By KIM SMITH DEDAM
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — The man charged with murdering Robert Rennie in August had earlier served 13 years in prison for killing another.
Paul J. Taylor and two other Keeseville men were arraigned in Elizabethtown Town Court at about 11:30 a.m. Friday.
Taylor, 39, already in Essex County Jail on an unrelated charge, faces charges of second-degree murder, felony gang assault and criminal possession of a weapon.
Michael D. Rivers, 36, and Scott E. Denno, 19, were charged with first-degree manslaughter, felony gang assault and criminal possession of a weapon.
Rennie, a widower with two young daughters, was found dead near the closed iron bridge on River Street early on the morning of Aug. 26.
He was 45 years old.
An autopsy determined the death was a homicide, and a few more details emerged in court on Friday.
State Police did not release any information about motive, but Troop B Bureau of Criminal Investigation Captain Robert LaFountain said Rennie was kicked and savagely beaten. He died of “severe internal injuries,” he said.
The alleged murder weapons were steel-toed boots and sneakers.
Evidence suggested, according to police, that the assault took place at the top of a hill with a pathway that leads down to the bridge.
“Time of death is late Saturday night, early Sunday morning,” LaFountain said.
“He (Rennie) was able to get to the location where he was found, near the bridge.”
The body of the Keeseville man was discovered at 6:14 a.m. by a paper-delivery man working for the Press-Republican.
ARRESTED AT WORK
Gang assault, according to New York Law, occurs when an assailant is “aided by two or more persons actually present.”
Arraigned before Elizabethtown Town Justice William M. Garrison, none of three men opted to have the charges read aloud.
Taylor, flanked by three Essex County Public Defenders, shackled and wearing striped prison garb, said his residence is “in County Jail right now.”
He then told the town justice his home is on Clinton Street in Keeseville.
Charged with a Class A felony, Taylor is not entitled to bail, Garrison said.
Rivers was arrested at his place of work Friday morning, but police did not release information about his job.
Awaiting counsel, he asked to be represented by Lake Placid attorney Greg LaDuke via the Public Defender’s Office.
Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague said Rivers has a prior felony, though she did
not provide specifics. She also requested an order of protection for Rivers’s wife, Angela Rivers, and asked that police remove Mr. Rivers’s firearms. Without a residence, she said, Rivers presents a significant flight risk.
‘NOT GUILTY’ PLEA
As Denno walked into court, reporters asked if he had killed Rennie; he denied the charge.
Garrison set bail for both Rivers and Denno bail at $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond.
The justice asked the men if they wanted to make a phone call. Rivers did try to call his mother from a courtroom phone, but no one answered.
Denno opted out, saying “I have no one to call, Your Honor.”
He apparently recently moved to Keeseville from Vermont and was not employed.
Taylor, represented by Public Defender Brandon Boutelle, pleaded not guilty to all three counts; as the other two men were seeking legal counsel, the were advised not to speak until they can have an attorney present.
‘SOUGHT HIM OUT’
Asked after the hearing if the three alleged killers planned the attack on Rennie, LaFountain said they “sought out” the victim, who was beaten to death.
They all knew each other in the Keeseville community.
Police investigators did not say where Rennie’s children are living now.
“That’s what makes this such a tragic loss,” LaFountain said of the two girls, who now have lost both parents.
Rennie was raising them on his own, as his longtime companion, Michelle K. Blaise, had died suddenly of a heart attack in 2008.
Taylor, Rivers and Denno now await separate felony hearings, tentatively set for Oct. 11.
Police had urged “extreme caution” by the public in Keeseville until the apprehension of the person or people who had killed Rennie. LaFountain said investigators received numerous leads and had been working non-stop on the case for the past six weeks.
Taylor had already been in jail before Friday’s arraignment, facing an unrelated charge of first-degree rape, a felony, for allegedly forcibly raping a woman in Keeseville on Sunday, Aug. 26 — just hours after Rennie was murdered.
As well, in March 1997, Taylor was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter in the death of Marcus Chadwick in the Town of Moriah.
The Pittsford, Vt., man died of chest compression and exposure on May 3, 1996, after Taylor pinned him under a tree on a trail off Tracy Road.
Taylor, sentenced to 5 to 15 years in state prison, was paroled in 2010.
Sprague said prior convictions could enhance sentencing if a defendant is found guilty of Rennie’s murder.
Email Kim Smith Dedam: firstname.lastname@example.org