DEP employee charged with killing co-worker with local ties

By Jay Braman Jr.
A Gilboa man allegedly shot and killed a co-worker inside the Kingston offices of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) early Monday morning.
DEP worker murdered: Aron J. Thomas of Olivebridge was killed by a co-worker on Monday morning the the DEP office in Kingston.DEP worker murdered: Aron J. Thomas of Olivebridge was killed by a co-worker on Monday morning the the DEP office in Kingston.
Kingston City Police say David N. Reese, 53, of Gilboa in Schoharie County was taken into custody at the DEP building shortly after allegedly Aron J. Thomas, 33, of Olivebridge was shot dead.
Reese was charged with second-degree murder and pled not guilty during an arraignment Monday afternoon in Kingston City Court. He was sent to the Ulster County Jail without bail.
Police have not yet offered a motive for the killing.
In a prepared statement, police said officers were dispatched to the DEP building, at 71 Smith Avenue about 6:45 a.m. and found Thomas “deceased as a result of an apparent gunshot wound.”

Weapon recovered
Reese was taken into custody at the scene, police said. A handgun was recovered at the scene and is believed to be the weapon used in the killing.
According to the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Department, Reese had a permit for two handguns.
DEP spokesman Adam Bosch was asked what DEP’s security policy is for carrying handguns in the building. Bosch directed inquiries to the Ulster County District Attorney's Office.
District Attorney Holley Carnright confirmed the weapon used was a handgun, though he did not say if it was legally owned. He would not divulge how many shots were fired, saying only that he would not discuss the investigation “just yet.”
Thomas, who was married and father of a newborn, was a Watershed Maintainer for DEP for nine years, traveling throughout the vast watershed region taking care of DEP property and infrastructure. Sylvia Rozzelle, Supervisor of the Town of Olive where Thomas grew up and still lived until Monday, said that he was active with town’s ambulance squad. Rozzelle, a former town clerk, said she had known him his entire life. “I gave him his first hunting license,” she said.
Neither Thomas nor Reese were known by staff at the Catskill Watershed Corporation, a Margaretville based agency that works daily with the DEP.

DEP response
DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland issued a statement following the incident Monday. “We are shocked and saddened by the senseless act of violence that occurred early this morning at DEP’s offices in Kingston,” he said. “The thoughts and prayers of all DEP employees are with the victim’s family and loved ones. We will do all we can to support them in the days and months ahead. DEP is fully cooperating with local authorities in their ongoing investigation. Grief counselors will be made available to help DEP employees who have been affected by this tragedy.”

Shooting victim had wife, 2 kids
By Joe Moskowitz
The bullet that took Aron Thomas’ life on Monday struck only him, but it deeply wounded others, leaving wounds that may never fully heal. Several of the most severely impacted are from this area.
On October 17, 2009, Aron James Thomas married Susan Rebecca Ruff at the New Kingston Presbyterian Church. Their wedding reception was at Plattekill Ski Center in Roxbury.
Susan is a 2000 graduate of Margaretville Central School. Her father is the late Donald Ruff and her mother is Lynn Ruff Sanford.
The Ruffs of New Kingston were farming royalty. They carried on the tradition of growing cauliflower decades after everyone else had stopped and for many years operated the largest vegetable farm in the area.

Trying to cope
These days, Lynn can be seen driving a bus for Pine Hill Trailways, and Donald Sanford, who she married after Donald Ruff died, can be seen officiating local basketball games.
Yesterday they were both in Olivebridge, trying to do the impossible and make sense of a senseless act.
A relative told the News that Lynn is doing the best she can and Susan is just trying to cope.
Just six weeks ago in December, Aron and Susan Thomas had a baby who joined their two-year-old son as part of what was then a happy family.
Thomas’ sister, Kylene has set up a group funding account for the children. It is http://www.gofundme.com/6nowgo.