Traffic was moving quite slowly within about 100 miles of the village of Afton on Thursday evening and Friday, Sept. 16-17, 1982, as many police agencies set up roadblocks in search for a killer or killers of a convenience store clerk.
James F. Wilcox, then 19, was working at the Afton Country Store on state Route 41, where he was shot twice with a handgun. A customer discovered the body almost immediately after the shooting at 9:30 p.m. Thursday. Wilcox had been talking on a telephone with a friend during a quiet time and told his friend he had a customer. The friend overheard “two slapping sounds, like leather on a hard surface.” Wilcox then told his friend he had been shot.
Investigators determined there had been no struggle between Wilcox and his assailant. Like all employees of Country Stores in the region, Wilcox had been instructed not to take chances with holdup men. He did not have a combination to the store safe, and the safe had not been tampered with. The assailant apparently cleared out the cash register and fled.
The Daily Star reported Sept. 21 that state police were searching for two suspects. Authorities had received descriptions of two men standing on a bridge less than 150 yards from the store prior to the killing.
Another convenience store was robbed Sept. 21, and authorities had reason to think it was tied to the Afton shooting. The J&J Stop n’ Shop on Robinson Street in Binghamton was held up shortly before 11 p.m. that day. Christine E. Kamide, then 22, was shot in the head and later died. The assailant cleared the cash register and quickly departed.
It took 83 days in a joint investigation by state police and Binghamton police, but it was reported Dec. 11, that two Deposit men, Herman Dennis Neu, then 29, and Thomas Henry Marlowe, then 31, had been arrested and taken to the state police station in Kirkwood. Both were charged with second-degree murder and first-degree robbery at both convenience stores.
Neu had been well known to Deposit police for a decade for several minor crimes and as a parole violator who had served time at the state penitentiary in Elmira. Marlowe had no prior offenses and had lived in Deposit only six weeks prior to the murders.
At the time of the arrests, Kenneth Wilcox, father of James F. Wilcox, told The Daily Star that he was glad the two were off the street. The father of six said that he moved his family to Afton from Babylon on Long Island to get away from crime.
“You don’t expect it to happen in a small town,” Wilcox said.
In trials that took place in 1983, and appeals in 1987, Neu was pinpointed as the gunman in both convenience store sites and Marlowe as the accomplice in getaways and disposing of the guns. Marlowe got a portion of the proceeds of the two robberies. In the Binghamton shooting, the two then drove across the Pennsylvania line and spent the rest of that night and into the early morning hours the next day buying drinks at a bar.
Neu and Marlowe were given life sentences for murder and robbery. Marlowe, currently in Attica Correctional Facility, could be eligible for parole in 2014. Neu, in Southport Correctional Facility, Chemung County, could be eligible for parole in 2033.
This weekend, the first private airplane owners of Otsego County in the fall of 1927.