“History is rife with such issues of fleecing. It was unpatriotic to even question evidence on behalf of war and weapons of mass destruction.” Doesn’t that sound like a quote you would contribute to someone like Winston Churchill or Eisenhower or George W. Bush? Oops. Scratch that last name. How eloquent is that, even though it makes no sense out of (and inside of) its context. These are the parting words of a killer who was convicted of murdering 15-year-old Joseph Martin with a lead pipe on Friday November 19, 2010, as he left the Ulster County Courthouse to begin his sentence of 15 years to life. It was a cold case that had taken 12 years to solve, but finally young Joey received justice. This case also has a bizarre twist to it. Not only was young Joey missing for 12 years some of his closest friends “knew” what happened to him and refused to come forward and tell the police – or at the very least, his parents.
Martin was a strawberry-haired fresh-faced boy on the cusp of life. He was a popular track athlete and in spite of his teenaged antics, close with his parents and usually well-behaved. On March 25, 1996, he climbed out of his bedroom window to go and meet some friends, 15-year-old Alexander Barsky and 17-year-old Daniel Malak, to drink some beer, smoke some pot and watch the great comet of that year, Comet Hyakutake. Nothing wrong with being spaced out while looking into space. The three boys were to meet at Malak’s cabin. And Martin was never seen alive again.
When Martin failed to show at the cabin, the two boys were interviewed by state police, and said that though there had been a prearranged meeting with Martin, he had never shown up. Malak stated that he and Barsky had then gone to the “quarry,” drunk some beer and watched the comet. A search party was arranged for the boy, and both of his friends joined, but no body was ever found. Eventually the search was called off and the case was dropped. Not long afterward, a witness heard Malak and Barsky brag that they killed Martin. They told friends where they had brought Martin and that they had handcuffed him to a tree and shot him to death (a fallacy) but when police searched the area, no body was found.
The case may have faded from people’s minds but his family, including Martin’s stepfather Lance Lightstone, his mother Cathaleen, never stopped looking for Martin. Photographs that showed Martin’s face getting progressively older were posted on hydro poles with the vain hope that someone might see them and contact Martin’s family. “Somebody [knows] something. Joe wasn’t abducted by an alien spaceship. Somebody [knows] what happened to him,” Lightstone commented. Their grief was palpable. If only Martin hadn’t slipped out of the house and gone to meet his friends he would never have gone missing. The family refused to accept that Martin might be dead. Alas, no one came forward.
In what should have been a red flag for police, the following year Malak was convicted of murdering 62-year-old George Allison in his parent’s home. Malak was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. However the Martin case was no longer on the police radar so no one made a connection to his disappearance.
Then in 2008 Peter Cirigliano joined the Ulster County Police department. He was assigned the Joseph Martin Missing Persons case. He was brand new and had fresh eyes. After only a few months, Cirigliano decided to “go back and re-interview these two kids.” Cirigliano first visited Barsky and asked him to re-tell the story of waiting for Martin to smoke a little weed and watch the Comet with him. Barsky fidgeted and couldn’t meet Cirigliano’s eyes. He asked for a cigarette. Then he broke down and wept. After 12 years, Barsky’s conscience was still haunted by the death of his friend. He told Cirigliano that Martin had been murdered and he knew who the killers were – Malak and himself.
On the night of May 24, 1996, the two boys lured Martin to the quarry where the boys supposedly went to watch Comet Hyakutake. However Barsky was angry because Martin had “ripped him off” of money and given him “bad marijuana“. He was determined to seek revenge against Martin. The sociopathic Malak arranged the meeting specifically to murder his “friend.” Poor Martin never stood a chance. When the unsuspecting Martin turned his back, Malak attacked him viciously with a 2-foot metal pipe, beating him to death while Barsky coldly looked on. Martin was hit in the head at least twice. Malak was the mastermind behind the murder but Barsky had done nothing to prevent it. No wonder Martin’s friends hadn’t stepped up to reveal what had happened to Martin. They were the reason he was dead.
Six years after Martin’s murder, Barsky dug up his skeletal remains, took them to New York City and disposed of them in a dumpster. Why he made this move, I can’t say. Perhaps he had received information that police were digging around the quarry. After disposing of Martin’s remains they were never found. Barsky took police to the location where the two boys had initially hidden Martin’s body. The forensic team sifted through the dirt and discovered Barsky wasn’t successful at finding all of Martin’s remains. A fractured jawbone fragment and a tooth remained. The fracture was caused by a “lateral blow struck with great force” against Martin’s head.
Malak wasn’t so contrite. He denied any involvement in Martin’s death, even though he was already serving time for Allison’s brutal murder. The jury wasn’t fooled by his protests of innocence and he was convicted of murder in the second degree for the killing of Joseph Martin. I think he should have been convicted of murder in the first but that’s a jury for you. You never can figure them out. When asked if he had anything to say to the court, Malak made the eloquent yet bizarre statement about war and weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps he was still high from the night he murdered Martin. Perhaps he was comparing the metal pipe he used to kill his friend to weapons of mass destruction used to kill millions, belittling the use of the pipe when the world should be more concerned with mass killings and nuclear bombs. However a weapon is a weapon and the metal pipe did its job. Malak is carrying out his sentence in Attica Correctional Facility.
After a plea-bargain for his testimony against Malak, Barsky was found guilty of manslaughter in the first degree, and received the maximum sentence of three-and-a-third to 10 years in prison. He told police that he intended to “rough up” Martin but not to kill him. Barsky told the parole board he was “deeply ashamed” he had joined the search party for Martin. He went before a state parole board in May 2013 and the decision was made that, despite a spotless record in prison, the 32-year old Barsky did not deserve to be freed because his crime was “brutal and with a total disregard for human life.” And given Barsky’s criminal record in the years after Martin’s death, “there is a reasonable probability that (he) would not live and remain at liberty without again violating the law.”
The parole board’s ruling marked the second time Barsky’s release was denied. The first was in 2011, when the board called Martin’s slaying “a violent, malicious act” and said freeing Barsky “would so deprecate the seriousness of the … offense as to undermine respect for the law.” Whatever the crimes were that Barsky committed in the years since Martin’s murder it was clear he intended to live his life outside the law.
The Martins finally had closure, if not happiness.