entered their guilty pleas, all of the defendants admitted they were responsible for the care of the child at all relevant times; that they all became aware of her illness and progressive symptoms, including, ultimately, swelling of her feet, legs and abdomen; and that they did not timely contact emergency personnel or take the child to a doctor or hospital.

Attorney Michael Sussman of Goshen (Orange County), represents all seven defendants.

Asked for comment on the sentencings, DA Czajka said, “I respect Judge Koweek’s decision and discretion.”

Firefighters from several companies battled a blaze in a multi-story apartment building on Block Street in Philmont. Photo by Lance Wheeler


Fire swept through a structure that housed multiple families at 51 Block Street, April 6 at 10:18 a.m.

Volunteers from the Hudson Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross provided immediate emergency aid to 11 people displaced as a result of the fire.

County Control dispatched Philmont firefighters and the Greenport Rescue Squad initially, with subsequent mutual aid summoned from Mellenville, Hudson, Claverack, Greenport, Churchtown, Copake, Craryville, Livingston, Germantown, Clermont, Ghent, Chatham and Tivoli. Multiple companies stood by for units on the fire scene.

The Red Cross provided financial assistance which can be used for necessities such as shelter, food, and clothing to at least four families. Six adults and five children, ages 2, 6, 8, 13, and 16 were displaced by the fire. Volunteers also offered health services and emotional support. At least one more family has yet to be reached by the Red Cross. In the coming days, Red Cross staff and volunteers will remain available to help those affected by the fire as they navigate the road to recovery.

The blaze reportedly began as a brush fire and spread to nearby structures.

Additionally, county fire coordinators, the EMS coordinator, State Police and Sheriff’s deputies assisted on the scene.

Firefighters were back in service at 4:10 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email

Investigator Paul Graziano. Photos contributed

Investigator retires after 35 years

GREENPORT—Sheriff’s Office Investigator Paul Graziano retired after 35 years of service with the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office March 12.

He was originally hired in May 1985 as a corrections officer in the Columbia County Jail. He moved on to become a patrol sheriff’s deputy in August 1994, and was promoted to criminal investigator in January 2005. He completed his career as an investigator was a decorated member of this office having been awarded Lifesaving, Meritorious Service and various other commendations and awards.

Sheriff David Bartlett thanked Investigator Graziano for his selfless service to the people of Columbia County and wished him and his family happiness in his retirement, according to the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. “You are, and will always remain family,’’ the sheriff said in the post.

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