State sent county notice on offender in kidnapping case

Larry Keiper

Six days before Larry Keiper allegedly entered a Wheatfield home to kidnap a 6-year-old girl, the Niagara Crime Analysis Center was notified that Keiper had cut off his ankle monitor.

Keiper, a sex offender with a history of burglaries, was required to wear the monitor as a condition of his parole for a 2004 burglary in Niagara County. Sheriff Jim Voutour described Keiper as an "animal" who invaded a random woman's home and nearly committed a heinous crime against her young daughter.

Upon learning that Keiper's monitor had been tampered, the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision issued an absconder warrant that was available to all police agencies in New York through the National Crime Information Center, according to department spokesperson Thomas Mailey. The warrant was issued at 11:20 a.m. June 22. 

The Department also requested the Niagara Crime Analysis Center, housed within the Niagara Falls Police Department, to issue a "be on the lookout," or BOLO, for Keiper. That BOLO was issued just before noon June 22, Mailey said.

The BOLO was included as an attachment to an intelligence report on crime in the City of Niagara Falls, which the sheriff's department receives daily, according to Voutour.

Voutour said Wednesday that high-ranking sheriff's department officers had not seen the BOLO on June 22. Had they seen the notification, there's a better chance they might have caught Keiper, 64, before he allegedly attempted to kidnap the young girl from her Ward Road home in the middle of the night.

Twelve days passed before police charged Keiper in the incident. Throughout that time, a next-door neighbor to the victim, Salvatore Prezioso, sat in Niagara County Jail. Authorities have now cleared Prezioso of all charges. 

“Had we seen it and known the ankle bracelet was cut off, we would have been more on the lookout for (Keiper)," Voutour said.

Voutour attributed the oversight to the deluge of Niagara Falls-related information coming out of the crime analysis center.

"A lot of times we just skim that (daily report) because we just don't have time to read it all," said Voutour, adding that his department issues county-wide intelligence reports once a week. "There's a lot of information coming into the intel center and out of the intel center, and we obviously missed this one.”

Voutour said that he and other deputies weren't aware of the June 22 notification during a Tuesday morning press conference, in which Voutour and District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek announced Keiper's arrest in the incident and Prezioso's exoneration. 

Keiper was arrested June 29, the day after the attempted kidnapping incident, for trespassing onto private property in Wheatfield. He remained at the Niagara County Jail on a parole violation, and was arraigned Tuesday morning in Wheatfield Town Court on charges of attempted kidnapping, burglary and endangering the welfare of a child.

Keiper has a history of burglaries and sex crimes against children.

Prosecutors say that in 2004, Keiper entered a family's North Tonawanda home and was found by the parents in the bedroom of their 6-year-old daughter. Keiper was also convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl in California in 1983, a conviction which led to him being registered as a level three sex offender, the designation for those most likely to reoffend. 

Keiper was sentenced to over 30 years in jail, but was released in 1997, according to the California sex offender registry.

At the Tuesday press conference, Voutour accused the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision of failing to notify the sheriff's department that Keiper had removed his ankle monitor.

"I'm not saying we could've prevented it, but I would have liked to know that this guy was on the loose without his ankle bracelet," Voutour said Tuesday. "You don't cut it off because it's too heavy to wear. You cut it off because you have intentions to do something. This guy's an animal and he prowled around Niagara County, and almost raped a little girl. And besides that, he sent someone else to jail for 12 days. And I'm not saying we could've prevented it, but our chances would've been much better if we knew.”

Similar situations have ended far worse.

In 2013, David Renz, who was on parole for child pornography, managed to remove his monitor without tipping off BI, Inc., the Colorado company that manufactures the bracelets, according to The Post-Standard. While on the loose, Renz attacked school librarian Lori Bresnahan and 10-year-old girl in Clay, a suburb of Syracuse. Renz stabbed Brenahan to death and raped the girl. Probation officers didn't learn he had slipped his leash until two hours later. 

Voutour said that up until June 22, Keiper had complied with his monitoring requirements, even though he frequently was found in violation of his parole. 

Keiper was sentenced to prison in 1971 for a burglary in Niagara County in 1971, and again in 1978 for a second burglary in Erie County, according to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. In both cases, he violated parole and was returned to jail.

Upon his release in the second case, Keiper moved to California, where he spent 14 years behind bars on the rape charge.

Keiper then returned to Niagara County, where he soon found himself again facing burglary charges. In 1998, he was sentenced to 7 years in prison for second-degree burglary.

He was paroled in July 2003, but by September 2005, he was once more facing charges of second-degree burglary. This time, Keiper was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Keiper moved to eastern Pennsylvania after being paroled in 2015. That September, he was arrested in Milford, Penn. for peeping into a woman's bedroom at night, and was returned to New York state prison in January 2016, according to The Express-Times.

Keiper was last paroled Dec. 7, 2017.

For the parole violation alone, Voutour said, Keiper could remain behind bars until 2022.

"He was in compliance with his monitoring for several years, but in the meantime had several run-ins with law enforcement, not in in New York but in state of Pennsylvania as well," Voutour said. "He is a career criminal. He is a career sex offender."

Keiper is now accused of entering the victim's Ward Road home at about 3:30 a.m. June 28, and carrying off a 6-year-old girl. When the girl's mother awoke and gave chase, Keiper left the girl on the stairs and fled.

Later that morning, police arrested Prezioso based on an identification from the victim. Wojtaszek said Prezioso also made statements to police that led to him being wrongfully charged. 

But after questioning Keiper, investigators began to shift their focus.

Wojtaszek said the investigators at the county forensic laboratory worked around the clock to test DNA evidence left at the scene. That forensic evidence completely exonerated Prezioso.

“There was an initial arrest of Mr. Prezioso based on probable cause," Wojtaszek said. "But that was corrected as quickly as possible under the circumstances. We wanted to make sure that we had solid evidence against Mr. Keiper and that we knew who did this.”

“Sometimes DNA can take months at best. … This was done at lightning speed because of basically 24-hour work every day," she added. 

Wojtaszek declined to provide any specifics on the DNA evidence.

“It's certainly strong enough evidence for us to dismiss the charges against Mr. Prezioso and bring charges against Mr. Keiper," she said.

Prezioso was released Monday afternoon following an unscheduled court appearance before Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon. 

Theresa Prezioso, Salvatore's attorney and niece by marriage, said the wrongful arrest has devastated his family.

"Not withstanding this just result, Mr. Prezioso suffered the indignity of being publicly labeled as a predator," Theresa Prezioso said. "He endured 12 days in the Niagara County Jail for a crime in which he had no involvement. These false accusations laid upon Mr. Prezioso and their subsequent consequences were incredibly painful for Sal and his family. Sal is hopeful that this nightmare will serve to remind the public that a rush to judgement is never fair and that an arrest is not tantamount to guilt. Sal's case underscores how eyewitness identification can be unreliable, particularly under certain circumstances, such as those that existed in this case."

Attorney Robert Viola said it's "very premature" for Prezioso to decide whether he will sue the county, district attorney or sheriff's department for his wrongful arrest.

“It's not something he's brought up. He's really putting his energies into getting himself grounded and getting back into his employment," Viola said.

Voutour on Wednesday acknowledged that it'd been inaccurate to suggest the sheriff's department had not been notified of Keiper cutting off his ankle monitor. However, he said the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision could have done more to ensure local law enforcement received the BOLO notification, perhaps by calling his office.

“It's pretty serious. If they cut off the ankle bracelet, that means they're about to do something bad," Voutour said. "And that's reason to start looking for somebody.

“I think a little more could've been done," he added. "And I'd like to see that done in the future.”

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