Sheriff’s office partners with Family Services
Dutchess County Judge Jessica Segal sentenced William Dicke, whom a jury convicted of killing his girlfriend during a domestic dispute in Rhinebeck by running over her with a van, to 25 years to life on March 7.
One month later, on April 10, Dutchess’ other county judge, Edward McLoughlin, handed down another life sentence — to Paul Senecal, convicted of stabbing to death his ex-girlfriend’s daughter at her home in the Town of Wappinger. Senecal is ineligible for parole.
Before the killing of Melanie Chianese, 29, in May 2022, police had charged Senecal with “a multitude” of domestic violence-related crimes and judges had issued several protective orders, said Matthew Weishaupt, chief assistant district attorney for Dutchess County.
Reported cases of domestic violence increased in Dutchess during the pandemic. Now, the women and men who face assaults and harassment from partners, and the prosecution of their abusers, will be the focus of a new four-person unit within the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office.
Announced on April 28 by Sheriff Kirk Imperati, the initiative will be composed of two deputies, a victims’ advocate and an administrative person and will be a collaboration with Family Services, the Poughkeepsie-based nonprofit that has sought a specialized unit for years.
Domestic-violence cases tend to be “time-intensive” and complex, in part because abusers and victims are often in relationships complicated by children and financial dependence, said Leah Feldman, CEO of Family Services.
The organization employs the advocate, who will join the initial response to victims and link them with services and other supports.
“Having individuals who have specialized training in working with domestic violence cases just makes the response even more enhanced for law enforcement,” said Feldman.
The unit will be busy: Dutchess County’s police agencies reported an average of 834 victims of domestic assaults, sexual offenses and violations of protective orders annually from 2019 to 2021, according to the most recent data reported by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services.
The majority of victims, 55 percent, were women abused by intimate partners, and another 14 percent were men, according to DCJS. Other family members, including children, accounted for 31 percent of the victims during the three-year period.
Officers in Beacon reported 27 domestic-violence victims from incidents in 2021, more than the year before but fewer than the 38 in 2019.
Recent cases include the arrest in January of Max Kleiner of Beacon, who was charged with stabbing a woman in the neck inside her home on Wolcott Avenue. City police responding in August to a domestic disturbance between a male and female on Fishkill Avenue charged Aaron Thompson of Ellenville with pointing a loaded handgun at a family.