Man arrested in Schodack for January assault

SCHODACK, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A man was arrested on Wednesday in connection to an assault that occurred in January.

Schodack police arrested 41-year-old John Walko after a five-month joint investigation with the New York State Police. He turned himself in to police on Wednesday after the Rensselaer County District Attorney said he would be arrested for the crime.

Police said Walko assaulted a 69 year old man on January 28. Authorities are not releasing the identity of the victim, but they believe he was Walko’s mechanic.

Police said the victim was working in his auto body shop on Reno Road when he was attacked.

Walko was arrested and charged with First Degree Robbery and First Degree Assault, both felonies.

“Search warrants were gathered, further evidence was gathered and processed, and that’s what brought us to this conclusion so far today,” Schodack Police Chief Bernhard Peter said.

Georgette Knott-Defoe lives next door to where the alleged assault occurred. She wasn’t surprised to learn the suspect is somebody the victim knew.

“We all knew that it had to be someone who was familiar with Jim,” she said. “What Jim’s routine was and what his whereabouts were because, as you can see from the road, you can’t tell there’s a garage in the back.”

But she was still in disbelief about the injuries he endured.

“Oh, Jim was phenomenal,” she said. “Oh, my God; he’s so sweet, so quiet; keeps to himself. He’s a harmless old man.”

Police said Walko struck the victim in the head and face causing severe head trauma before robbing him.

“There was a point where we weren’t sure in the early hours whether he was going to make it or not,” Chief Peter said.

Walko’s lawyer, Frederick Rench, said his client willingly surrendered his van to authorities to conduct a search. Police said they recovered DNA evidence in the van that matched evidence found at the crime scene.

But Rench argues the evidence against him is circumstantial and does not link Walko to the crime.

“That tells us there’s no physical evidence linking him to the crime – that Mr. Walko made no admission, and there’s no eye witness testimony,” Rench said. “In essence, there’s nothing linking Mr. Walko to this crime.”

“Though we’re not in a position to discuss exactly what kind that is, we feel confident our case will be proven,” Chief Peter said.

Walko pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

The victim spoke to NEWS10 ABC off camera. He’s doing okay, though he’s not 100 percent. He still can’t see well out of his left eye due to the beating.

He also couldn’t speak about the case because it is an ongoing investigation.

Walko was remanded to the Rensselaer County Jail. His bail was set at $75,000.

Walko had a prior felony conviction in 1998. The assistant district attorney also said police have been called to his home before for domestic violence reports.

He’s expected back in Schodack Town Court for a preliminary hearing on July 7.

If that doesn’t happen it will go to a grand jury on July 8.

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