After Public Fund Raising Event, Town Rejects Memorial to Slain Teen

A recap of events to put this latest news in perspective...

Kathryn 'Katie' Filiberti
It has been nearly five months since a teenaged girl was found dead in a town park, and today we have more questions than answers. Police have been investigating the death of the popular young gymnast Katie Filiberti as a homicide, but locals have grown impatient even suspicious of officials in the face of their unprecedented silence, save for a few alarming revelations. Indeed the only direct information that the public has been told about the case stems from the fact that two officers of the town police department were brought in for DNA testing. That one officer may have had a "relationship" with Katie, while the other was "trying to get ahead of the investigation by revealing a connection to" her according to a published interview with the department's Chief.

Nonetheless, those who speak questioningly at all of the police or the integrity of the investigation are called "bomb-throwers" by the town supervisor. He was publicly lambasted for his comments in which he slammed the media and concerned locals, by the mother of a young man who was Katie's boyfriend at the time of her death. It is no surprise that she would take such exception to the comments the supervisor made after the public humiliation her son has suffered in the wake of this tragedy.

In the days and weeks following that balmy March night of St. Patrick's Day weekend, it was her son who was initially suspected by the community at large as being responsible for Katie's death. The county has been plagued with a string of deadly domestic violence incidents in which men have killed their wives, girlfriends, themselves, and even a police officer, making the tendency to blame a male significant other more acute than ever. Then we learned that he had been the last persons to see her at a house party, and that she had been upset when she left. Allegedly because of someone who showed up at the party, an ex-boyfriend according to some, and was compelled to leave... never to be seen alive again.

Those who were quick to jump to that conclusion though, were given pause, as the weeks rolled by, and no arrest came. If it had indeed been her teenage boyfriend who was responsible, at a house full of partying teens, it should not have been a tough case to solve for the the Chief, a seasoned homicide investigator, and the department he was now leading along with the full cooperation of other departments in the region. Because of the ferocity of the speculation against the young man, he was not even able to attend his sweetheart's funeral, and no doubt faced a certain level of danger even just to go about town as a normal person. Nonetheless, as the weeks rolled by, common sense seemed to take hold more, as more people came to realize that this was not just an open and shut case like other recent homicides.

Just how different this case actually was, became quite apparent when we finished our long wait for the Medical Examiner's report. A report which officials had promised they would share with us, at least in part. The media and the people waited for the toxicology reports, which the ME said would take 6-8 weeks, before the final report could be presented. The community was dumbfounded when instead of some bit of information, any at all, the County District Attorney ordered the Medical Examiner to not reveal any details whatsoever of her findings. To this day, we do not even know if in fact the ME has ruled the case to be a homicide at all. Was it maybe something else, an accident? A drug or alcohol overdose? Was someone trying to cover up that fact that they had provided something they shouldn't have to a minor, and then maybe even staged a scene to look like a murder, rather than face charges other than murder but still showing some complicity in her demise? We simply cannot know at this point.

What we do know however, is that the case then took an even more alarming turn, when word leaked out that two officers from the town police department, the lead agency investigating the case, were brought in to State Police headquarters. Again there was a quick presumption to guilt, but this time I believe it was for different reasons than the run-of-the-mill lynch-mob mentality that so often grips a community in the face of a horrific event. This time people were just relieved that the case was finally solved, and that the irregularities now made sense. But that was not quite the case either. Two officers did indeed submit DNA as part of the investigation into Katie's death, but they were not charged with any crime. In a news article printed days later, the Chief of the town department contends that he asked his two subordinates to submit to the tests simply to quash wild and rampant rumors. Albeit rumors that were not at all so rampant as one might believe. Rumors that were out there were not taken very seriously at all by most folks who chalked it up to rumor mongering by people with a grudge against the department, if they even caught wind of these alleged rumors at all. It was not until these officers were actually brought in that the rumors exploded like wildfire, and in the end, proved to not be entirely inaccurate. 

To this writer, it seems that if DNA testing was not actually a legitimate part of the investigation, then it should never have been done at all. But if it had to be done, in the judgment of the Chief, as a public-relations matter, then that plan was very poorly executed and has had the reverse affect of his stated intentions. Why did he not simply issue a public statement and press release, through the department's own website, at the time the officers in question were to be brought in for the testing? Why wait until days later after the rumors had already exploded, to make an exclusive statement to a for-profit publication that is lesser known than the region's general news source? (Albeit, the publication in question has since shown themselves to have more integrity and more interest in fact-finding and fact-reporting than the generally accepted primary local news source.) This, after a rebuttal to the rumors by the local Sheriff’s department, who rushed to the aid of the town department and to speak on their behalf, being the first agency to break their silence in the case since it began.

In that statement they tell us that no arrests have in fact been made in the case. A statement that never would have had to be made, if the facts were told to the public in a timely and appropriate manner by the town department themselves. If you or I were brought in for DNA testing, folks would say we were "arrested." Using such terminology, it is very easy to see how the rumors wound up being a bit overzealous and hopeful even while still actually based in fact to a large degree. The statement then goes on to pat themselves on the back a little about the good job they are doing and that they cannot share details, but that they have in fact gathered over 30 DNA samples. So why is it that they could not share this information at any time before, that 30 or so people had been biologically interrogated? It's true, that the police do have a right and responsibility, to keep some, even many facts of a case secret to maintain the integrity of the investigation. But clearly, there are other facts which they can share, that they chose not too for some unknown reason. These DNA samples, or even the Medical Examiner's official ruling on the manner of death, even if she cannot state the actual cause of death for some reason. It certainly appears that there are things the community should be told, but are not being told in this case. Not unless of course it is in the interest of the police it seems.

In yet another odd twist to the case, while officials remain mum on everything else, they come out full-blast to defend themselves when their feet are put to flame. The DA's office has now also issued a statement declaring that not now, nor at any time were officers of the town department suspect in the case. Which means of course, that they should never have been DNA tested in the first place, and that any lawyer or union rep would probably have advised against it. So why are the police being cleared, but not anyone else? Police cleared whom one is said to have had some sort of personal relationship with the deceased, and one who lives just a few houses away from where the party was held which Katie disappeared from.

Though we still have no intention of naming individuals here without good cause, it is confirmed that one of the officers rumored to be involved in this case in more than a professional capacity, owns a home just doors away from where the party was held. This information came to light as I collaborated with several commentators on a previous article here at this site, regarding this case. We cross- referenced several news articles with town records to confirm this. But again, we see it as unethical to directly relay information that will state the identity of the officer(s) in question, and can only therefore say that the information is out there and available if you too should choose to confirm this information independently.

Coming back around now to bring this article full-circle, we come back to the young boyfriend of the departed. He made a public statement on the record with the behemoth local newspaper, declaring not only his innocence, but that he had actually been cleared by DNA testing. Nonetheless, he never got a special letter from the DA declaring him innocent. He never got a town supervisor and an onslought of officials to come to his aid and defend him when it was his name being dragged through the mud across town and across online newspaper comment boards. So understanding that, it's little wonder why his mother blasted the town supervisor for his despotic rant defending the police while attacking the very community whom he was elected to serve. And perhaps we should be looking more closely at why two officers were being cleared unequivocally, when they have as much, if not more unanswered for suspicion surrounding them than the young boyfriend had.

Yet is seems no surprise either that the town supervisor would come out of left-field suddenly to venomously defend the department, when you know that the newly installed Chief and the supervisor have a certain rapport. Some might say that the supervisor hand-picked the this new Chief, to replace the acting-Chief, and even that the well-liked long time member of the department was pushed out the door to make way for a crony. The acting-Chief was a shoe-in for the job in the eyes of the townspeople, yet he came up against the political battle of his career against the town-board and saw fit to resign before being permanent status in the position, sadly. He is missed.

But just when you think you've seen it all. Just when you think that public officials could not possibly put their foot in their mouth, or shoot themselves in the foot one more time without losing their jobs or worse, we have today's news. It had been the hopes of family and friends to build a memorial to the pretty young woman, gone too soon from the world, in the park where her body was found. They planned a small walkway to a gazebo with benches and trees, and a small garden. A clear improvement to the desolate lot. Public fundraising for the project culminated in a pig-roast event attended by hundreds at a local fire department station who dedicated space and manpower to the event.

Today we get the news that the plan has been REJECTED by the town Recreation Commission, with the supervisor claiming he had no knowledge of the proposal.

In the interests of fair reporting however, we must also point out too that the proposal was rejected in mid-July according to the Poughkeepsie Journal, before these large fundraising events took place at the pig roast, a local hair salon, and in collaboration with Verizon and Girl Scouts USA. Without meaning to denigrate the memory of the departed in any way, some have shown concern over whether or not it is proper to be holding fundraisers while the case is still unsolved. Could this also be the reason the memorial garden plan was rejected by the town? Because of the political implications of having a memorial park named for Katie, if it turns out that her death was a suicide, or the result of an overdose? Sadly, without so much as a manner of death ruling by the Medical Examiner, this is a question we must ask, as unsavory as the prospect may be of such a conclusion to this heart-wrenching case.

At the end of the day though, whatever the reason Katie is no longer with us, she was loved and is missed by many. That will never change.

May you rest in peace soon Katie...

EDIT: Updated and revised, 10:58 pm.

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