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Cousin of elderly couple found buried in Stockholm left with questions

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CANTON — The cousin of the elderly woman discovered to be buried with her husband behind a mobile home in the town of Stockholm said her family was left hurt and filled with questions.

Human remains that were unearthed at 733 May Road have been positively identified by state police as Betty D., 82, and Alvin S. Babcock, 84, the couple for whom state police have been searching following what began as a welfare fraud investigation last week.

Mrs. Babcock’s cousin, Mary J. Proper of Cadyville, said troopers were led to the burial plots by Robert Bartlett, who she said told police he buried them there after they died.

“I find it funny. Why would someone bury somebody like that, anyway?” Mrs. Proper asked. “If they died naturally, I know they weren’t young, but if something happened to them, he should have let someone know.”

Mr. Bartlett was originally a neighbor of the Babcocks in Bombay, where they lived, Mrs. Proper said, and the couple moved into the Stockholm trailer with Mr. Bartlett, his wife and his mother. The trailer is now vacant, and Mr. Bartlett was undergoing mental health evaluation in Ogdensburg as of late last week.

No charges have been brought in the matter, and no suspects have been named, state police said.

Mrs. Proper said Mr. Bartlett drove the Babcocks around on errands and should have known they had family in the surrounding area, including Mrs. Proper’s brother, William A. Lamica, who lives in Malone.

“That’s what we can’t figure out. Why didn’t he let the family know? Betty must have told him that she had relatives around the area. We have all been upset since we found out and it just doesn’t make any sense,” Mrs. Proper said.

The Babcocks always stayed close to where their family lived, and they were constantly visiting Mr. Lamica during outings, Mrs. Proper said.

Mr. Lamica could not be reached Tuesday night, but in an earlier interview he said the last time he saw his cousin was two years ago, when Mrs. Babcock stopped at his house before taking her husband to a Plattsburgh hospital to have his leg amputated. She gave him a kiss, he hugged her, and he hasn’t heard from her since that day, he said.

“This has been hard on him and he is quite upset,” Mrs. Proper said. “He was very close with Betty. He is probably out making plans for services, because I tried to call him and he was out.”

Mrs. Proper said the family is planning a service in Malone followed by cremation of the remains, which will either stay with Mr. Lamica or be buried in Tupper Lake with Mrs. Babcock’s mother.

“They didn’t deserve this,” Mrs. Proper said. “Betty and Al were really good people, and they never did anything bad or wrong to anybody. … They are just very trusting of other people. That’s the way they are. They have always lived that way.”

Autopsy results are still pending to determine how the Babcocks died, St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary E. Rain said, but she said that the first body uncovered Friday in a concrete-lined box was that of Mrs. Babcock, and that Mr. Babcock was discovered wrapped in nothing but a blanket Monday night.

Both bodies were taken to Albany Medical Center, where forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Sikirica was to perform autopsies Tuesday morning.

State police obtained a search warrant during their welfare fraud investigation when they were led to believe human remains might have been buried on the property. The Troop B Forensic Identification Unit and the Troop B Violent Crimes Investigation Team assisted in the search.

But Mrs. Proper said the family still has questions about the death of her cousin and her husband and the direction of the investigation.

“That is what bothers me, not being able to know if they were abused,” Mrs. Proper said. “I just hope and pray that it wasn’t something that [Mr. Bartlett] did to them. It would really tear us all apart if we were to learn that he did. You never know. She was the only one we had left in the family.”

State police Lt. John R. Coryea said once the autopsy comes to a conclusion and it receives the report, the Violent Crimes Investigation Team will know which direction to take in its investigation.

“We’re looking for the pathologist to determine the cause of death and the coroner to determine manner or circumstances of death, that is, if it was accidental, natural or homicide,” Mr. Coryea said.

State police are remaining at 733 May Road to hold security as it is still an open investigation, state police Troop B spokeswoman Trooper Jennifer V. Fleishman said.

“It’s an excavation site where we are set up with forensic investigators, and we are maintaining it until they find everything they need to find,” she said.

With the bodies of the Babcocks discovered, police are focusing on pursuing leads as they arrive, Mr. Coryea said.

“The autopsy is an important part of this investigation and that will hopefully determine which direction to go in this case and help us dot the i’s and cross the t’s,” Mr. Coryea said.

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