Sullivan County Democrat
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Contributed Photo

THIS IS A police file photo of Ronald Caruso, who allegedly killed Gary Kays on Tuesday.

Murders Shake Up
Sullivan County

By Dan Hust and Matt Youngfrau
CALLICOON — August 31, 2001 – A manhunt for an alleged two-time killer involving dozens of local and state law enforcement agencies from throughout Sullivan County, northern New York, Pennsylvania and Quebec, Canada – even Canadian and New England authorities – reportedly came to an end late yesterday.
According to Sullivan County Sheriff Dan Hogue, the suspect, 18-year-old Ronald Caruso of the Beechwoods section of Callicoon, was reportedly captured by police in Delaware County.
Hogue, who had yet to confirm it was Caruso late yesterday, said New York State Police caught Caruso and arrested him peacefully in the northern Delaware County hamlet of Franklin about 3 p.m. yesterday.
He said his detectives were enroute to the Sidney State Police barracks last night to meet with police and the suspect.
According to Hogue, Caruso shot and killed his uncle, 30-year-old Gary Kays, Tuesday night at Kays’ home located on County Route 164 between Callicoon and Jeffersonville.
Police said Kays was shot once in the arm and once in the back. He managed to call 911 before passing away at the Grover Hermann division of Community General Hospital in Callicoon. It is not known at this time if he made a statement to police before his death.
Caruso allegedly left the scene with a stolen car shortly after the shooting and evidently headed north, where he made it to a rest stop 200 miles away and allegedly killed another man and stole his car, said Hogue.
At a press conference yesterday afternoon in Monticello, Hogue and Sullivan County District Attorney Steve Lungen warned that Caruso – a six-foot, 160-pound young man with brown eyes and brown hair styled in a short, military haircut – was to be considered armed and very dangerous and not to be approached by civilians, as he was suspected of still carrying the high-powered .308-caliber rifle he allegedly used to kill Kays.
The initial car he stole, a 1986 Buick Cutlass owned by Kays’ father Bob, was found yesterday morning around 6:30 a.m. by Essex County police at the Lewis Area Rest Stop off Interstate 87 in Westport near Plattsburgh, about 40 miles from the Canadian border and more than four hours from Sullivan County.
In the driver’s seat, police found a dead white male, 19-year-old Luke Leborgne of Kanawake, Quebec, who had a gunshot wound to the neck.
A vehicle, presumably owned by the dead man, was missing from the rest stop and presumed stolen by Caruso, said Hogue. Police suspect Caruso killed the Quebec man in order to steal his vehicle, since police were looking for Kays’ car.
The vehicle Caruso supposedly was driving was a burgundy 1984 Oldsmobile with Quebec license plates that have the markings “491JFW.”
At the conference, Hogue said if the vehicle or Caruso was spotted, people should call 911 or the Sheriff’s Department at 845-794-7100. State Police from Sidney said a trooper saw the stolen car on Otego Road near Franklin.
Kays’ death was the talk of residents who live around the Village of Jeffersonville and the surrounding hamlets of Callicoon, Hortonville, North Branch and beyond.
He was a well-liked and well-respected firefighter with the Hortonville Fire Department, including being its past president and current captain, and could often be found picking up milk at local dairy farms with his father, Bob Kays, who runs a dairy farm and milk delivery business near Kays’ home.
“Gary was always there to help when you needed anything,” said David Fitch, a Jeffersonville farmer who was Kays’ landlord. “He was a good friend and neighbor.”
Fitch said he knew Kays for nearly two decades and had worked side-by-side with him on the farm. He added that Kays had moved into Fitch’s rental home on County Route 164 in April and was looking to purchase the house.
“It’s just such a tragedy,” Fitch remarked prior to taking food up to the home of Bob and Linda Kays. “I’d do anything to get him back. He was a good kid, and he didn’t deserve that.”
As to why Kays was shot, Sheriff Hogue had no answers – only leads like the fact that Caruso had been Absent Without Leave (AWOL) from Fort Riley, an Army base in Kansas, since August 23 (the military police have been notified, he said); and that he had been in trouble with the law before, although a recent misdemeanor charge had been dismissed.
Caruso, a native of Delaware County, is the stepson of Jeffrey and Rosa Kays of Callicoon. Jeffrey is the brother of Gary Kays.
Caruso is being transported from Sidney to the Town of Elizabethtown Justice Court in Essex County for arraignment on one count of murder in the second degree, said State Police. Additional charges are expected to be filed by the SC Sheriff's Dept.
Fitch said he knew Caruso and thought he was “a nice kid.” Though he didn’t know why Caruso might want to kill Kays, Fitch said, “There are other ways to solve problems. You just don’t pick up a gun.”
Regardless, DA Steve Lungen said Caruso was likely a desperate man yesterday.
“We have a real concern about another encounter,” he said yesterday, just before officials were made aware of the peaceful capture of Caruso.
Kay’s complete obituary can be found on in today's Obituaries.

Democrat File Photo

Gary Kays

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