Authorities were aided by the public, a local social media outlet and an intrepid pet bloodhound in the hunt for Michael Ciskiewic.
Efforts culminated with the the capture of Ciskiewic by the U.S. Marshals Service on Monday night, less than 48 hours after authorities say the suspect kidnapped, raped and chained up a female neighbor in the basement of his Monroe Avenue residence.
Ciskiewic, 25, was found in the overgrowth of a field at 24th Street and Allen Avenue, just off of Buffalo Avenue, about 7:30 p.m. He is charged with first-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary, first-degree rape, second-degree assault and second-degree menacing.
According to reports, he pled not guilty when he was arraigned in Niagara Falls City Court Tuesday and is being held on charges.
Dominic Saraceno, Ciskiewic’s attorney, said the suspect was previously diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to Channel 4 News.
“The mental health community has left it up to police and prison guards to deal with people who suffer from mental health,” Saraceno said. “Quite frankly, police officers and prison guards aren’t equipped to help people who suffer from mental health illness.”
Saraceno would not say whether Ciskiewic was on any medication at the time of the incident.
The investigation began after Niagara Falls Police were called to the 3000 block of Monroe Avenue at 1 a.m. on June 10 for what was believed to be an assault. A caller told dispatchers that a man was assaulting a woman. Police Superintendent Thomas Licata said the incident was witnessed by a neighbor, who verbally confronted the suspect.
The neighbor, who was threatened by Ciskiewic, retreated to his house and dialed 911, Licata said. By the time police arrived, the victim and suspect were gone.
Rizzo said Monday that the attack happened when she answered the door for Ciskiewic.
“She was familiar with him to open the door, even at that late hour it seemed odd that he would be there but I think she felt comfortable enough … she probably wanted to see if he was OK and the attack happened as soon as she opened the door.”
Rizzo said the woman made it a point to let investigators know she fought back.
“There was a pretty big fight,” Rizzo said. “She’s pretty tough. She fought back.
She’s continuing to fight. Not only is she out of the hospital sooner than we thought, we know she’s going to be a good witness in this case.”
Left behind early Sunday morning was a splash of blood. Floodlights were set up and investigators swabbed samples as evidence, the superintendent said. The scene attracted the attention of residents in person and on social media, Licata said.
Word got back to the victim’s family that the activity was taking place near their relative’s home, in part due to the scene being posted to The Action Niagara Falls, Facebook-based news outlet operated by Falls resident Samar Hamilton that typically responds to emergency situations in the region, according to Police Capt. Kelly Rizzo.
The victim’s relatives visited her residence and found she was gone without her phone and car keys, Licata said. They sensed something was wrong and called police.
Local authorities subsequently reassembled at the crime scene, discovering periodic blood spatters stretching from the small splash that was first noticed to another nearby alleyway, where the trail appeared to end.
Police presumed the victim and suspect could have been picked up or otherwise left in a vehicle, Licata said, but decided to call in the assistance of a bloodhound belonging to a member of the animal control unit and crisis negotiations team.
Officer Donny Booth and his 2-year-old hound, Flash, had lent their skills to smaller-stakes investigations in the past and jumped at the opportunity to assist in the matter, Booth said Monday. The dog is not an official member of the force, but is certified through the American Mantrailing, Police and Work Dog Association, Booth said.
At the scene, Flash and Booth went through their normal prep. The hound cleared his nose on a quick walkabout. Booth attached Flash’s harness to the dog’s torso, directed the hound’s attention to the residual blood and gave the command, “Ready, go.”
“We were following little tiny pin-pricks of blood,” Booth said of the zig-zagging quarter-mile path Flash sensed.
But where the trail visually ran out for the cops it continued on for the hound. Booth said the dog is sensitive to the scent of deposited skin cells invisible to the human eye. The dog’s nose led him about 100 feet from the last visible spot of blood. Flash pointed investigators to the latched fence of the house in which the victim was located.
“I’m glad it were able to save the girl when we did,” Booth said. “Who knows what could have happened.”
Members of the Falls’ Emergency Response Team assisted investigators with entering the home where the woman was found chained in the basement. She was freed from her chains and transported to Erie County Medical Center for treatment.
She was released from ECMC late Monday afternoon and is staying with a relative.
Licata said he was impressed with the hound’s work.
“If (Flash) doesn’t do another good piece of police work in his life, he still did something great here,” he said.