As the investigation into the murder of Peter Porco and the attack of his wife, Joan, reached a grand jury last week, Joan Porco’s condition began, and continued, to slowly improve, according to police.
The district attorney’s office said Monday charges are not necessarily expected to result from the grand jury.
While the law prohibits authorities from talking specifics about the grand jury, Bethlehem Police Chief Lou Corsi said he expects new evidence to be presented each of the next two Fridays.
Several subpoenas were issued for the grand jury and witnesses, said Albany County Assistant District Attorney Dave Rossi, though he declined to say much more.
`What goes on in there is a secret. It would actually be a crime for me to say,` Rossi said. `It’s for the investigation into the death of Peter Porco. We’re just presenting some of the things we’ve discovered.`
A court officer from the New York State Appellate Court, where Peter Porco served as Judge Anthony Cardona’s law clerk, showed up at the Porco’s 36 Brockley Drive residence on the morning of Nov. 15 when Peter Porco failed to report for work. Joan Porco was found upstairs from her deceased husband, with trauma to the head and body, police have said. Joan Porco was alert before she was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
She has remained at an Albany hospital, where there is a police presence, in a sedated state ever since, with her two sons, Chris and Johnathan and other family members keeping vigil.
`Her condition is slowly improving, slowly,` Lt. Thomas Heffernan, Jr. said. `She’s still in an Intensive Care Unit, though they’ve never changed her condition. She is conscious.`
Whether Joan Porco is aware of the death of her husband, whom she met in college, is unclear.
`The family would do that,` Heffernan said. `It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment on that.`
About two weeks ago, Bethlehem Police sent more than 100 pieces of evidence to the State Police Forensics lab, including what they believe to be the murder weapon, although Corsi declined to comment further on any possible results on that evidence.
`At the house, the physical investigation is done. We’ve completed the forensics portion, though we still have the jeep,` Heffernan said. `But the investigation is continuing to gather additional information. What I’ve said in every memo that I’ve sent out is that the investigation is very active at this point.`
Police have also declined to confirm whether the weapon was a hatchet.
Early in the investigation, police interviewed the Porco’s two sons. Heffernan wouldn’t say how many times or how long either or both of the sons were interviewed. Interviews with Chris Porco ended when Terence Kindlon, whose services were retained by 21-year-old Chris Porco’s family, advised him not participate in any more police interviews.
Corsi said Monday the Bethlehem Police Department has been working with the State Police and `several other police agencies since the onset of this investigation,` though he declined to name those agencies or say how many because naming them `would lead to certain conclusions` about the case.
Corsi’s comments came after the attorney for the couple’s youngest son criticized the Bethlehem Police Department’s investigation, though he declined to characterize them as a response to the defense attorney’s allegations.
Kindlon said the police `jumped to a conclusion` that Chris had committed the crime.
`Ever since then, instead of investigating, they’ve been collecting shreds and pieces of evidence to support their theory,` Kindlon said. `Plain and simple, that’s not the way to conduct an investigation.`
Corsi said Chris Porco has never been called a suspect in the murder of his father and the attack on his mother.
`Chris is a person of interest. We’ve never called him a suspect. Chris got a lot of attention from the media because of the jeep,` Corsi said. `There’s a long list of people who are considered persons of interest. That list is dwindling now. In a murder investigation, you move in a direction until something moves you away from there.`
Corsi mentioned the department’s concern of safeguarding the rights of people of interest and added that the department has done that in this investigation.
Less than two hours after the discovery, Kindlon said police issued an all points bulletin for Chris Porco, a student at the University of Rochester.
`They issued an APB that named him as a suspect that was armed and dangerous,` Kindlon said. `That’s what they said.`
Corsi couldn’t confirm whether Kindlon’s statement was accurate, though he did say an APB was issued for the 2004 Jeep Wrangler registered to Peter Porco. Chris Porco was included in that request, Corsi said. Bethlehem Police traveled to the University of Rochester, Heffernan said.
`It’s not typical (in an APB regarding a murder investigation for someone to be listed as armed and dangerous),` Corsi said. `There has to be some extenuating circumstances to lead someone to believe they are armed and dangerous.`
Police still have the jeep in their possession, according to Heffernan. The Porco’s residence was turned back over to the family last Saturday, Heffernan said.
Cleaning crews obtained by the family worked on the house.
Kindlon said it’s typical in New York State for grand juries to convene without a defendant.
`It happens all of the time around here,` Kindlon said. `Especially in drug investigations.`
Between 16 and 23 people are called for a grand jury, where evidence is presented and witnesses testify. In cases where there is a defendant, he can waive his right to a grand jury hearing or he can testify on his behalf.
Kindlon gave an example of a store robbery. If someone and goes in and robs a store, and the police come, and that person is walking out of the store, Kinldon said, and is caught by police, he is arrested and becomes the defendant.
Heffernan stressed that Delmar residents should feel safe.
`Residents should be assured that their safety is of the utmost importance to the department,` Heffernan said. `When we feel outside agencies are needed, we accept those offers for help. These are major cases.`