1970s – A St. Paul’s School student named Daniel McCracken, 12 years old, fell 145-feet to his accidental death in the abandoned grain elevators nicknamed Snakeland in Kenmore, NY sometime in the 1970s. This would be the first recorded death in Snakeland since it closed in 1965 (while open for business it was called the Eastern State Mill, or the Agway Building).
Two female students who went to Kenmore West Senior High School in the mid-1970s later claimed to have been groomed and repeatedly sexually molested by two different “coach-teachers”. Both of these “coach-teachers” worked at Kenmore West throughout the 1980s as well, and the rumors of grooming and sexual abuse continued unabated.
1981 – Recent graduate of Kenmore West Senior High School, 17-year-old Joe Farrugia, fell 30 feet onto his head in Snakeland. He did not survive.
1982 – Kenmore West Senior High School student Richard H. committed suicide in July while on the phone with his girlfriend, Brenda R., also a Kenmore West High School student. Richard H.’s method of suicide was not ascertained.
1983 – Kenmore West Senior High School student Brenda R. committed suicide in March by unspecified method. Many other Kenmore West students speculated her suicide was due to her longstanding depression following Richard H.’s suicide in 1982.
1984 – In May of 1984, Michelle Kasperek, 13 years old, had her throat slashed after she wandered off following a going-away party, and died soon after. Although Michelle Kasperek did not attend Kenmore West Senior High School, she lived on the border between Buffalo and Kenmore. Apparently Michelle and Kathy Herold (see below) interacted in the same social circles and both crimes were investigated together as late as September 1985 to determine if it was the same killer or killers in both cases.
Kenmore West Senior High School alumni Robert Shickler was murdered in June by a gunshot wound to the head. However, this murder occurred at a campground out of town in Angelica, NY, and that murder also remains unsolved.
One other Kenmore West Senior High School student died in November 1984, but it was impossible to obtain enough information on whether the death was due to murder, suicide, or natural causes.
1985 – Another Kenmore West Senior High School student died in February 1985, but again, after the fact it has been impossible to obtain a specific cause of death.
On July 1 of 1985 Kenmore West Senior High School student Kathy Herold was strangled to death in Snakeland and then the body was moved to the railroad tracks approximately 300 yards away. Thirty-five years later this murder remains unsolved. No one has ever even been charged with Kathy Herold’s murder.
Later in July of 1985, Kenmore West High School student Gary M. committed suicide. Self-inflicted firearm injury was the stated cause of Gary M.’s death.
In September of 1985, Kenmore West High School student John Justice stabbed his brother, his mother and his father to death. Afterwards, Justice slashed his wrists, got in the family car and drove at high speed through a stoplight and killed an innocent bystander, Wayne Haun. Justice remains institutionalized to this day.
1986 – On January 15, 1986, Kenmore West Senior High School student Jeanne R. committed suicide, using a gun.
At some point later in 1986, a Kenmore West Senior High School student named Everett F. committed suicide, method unknown.
July 13, 1986 – In a Buffalo News article published this date, the official total of suicides at Kenmore West “in the past year or so” was officially set at 5. Going back to Spring 1985 to cover the approximate timeframe referenced, discovery has still only presented 3 verifiable suicides. If the timeframe is extended to November 1984, and both the deaths of the anonymous males described above were, in fact, suicides, then the numbers presented by the Buffalo News would match up.
1992 – A Buffalo News article published just previous to the implosion of Snakeland referred back to a third death (apparently McCracken and Farrugia were counted, but Herold was not) that had occurred at the grain elevators in 1992. “The third death was a man who committed suicide in 1992 by hanging himself in the mill. His body remained there for several weeks until some teen-agers who had skipped school found it, officials said.” No further information on this suicide has been found, as has been the norm in these cases. As this suicide was an adult male it does not fit our age range perfectly but the location and time frame (in addition to the probable school the aforementioned teen-agers were skipping being Kenmore West) merit its inclusion.
2000 – The Agway/Bryant buildings and grain elevators in Kenmore, NY, better known as Snakeland, were finally destroyed on May 21, 2000.
2007 – The Kathy Herold case was re-opened in September of 2007, presumably to connect it to the arrest and confession of the Bike Path Killer, Altemio Sanchez. Sanchez had been convicted of committing multiple rapes and 3 murders in the Buffalo area, one of which bore some similarity to the murder of Kathy Herold. Unfortunately, at the admission of the Town of Tonawanda Police, there was only circumstantial evidence in this case, no physical evidence, and certainly no confession forthcoming from Sanchez. The case remains unsolved.
2018 – On July 8, 2018, the first Buffalo News article on two Kenmore West Senior High School “coach-teachers” who allegedly groomed, molested and sexually abused two students in the 1970s is published. The “coach-teachers” were not named in this first article, but the ladies who came forward were.
In late September 2018, Joseph Sutton, retired “coach-teacher” at Kenmore West Senior High School, shot his wife Karen Sutton in the heart, lungs and liver, ensuring she had no chance of survival. Then Joseph Sutton turned the gun on himself, committing suicide.
2019 – On September 27, 2019, a second article was published in the Buffalo News announcing that the students would be filing lawsuits that week against the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District. Although they were not suing the teachers themselves, the lawsuit did name the “coach-teachers” accused of sexual abuse: Michael Indian and the now-deceased Joseph Sutton.