2 more arrested in ‘suitcase’ saga

PHOTOGRAPHER:

JOHNSTOWN — Two more local people have been arrested by city police in the case of a Johnstown man’s remains found in Arkansas, bringing the total number of arrests to four, authorities said Thursday.

Police Lt. David Gilbo announced two more arrests in what he previously termed the “bizarre” transport and disposal of a corpse case involving the late Robert Brooks, 81, of 329 N. Perry St.

Gilbo and Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown provided more information on the case at a press conference Thursday at Johnstown City Hall.

Brown said Fulton County has experienced several cases of people hiding corpses in recent years. He said these cases always have “a component of fraud.”

Remains of Brooks, a World War II Army veteran, were found in a suitcase in a field in Des Arc, Ark. on March 5.

Arrested this week in Johnstown were: Aaron M. Rulison, 25, of

9 Eighth Ave., Gloversville; and Leeann N. Sager, 34, of 329 N. Perry St., Apartment 2, Johnstown.

Rulison is charged with one felony count of concealment of a human corpse.

Sager, who lived at Brooks’ house, was also arrested on that count. She was also charged with felony third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and misdemeanor second-degree criminal contempt.

The Prairie County Sheriff’s Department previously arrested Michael W. Stivers, no age available, and his girlfriend, Virginia L. “Ginger” Colvin, 56, both of 329 N. Perry St. Colvin was Brooks’ caregiver. They are in the Prairie County Jail in Des Arc, charged with with felony counts of abuse of a corpse. Stevers and Colvin may face six to 10 years if convicted in Arkansas.

Authorities said Colvin was Brooks’ caretaker and he died sometime between mid-January and mid-February of natural cases.

Police say Colvin is Sager’s aunt — the only family relations in this case.

But the four suspects in the case have ties to Brooks’ North Perry Street home.

“They’re all linked to that residence,” Gilbo said Thursday.

Arrests of Rulison and Sager were the result of a joint investigation between the Johnstown Police Department, New York State Police, Arkansas State Police and the Prairie County (Ark.) Sheriff’s Department.

“The cooperation has been unbelievable,” Gilbo said.

Identification of Brooks was finally made Wednesday night by Arkansas police, Gilbo said. The ID was made through a DNA match between Brooks and his son, Jay Brooks, whose address was not made public.

Gilbo said Jay Brooks asked that remains of his father, who was discharged in 1945, be escorted by the Patriot Guard veterans organization from Arkasnsas to a cemetery in South Carolina. He said Brooks will be buried with full military honors. A burial date hasn’t been set.

Brown said Thursday that Stivers and Colvin won’t be extradicted to New York state, and Rulison and Sager won’t be extradited to Arkansas.

Police say Colvin and Stivers transported Brooks’ remains in a suitcase in a pickup truck from Johnstown to Arkansas. There was no mutiliation of the body, Gilbo said.

Gilbo and Brown both declined to get into specifics about what Rulison and Sager allegedly did.

“This is still an active investigation,” Gilbo said.

He said the investigation may still take several more months.

Both new suspects — Rulison and Sager — were arraigned in City Court and sent to the Fulton County Jail in lieu of $2,500 cash and $5,000 bond, to await further court action.

Gilbo said Thursday that both are still incarcerated.

Sager is a registered New York state sex offender. She was convicted April 2008 of third-degree rape involving the Jan. 1, 2007 sexual intercourse incident with a 15-year-old male in Gloversville. She is currently on probation.

Brooks lived in the Gloversville and Broadalbin areas for most of his 90 years. But Gilbo said the man moved with Colvin to Bigelow, Ark. starting in mid-2013, before moving back Jan. 1 to Fulton County and settling in the North Perry Street home. Authorities said Stivers and Colvin have relatives in Arkansas.

Johnstown police had the 329 N. Perry St. home under surveillance on March 6.

A search warrant was secured for the building through Acting City Court Judge Louise K. Sira. Johnstown police and state police brought out bags of potential evidence all day on March 7.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Chad Fleck

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