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Port Jervis Community Stands Together After A Shop Owner Is Murdered

WAMC, Allison Dunne

A wake is being held today for the elderly Port Jervis cobbler who was fatally beaten in his shop last week. The community is grateful for a quick arrest, though deeply saddened by the tragedy.

Don Fisher returned Monday to Kucher’s Shoe Repair on Front Street in Port Jervis, in Orange County, near the Pennsylvania border. 77-year-old Joseph Kucher, an Austrian immigrant and veteran, had owned the store for 40 years. Police say Kucher was severely beaten at the store last week. Fisher signed a card in the window and recalled a pair of shoes.

“Leather hunting boots. I’ve had ‘em now about six years and they’re beautiful. He did beautiful work and he was a beautiful person,” says Fisher. “It’s a shame you have idiots in the world who do the things that happened here.”

Robyn Onofry was born and raised in Port Jervis. She also stood at the store entrance, tearfully noticing the numerous candles and flowers left at the door. She says it’s the second tragedy for the Kucher family.

“I knew his whole family. I went to school with his son Joe,” says Onofry. “And Joe was killed, young Joe was killed 20 years ago by a drunk driver.”

Credit Courtesy of the Kucher family
Mr. Josef Kucher

Onofry stood outside the shop shortly after attending a press conference during which a crowd of community members spilled into the hallway.

“Everybody, it was nice, police did a wonderful job and everybody kept calm,” says Onofry. “I  just hope this guy gets his justice for what he did.”

“What’s justice?” asks Dunne.

“I guess there is none,” answers Onofry.

Deerpark resident Flo Santini offered comments when authorities took questions from the audience.

“I want to thank you, every one of you and every department, with all my heart and for our families and our friends to know that he is behind bars,” says Santini. “Thank you and thank you  from all of us.” 

Here’s Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler, who commended the cooperation among various agencies for identifying and arresting the suspect within 24 hours of the crime.

“I have never walked into a press conference in all my years where there’s this many people from the community, where people are thanking law enforcement,” says Hoovler. “So credit to the residents of Port Jervis, Deerpark, and western Orange County.” 

Dennis McBee

The morning of November 7, authorities say a customer found Kucher lying on the floor behind the counter. The shop’s cash register had been emptied. Kucher died of his injuries the following day. Port Jervis Police Chief William Worden says 29-year-old Dennis McBee of Port Jervis was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He says McBee is being held on unrelated charges in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and would be returned to Orange County.

“This is certainly a horrific crime for the community, it’s shocked the community,” says Worden. “To see a business owner targeted, and robbed, and murdered, it’s certainly shocked our community.”

Worden says he does not believe any weapon was used, that it was a physical attack with robbery the likely motive.

Many had stories to tell, from buying shoelaces from Mr. Kucher to his expert shoe repair. And it was always Mr. Kucher. Mr. and Mrs. Kucher. Port Jervis Mayor Kelly Decker has a recent story.

“Our congressman, Sean Patrick Maloney, came to town. And we walked him down Front Street and I said, oh, you’ve got to meet Mr. Kucher. Mr. Kucher was outside sweeping. And the first thing Mr. Kucher did was shook his hand and said, ‘would you like to be an apprentice.’ Mr. Kucher has been looking for something… he’s from Old World, and back then you apprenticed before you became an owner of a shop,” says Decker. “And so here he is asking the congressman of the United States  House of Representatives, he’s asking him if he wants to be an apprentice.  In recent years, that’s what he’s done, he really wanted to retire, but he didn’t want to leave the public that he loved so much without a store.”  

Credit WAMC, Allison Dunne

In fact, a For Sale sign sits in the window. Port Jervis resident John Teets looked at the makeshift memorial outside Kucher’s Shoe Repair.

“So sad to hear about how somebody got brutally killed like that. It’s just so sad,” says Teets. “So I just wanted to come down, pay my respects, even though I didn’t know the guy because my heart goes out to his family and everybody.”

The wake was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at the Gray-Parker Funeral Home in Port Jervis. Wednesday’s funeral service was scheduled at St. Mary’s Church, also in Port Jervis.

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