ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Stay up to date on the latest headlines in today’s Sunrise Smart Start on Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

RCSD board approves nearly $1 billion budget for 2022-23 school year

The Rochester City School District School Board approved a budget of over $983 million dollars Tuesday night, the vote passing four to three.

Before the vote, parents, students and teachers were outside the Board of Education demanding greater transparency with the budget.

Speakers at Tuesday’s rally said with this nearly $1 billion budget — a jump from last year — they just don’t know where the funds are going.

They called for robust funding for teacher diversity, better food, multi-lingual education, mental health programs and more in the budget with more counselors and social workers.

The district as a whole is faced with declining enrollment. State monitor Shelley Jallow weighed in back in March on the budget proposal, outlining RCSD’s history of poor fiscal management. She said the district needed to align resources with the declining enrollment, and stop “buying now” and trying to pay for it later.

Jallow did say Tuesday this budget has come a long way, but Albany will be watching closely how this spending pans out.

Commissioner Beatriz LeBron told us she voted “no” on the budget due to a lack of transparency.

“Voting tonight should not be this difficult,” LeBron said before the vote. “When we’re voting on almost a billion dollars, we should know exactly how this budget is serving students and families, and unfortunately it lacks that transparency, especially this year.”

Stevie Vargas with the Alliance for Quality Education says something’s lacking. “But what we have seen is a lack of robust collaboration with community members,” she says.

Vargas feels parents and the community should be more involved in where dollars are going. “We really want to make sure that we are making this district a restorative district,” she says.

Person of interest in Brittanee Drexel disappearance arrested

A person of interest in the Brittanee Drexel case was arrested Wednesday, on obstruction of justice charges.

Raymond Moody is a registered sex offender who spend more than 20 years in a California prison. Police searched his South Carolina apartment after Drexel’s disappearance in 2009.

At the time, Moody claimed he was not in the area when Drexel went missing. In 2012, investigators discovered he was issued a traffic ticket in nearby Surfside Beach the day after Drexel’s disappearance.

According to the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office, Moody was arrested and jailed on obstruction of justice charges on May 4. Investigators have not provided any information indicating Moody’s arrest was in any way related to the Drexel case.

Drexel’s father, Chad Drexel, said Tuesday he had not received any new information and was waiting to hear from the FBI.

Brittanee Drexel went missing while on spring break in Myrtle Beach in 2009. 

The FBI announced in 2016 that witnesses claimed she was taken to McClellanville, where she was assaulted, murdered, and fed to alligators.

Rochester Amerks falter late in Game 1 loss to Utica

Despite another stellar two-goal performance from Arttu Ruotsalainen, the Rochester Americans yielded four unanswered goals to the Utica Comets, including three in the final frame, in an eventual 6-3 loss in the series opener between the intrastate rivals Tuesday at Adirondack Bank Center.

The Comets lead the best-of-five North Division Semifinals 1-0 as Rochester suffered its first loss of the postseason.

In addition to a two-goal effort from Ruotsalainen, who now leads the AHL with five goals and seven points through just three games in the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs, JJ Peterka recorded his first of the postseason while Ethan Prow recorded two assists, one of which came on the power-play. 

Lukas Rousek, Mark Jankowski, Josh Teves and Brett Murray all tallied an assist while Aaron Dell, who spent last season in the Devils organization with New Jersey and Binghamton, stopped 34 of the 40 shots he faced to suffer his first loss of the playoffs.

AJ Greer paced all Utica skaters with a team-high three points (2+1), including back-to-back goals in the third period, while Reilly Walsh and Nolan Foote each recorded two assists for the North Division champion Comets. Tyce Thompson, the younger brother of former Amerk and current Buffalo Sabres forward Tage Thompson, Robbie Russo, Ryan Schmelzer and Joe Gambardella rounded out the scoring for Utica behind a 19-save effort from goaltender Nico Daws.

Rochester carried a 3-2 advantage into the second half of the middle frame after Ruotsalainen’s second of the night at 11:37, but Schmelzer converted on his own rebound just over four minutes later, setting off a four-goal run for the Comets, who would ultimately claim the lead for good before outscoring the Amerks over the final 24:07 of regulation.

The Amerks seized control early, scoring twice in the first 6:03 to build a quick 2-0 lead on goals from Ruotsalainen and Peterka.

Monroe Co. Sheriff: ‘Experiencing a catastrophe’ of parole bail reform

About 11% of violent felony crimes this year in Monroe County were committed by people on parole. That’s based on data, to-date, from the District Attorney’s Office.

Now the District Attorney and Monroe County Sheriff’s Office are connecting this trend to criminal justice reform measures, saying changes need to be made, and quickly.

“We’re experiencing a catastrophe right in front of us and it doesn’t seem like we’re doing much about it,” said Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter.

Citing recent murder arrests to two separate individuals on parole, county leaders say they believe bail reform is one source of the problem.

“I guess what really brought it to the forefront was the arrest over the weekend of Justin Singleton; he was a parolee for the murder of Juan Perez and it brought the attention to the community that parolees are getting arrested for violent offenses, maybe at a rate that we’ve never seen before,” said Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley.

According to the DA’s office, to-date there have been 403 violent felony offenses, 45 of which were parolees. Of those 45 individual parolees, seven were charged with homicide.

With parole detainers no longer in place, which previously would give prosecutors time to build up a case, its a race against time to get cases prosecuted.

“We’re looking at the arrests, we’re quickly doing our investigation along with our law enforcement partners and we’re trying to secure indictments and hopefully get these cases before a court as soon as possible,” Doorley said.

“We have data and we simply just overlaid one data set on top of another and all we’re trying to show is that there’s some correlation,” Sheriff Baxter said. “They have to be interrelated somehow; doesn’t mean it’s the absolute cause of everything. There’s a lot of stuff that’s causing all this crap but I think criminal justice reform is one of them.”

Referencing overall increases in crime in Rochester this year, Sheriff Baxter is working on developing a group comprised of all types of individuals in an effort to generate ideas to make small changes where possible.

“I created a coalition of community members and other legislators that want to sit down and say hey how do we just modify things one step at a time? Right? And we’ve had some great meetings on that,” Sheriff Baxter says.

Another recent change, the ‘Less is More’ act took effect March 1st. That limits the types of violations a parole officer can charge.

New York’s longest serving inmate who murdered 14-year-old granted parole

James Moore, the longest serving inmate in New York State, was released to parole Tuesday after the brutal murder of 14-year-old Pamela Moss more than a half-century ago.

According to prosecutors, Moore pled guilty to Murder in the First Degree in 1962 for raping and strangling the girl. Since then he had unsuccessfully negotiated bail a total of 20 times.

Prior to the crime, the man had agreed to spend the rest of his life in jail in order to avoid the death penalty. A decade later, prompting changes to state law, the Parole Board allowed him to live life outside prison.

“For years, my predecessors, District Attorney Howard Relin and District Attorney Michael Green, and I have vehemently opposed the release of James Moore,” said Monroe County District Attorney Michael Green.”

Documents of Moore’s confession state that Moss’ last word was “please…”

The Release Aging People in Prison Campaign issued the following statement Tuesday, saying:

“The purpose of parole is to evaluate a person’s readiness to return back to their community based on who they are today, not to add layers of punishment on top of a person’s sentence. While we cannot speak to the specifics of every case, the data is clear that older adults released from prison, including those previously convicted of serious crimes, have the lowest risk of recidivism. We support the independence of the Parole Board and any decision to release those who pose no threat.”

Weather forecast: Another one

More sunshine! Wednesday follows the trend left behind by the previous five days as skies clear and temps climb. Rochester will reach a high of 75 degrees with no precipitation in sight — at least for now…