A Middlefield man has been accused of fatally shooting his father, a retired Worcester Central School teacher, during a domestic dispute this weekend, sources said Sunday.
Michael Richard Buck, 33, of 163 Indian Run Road, was charged at about 7:30 p.m. Saturday with second-degree murder, first-degree assault and first-degree criminal use of a firearm, all felonies, Otsego County deputies said.
Buck allegedly shot his father, Joseph A. Buck, 64, multiple times with a handgun, Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin said.
Defendant Buck, who suffered a gunshot would to a hand, remained hospitalized Sunday with a deputy posted at his room, Devlin said.
Meanwhile, the Worcester school teaching community was in shock Sunday from the news about the death of Joseph Buck, who taught science to sixth-graders, said Jim Kenyon, a faculty member and athletic director at the district.
“It’s just a tragedy — it’s a shock,” Kenyon said. “It’s a big loss.”
At 1:42 a.m. Saturday, a caller from Indian Run Road told a dispatcher at the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office 911 Center that a suspicious person was outside her home, according to a media release.
Devlin said the call was from a Buck family relative who reported that the dogs were acting up and someone with a flashlight was outside her house.
The dispatcher was on the telephone with the resident for more than 12 minutes, during which time Michael Buck knocked on the door, apparently seeking help, Devlin said.
Joseph Buck and his wife, who wasn’t home at the time of the shooting, and Michael lived at the Indian Run Road residence, Devlin said, and other relatives lived in homes along the same road.
Authorities conducted interviews at the caller’s residence, and deputies went to the Buck residence and found Joseph A. Buck, 64, deceased.
Joseph’s body was found in the downstairs living quarters, the sheriff said, refusing to be more specific Sunday.
Devlin said the reason for the dispute between father and son remains under investigation, and he had no comment on whether alcohol or drugs was a factor.
“It’s still early in the investigation,” Devlin said.
Devlin said the gun has been recovered. The cause of death is pending an autopsy to be conducted today by Dr. James Terzian at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, the sheriff said. The autopsy also will determine how many times the elder Buck was shot, Devlin said, and other tests will be conducted.
Deputies were the first to response to the scene with assistance from Cooperstown police, Devlin said, and after arriving at the caller’s home, deputies and police officers located Buck, who had minor injuries.
Cooperstown and Middlefield fire departments also responded. Michael Buck was taken by emergency crews to Bassett Medical Center for treatment of minor injuries.
Michael Buck was arrested at the hospital, where he will remain for a few days, the sheriff said.
Indian Run Road is in an isolated area in the town of Middletown, near Cooperstown.
The Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigation Division and the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation from Troop C Major Crimes Unit, with assistance from the Troop C Forensic Investigation Unit, investigated the shooting death.
Investigators determined that Michael Buck killed his father using a firearm during a domestic dispute, deputies said.
“This is a very horrible crime,” said Devlin, who added that his thoughts and prayers are with the family. “It’s a very sad situation.”
Investigators consulted with Otsego County District Attorney John Muehl, who will prosecute the case, and executed a search warrant signed by Otsego County Court Judge John F. Lambert.
Deputies said an attorney has been retained for Buck, who was arraigned at the hospital Sunday morning by Lambert, acting as a Middlefield town judge.
Buck is to appear in Otsego County Court at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 30.
If convicted on the murder charge, Buck faces up to 25 years in prison, deputies said.
Joseph Buck retired from teaching perhaps three or four years ago, but faculty kept in touch, according to Kenyon. He said the retired Buck looked well and happy when he attended a retirement party for another teacher in June.
Worcester Central School has about 385 students, Kenyon said, and probably about 35 of the 40 teachers worked with Buck.
“We’re like a family,” Kenyon said.
Buck was mild-mannered, considerate man with a dry sense of humor, Kenyon said, and he was a meticulous teacher with high standards who was well-regarded by colleagues and students alike.
“Teaching was his passion — he just loved the kids,” Kenyon said. “He just loved science — he just brought science to life for the kids.”
Otsego County District No. 7 Rep. Beth Rosenthal, whose constituent area includes Middlefield, said she wasn’t acquainted with the defendant or his father. Rosenthal said couldn’t recall a shooting incident in Middlefield but Saturday’s incident prompted recollections of a domestic murder-suicide in Franklin last year.
“You always have the feeling that this kind of thing doesn’t happen around here,” Rosenthal said. “ But it does, unfortunately.”