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Couple indicted for Elizaville murder

ELIZAVILLE — Columbia County District Attorney (DA) Paul Czajka announced on Wednesday, May 11, that an Elizaville couple has been arrested and charged with the murder of a Long Island man who had been living with them in their home. Elizaville is one of many communities within the nine-town, two-county Pine Plains Central School District (PPCSD).

The small hamlet is in the towns of both Clermont and Gallatin, both within Columbia County. Gallatin is bounded on the north by Taghkanic, on the east by Ancram, on the west by Livingston and on the south by Milan — all also in located in Columbia County — as well as by Pine Plains on the south. Pine Plains is in Dutchess County.

Cassandra Fischer, 30, and Ryan Woods, 29, were arraigned before the Honorable Richard M. Koweek in Columbia County Court on the 11th on an indictment brought by a Columbia County Grand Jury.

According to a statement from the Columbia County State of New York DA’s Office, the pair was formally charged with Murder in the Second Degree (a Class A-1 Felony); two Counts of Endangering the Welfare of a Vulnerable Elderly Person in the First Degree (a Class D Felony); and Endangering the Welfare of an Incompetent or Physically Disabled Person in the First Degree (a Class E Felony). Additionally, Fischer was charged with Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (a Class C Felony).

Czajka stated that “Fischer and Woods are accused with mistreating, stealing from and causing the death of an elderly Long Island man who had been staying with them since late 2021.”

Ed Kessler was found dead on Feb. 7 in the Elizaville home, though the New York State Police (NYSP) did not initially deem it a homicide.

Some media outlets reported Kessler was strangled.

Troop K Public Information Officer A.J. Hicks from Salt Point said he could not confirm that before the arrests were announced.

Kessler was reported to have been in his mid-60s and from either Suffolk or Nassau County, Long Island.

The house in which his body was discovered was located on Mountain View Drive in Elizaville.

NYSP Troop K out of the Livingston Barracks investigated the case.

The District Attorney noted that he wanted to commend “the highly professional and diligent work of Senior Investigator Eric Barnes, Investigator James Sokolowski as well as the New York State Police Special Investigations Unit.” Assistant DA Ryan Carty is prosecuting the case.

As with any criminal proceedings, all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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