The call hit the 911 dispatch in Wyoming County as evening fell on March 7. A man requested police at his house at 5:42 p.m. He had shot someone. The 911 operator had reason to recognize the voice.
It was Joseph Mlyniec. For more than two decades, Mlyniec, 60, had served as a patrol deputy with the county sheriff’s office, retiring in 2008 as a sergeant but returning for a few additional years part time. His work and standing in the community did not end when he handed in his badge. Since 2014, Mlyniec served on the town board of Perry, a hamlet on the rural farmland blanketing western New York.
Mlyniec told the dispatcher there was a dead man on his property. The dispatcher, in turn, asked Mlyniec whether he was sure the man was dead.
“Yup,” Mlyniec replied, according to court documents recently published by the Batavia Daily News. “Shot him in the head.”
Mlyniec remains in jail without bond on charges of second-degree murder and intimidating a victim or witness, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle has reported. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His attorney, Norman P. Effman, told The Washington Post that the case hinges on the defendant’s state of mind, he said.
“It is not a whodunit case,” Effman said. “It’s not going to be a trial as to whether Joe was the individual involved. The issue is the second count of the indictment and how that affected him. There are lots of issues of intent or lack of intent and levels of culpability that could impact this.”
Snow was piled against the house and red barn when law enforcement arrived at the farm where Mlyniec lived with his wife. He was waiting for the officers near a plow truck — down on his knees as if in prayer on the muddy drive, hands placed behind his head, according to the documents. Twenty-five feet up the drive, deputies found the body of Robert Irvine III. The 32-year-old had been shot four times with a .45-caliber handgun.
In initial news reports following the killing, a possible motive remained murky. The victim’s girlfriend told a local television station Irvine and Mlyniec had been friends.
The younger man, a mechanic who lived nearby, would often stop by Mlyniec’s farm and work on his car on the property. But the newly released court documents, filed as part of a legal motion by the Wyoming County District Attorney’s Office, lay out a darker current linking the two.
According to the documents, Mlyniec’s life as an upstanding small-town citizen screened off a different reality. The former deputy “led a double life,” the document states.
“On one hand he was portrayed as a heterosexual married man,” the motion alleges, while in reality, “Joseph Mlyniec would lure troubled young men to his farm, then groom them for sexual favors and in return provide them money, food, or both.” The “two worlds began to collide” after an investigation into Mlyniec’s past behavior started at the end of 2017.
The victim was killed to stop further “allegations of sexual abuse,” prosecutors alleged. Irvine was a possible victim or witness against Mlyniec — or both. “The investigation has also revealed that the victim in this case was a potential witness in a sex abuse investigation involving Joseph Mlyniec and many other men during the past many years,” the motion alleges.
The court documents also say the former deputy admitted as much on the evening law enforcement arrived at his house following the 911 call.
“Do you know what this is about?” Mlyniec allegedly told one of the deputies at the scene. “Someone accused me of sex abuse and turned me in, and he is a part of it — whatever. I don’t care anymore. My life is done.”
The defendant’s ties to Wyoming County run deep. The dairy farm he lives on — where Irvine was killed — once was operated by his father, the Buffalo News has reported. In addition to his work on the town board, Mlyniec was also a member of the Rotary Club and on the volunteer fire department.
“It’s way, way out of character for Joe,” Perry Town Supervisor James Brick told the News. “It’s just a shock to most everybody in town here. He was well-respected in town.”
But last October, an allegation of sexual abuse by Mlyniec was lodged with the New York State Police, according to the News. The abuse dated back to between 2003 and 2010. The former deputy and others were interviewed, but no charges were brought, and the accuser eventually recanted, a State Police spokesman told the newspaper.
Recently released court documents filed as part of a motion in the case say Mlyniec never knew the identity of his accuser. But in the day leading up to the slaying, the former deputy made numerous calls to people, including Irvine. The document says the calls were possibly about other witnesses coming forward with allegations.
“The investigation has revealed that the night before the murder the victim had told two individuals that he had told Joseph Mlyniec that he needed to turn himself in or kill himself,” the motion says. “It is believed that the victim and the defendant … had a sexual relationship in the past.”
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