June 20, 2009

Kot Arraigned on Murder, Arson and Evidence-Tampering Charges

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After waiving extradition from Pennsylvania on Thursday, Blazej Kot returned to Ithaca on Friday where he was arraigned on several charges, including the murder of his wife, Caroline Coffey, on June 2.

Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson formally accused Kot with second-degree murder, third-degree arson and tampering with physical evidence in Tompkins County Court with Judge John C. Rowley presiding.

Originally from New Zealand, Kot, who was a Cornell graduate student in information sciences, is no longer a registered student, according to CUPD Chief Kathy Zoner. If found guilty of the charges, Kot could serve anywhere from “25 [years] to life” in jail, Wilkinson said at a press conference on Friday.

Earlier this month, police investigations commenced when Kot drove into Taughannock Park after it had closed. A New York State Park Police Officer saw “what appeared to be blood” on Kot’s hands, according to a D.A. statement.

Kot sped away, covering “five miles at speeds in excess of 90 mph,” before finally “cross[ing] the centerline and driv[ing] off the left side of the roadway, crashing into trees next to the shoulder of the road.”

Police said they found Kot bleeding profusely from a large laceration to his throat. At that point, he allegedly told police to check on his wife.

Kot and Coffey’s apartment at 921C Taughannock Blvd. was later found on fire, and Coffey’s body was found the next morning.

“We have a couple working theories [about Kot’s motives],” Wilkinson said at a press conference after the arraignment. “We are continuing to sift through all the evidence … There is so much evidence.”

When asked how many people are involved in the investigation, Wilkinson replied, “Zillions.”

While Wilkinson said that she would not discuss the evidence of the investigation at the press conference, she did provide a rough timeline of the events.

“We have established that Coffey was killed in the evening hours and found the next morning at 8:50 a.m.,” she said. “We also know that it was 9:47 p.m. when Kot was first observed by police.”

With Kot’s bail hearing scheduled for Wednesday, Wilkinson and her office is preparing a report that will ask the court for appropriate bail, if any. Without any ties to this community, however, she expressed concern over the possibility that Kot may flee.

“[Kot] is not a citizen of the United States. He has no family here. He is not currently a registered student. We are concerned about a flight risk as a well as suicide,” Wilkinson said.

Until Friday, Kot had been held by police in Bradford County, Pennsylvania after being flown to a hospital there with life-threatening injuries. Kot’s attorney initially declined to waive extradition to New York last week, arguing that Kot’s constitutional rights had been violated by a 3 a.m. arraignment at the hospital without his attorney present, according to the Associated Press.

With the issue of extradition now resolved and Kot in custody in New York, Wilkinson said she hopes to have Kot appear before a grand jury this week.

As for Corporal Albert Ogden of Pennsylvania State Police in Bradford County, his part in Kot’s case is put to rest.

“I’m getting back in my car and heading south,” Ogden remarked on his way out of the Tompkins County Police Station.

A campus memorial service for Coffey will be held next Saturday, June 27, at 10:30 a.m. in Sage Chapel. Coffey was a researcher in biomedical engineering at Cornell.