Pasta Fundraiser Proves Fulfilling For Unsolved Crimes Unit

A recent fundraiser brought in $3,535 for the Unsolved Crimes Unit with the Sheriff’s Office. Pictured Monday, from left, are Lt. Alex Nutt, Tom Di Zinno, Jo Patterson, Merry Williams-Diers, Sheriff James Quattrone and Tom Tarpley. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

As pasta fundraisers go, this year’s “palooza” to assist the county’s Unsolved Crimes Unit was both well done and very much fulfilling.

Merry Williams-Diers on Monday provided the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office with a check for $3,535, more than double what was raised last year.

Williams-Diers runs an organization — WNY Missing & Unidentified Persons — to highlight unsolved crimes and open missing persons cases. All proceeds from the annual Pasta Palooza fundraiser go toward the Unsolved Crimes Unit and its efforts to bring resolutions to any number of open investigations.

“We don’t know how long we will have this Unsolved Crimes Unit that has been doing everything in its power to bring long-overdue answers to families,” Williams-Diers said Monday. “We think it is important to continue raising these funds because they aren’t promised day-to-day.”

This year’s Pasta Palooza included Jamestown Mayor Kim Ecklund and Randy Holcomb, mayor of Lakewood and a presentative of state Sen. George Borrello’s office.

Williams-Diers said the unit — consisting of senior investigators Tom Tarpley and Tom Di Zinno under the supervisor of Lt. Alex Nutt — has provided hope for local families since its inception in 2022. A number of cases have been given a fresh look, among them the 1983 discovery of Ellery Jane Doe, the 1976 disappearance of Judith Threlkeld and the homicide of Yolanda Bindics, among others.

“We couldn’t be happier with them,” Williams-Diers said of the unit and Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office. “Families are already telling us that everything is night and day different from what they’ve endured for the last five, 10, 15, 20 years compared to now. They’re getting regular updates. They feel that they are being heard and don’t feel like comments or questions are being disregarded or unanswered.”

Following Monday’s check presentation, the second in as many years, Tarpley again praised Williams-Diers and her network for providing much-needed support. He noted the costs associated with processing evidence through state crime labs and referenced an April 2023 meeting with U.S. Rep. Nick Langworthy to discuss federal funding.

“It has helped us in a lot of our cases this year. We’re grateful for that,” said Tarpley, who also thanked Ecklund and Holcomb for attending this year’s event.

“We’re getting a lot of support, and that support is translating into progress for us in terms of getting more evidence analyzed and hopefully getting some information back that we can prosecute people,” he said.

With regard to current investigations, Tarpley said he hopes to see a few resolutions in the upcoming year. A handful of cases have evidence in line to be analyzed at police crime labs.

“We’re waiting for that information to come back, which will hopefully lead to a prosecution for us,” he said, later adding, “I think that piece of the puzzle, with the lab work that’s going to be done, we’ll see some resolutions in cases soon.”


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