GOUVERNEUR — The man incorrectly charged with the murder of Ronald E. “Huck” Durham appeared in St. Lawrence County Court on Monday morning to receive his probationary orders, now that he’s out of jail. Once the second-degree murder charge is dropped, he may end up being a witness in the case. A suspect is now being investigated in a second homicide in Rossie.
Frederick A. Wing Jr., 22, was charged with the Feb. 11 murder of Mr. Durham, whose body was found in East Riverside Cemetery across the street from Mr. Wing’s Van Buren Road home. He was arraigned in Rossie Town Court and jailed that night without bail at the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility, Canton. While he was incarcerated, a second murder happened that police and prosecutors linked to Mr. Durham’s death. On Thursday, police responded to a remote trailer in the town of Rossie, where they found the body of William M. Freeman, 67.
On Friday, St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua said police had identified another suspect that may be responsible for both deaths and pushed to have Mr. Wing freed from jail that night, under probationary supervision. Mr. Pasqua on Monday said he’s not aware of any connection between the Freeman murder and the fatal Feb. 19 fire in Rossie that claimed the life of Jay D. Marsaw, 79.
Dressed in court on Monday morning in a gray shirt with a checkered tie and khaki pants, Mr. Wing acknowledged he understood the probationary orders issued by Judge Gregory P. Storie. That includes staying out of trouble with the law, abstaining from non-prescription drugs and alcohol and reporting to all appointments with a probation officer. The judge also modified a protection order that barred Mr. Wing from having any contact with Mr. Durham’s relatives to a no-harassment order. That allows Mr. Wing to communicate with them, if they choose.
Mr. Wing will have to remain on probation until his murder charge is formally dropped. He is represented by attorney Edward F. Narrow. His next appearance in court will be a status conference with the judge and attorneys on April 3.
“I’m hoping the district attorney’s office will make an application to reduce the felony complaint to a misdemeanor, return back to the town of Gouverneur justice court, and I’ll move for a dismissal there. That’s up to Gary (Pasqua) how he’s going to handle the case,” Mr. Narrow said.
Felony charges are not heard in local courts. A suspect can be arraigned in local court on a felony charge, but it’s then sent to county court for prosecution.
Mr. Narrow said the lesser misdemeanor charge will likely be something like third-degree assault, but it doesn’t mean Mr. Wing is being accused of anything criminal.
“We’ll mechanically ask the judge to amend the felony complaint. Generally, what you do is stick to the same section of penal law (for the misdemeanor reduction). No one’s going to object, because it’s going for a dismissal,” he said.
Mr. Pasqua on Monday morning said he had no new information to release on the Durham or Freeman murders. He said because of ongoing investigations, he wouldn’t comment on the evidence that gave police probable cause to believe Mr. Wing had killed Mr. Durham, nor the new evidence linking the two cases.
“At this point, all we’re saying is we know there’s a connection between the two crimes. We know the individual or individuals involved in those two crimes. There is no danger to the general public,” the DA said. “Law enforcement made an arrest (of Mr. Wing) because they had probable cause to make an arrest, based on the evidence given to them.”
Mr. Pasqua added that New York State Police is the lead agency investigating Mr. Durham’s murder, and the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office is the lead agency on Mr. Freeman’s murder.
Mr. Narrow declined to comment on the evidence that led to police developing probable cause that Mr. Wing had killed Mr. Durham “only because it’s an ongoing homicide investigation and my client has information that’s helpful,” and he could end up being a witness.
“Hopefully we can close this chapter on him being a defendant and focus on him helping the state with the homicide of Mr. Durham,” Mr. Narrow said.
Following Mr. Wing’s court appearance on Monday morning, he said little after having been advised by Mr. Narrow to not make comments to the press. He did, however, thank the St. Lawrence County jail corrections officers with treating him well during his 20 days incarcerated there.
“I want to say thank you to the correctional over in Canton … they were very kind to me,” Mr. Wing said.
Mr. Wing has intellectual disabilities that made it difficult for him to understand what was happening after he’d been interviewed by state police on Feb. 11, according to his cousin, Jessica M. Bice.
She said she doesn’t believe Mr. Wing was able to understand the situation in which he found himself after being arrested. She visited her cousin in jail the Sunday after he was arrested and asked him if he understood that he was being charged with a felony and what his Miranda rights are.
“When I asked him about what Miranda rights were, he thought it had something to do with drinking. He thought he was in trouble for something with drinking,” she said.
She says he also didn’t know what a felony means.
“He thought it was something he had to pay for. He said he didn’t have any money for it,” because Mr. Wing’s only income is from Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Mrs. Bice said.
She said Mr. Wing is happy to be home on a comfortable bed and spending time with his family and friends.
“He was happy to look at tractors all weekend on the computer, and be in a comfy bed,” she said.
“And homemade food,” Mr. Wing chimed in.
Mr. Wing’s family has believed in his innocence from the beginning. They said he and Mr. Durham were close friends, having almost a father-and-son relationship.
“He wants to grieve his good friend … and see the Durham family to properly say he’s sorry for their loss and hug them,” Mrs. Bice said.
“(Mr. Durham’s relatives) wanted to reach out and speak with Freddy after Huck’s death. He wasn’t able to, because one, he was incarcerated, and two there was an order of protection in place,” Mr. Narrow said. “Huck and Freddy were good friends. Now Freddy can mourn with Huck’s family.”
Mrs. Bice credits a community effort for getting her cousin exonerated and represented by Mr. Narrow.
“Another big thank you to the community, to the local Gouverneur Police Department, to everybody that rooted for us and got us to this spot today. We’ve got a long battle,” she said.
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