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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 23, 2012

Police discover burned crash victim is Matthew Arnold

By Zach Simeone

HILLTOWNS — After a pickup truck crashed and burst into flames in Knox last Wednesday, burning the driver beyond recognition, further investigation has led the Albany County Sheriff’s Office to believe that the driver was Matthew Arnold.

Police had pieced together Arnold’s activities the night of the Feb. 14, drinking with friends, into the early hours of the next morning, when he died.

“The DNA is not back,” said Sheriff Craig Apple this week, “but they’re very confident this is that person, based on the video footage, the interviews they’ve conducted, people he was out drinking with that night, clerks at two local retail establishments, as well as bartenders.”

This information allowed the sheriff’s office to “close the window,” Apple went on.

“There was a big window between when anyone had seen him and the time of the accident, and they closed that window by talking to these people,” said Apple. “They’ve got him on video in the car, by himself, heading towards Knox, about half-an-hour before the crash.”

Arnold, 21, was remembered by his friend this week as a man who loved to farm, and who was good with kids.

“He was always happy all the time,” said Richard Gage, who employed Arnold on his farm in Knox for seven years. “He always just enjoyed his work. I’ll remember him that way, I guess.”

Last Tuesday, Apple said, Arnold was driving the truck, a 1990 Chevrolet, westward on Route 146 from Albany County and, just before the Schoharie County line, crossed over the double yellow line, and drove into a ditch. The car flipped over and burst into flames.

No one else was in the truck, Apple said, and the gender of the driver could not be determined initially, but an autopsy later on Feb. 15 indicated it was a male.

Arnold’s family could not be reached for comment this week.

The sheriff’s department released the following timeline of the events leading up to the crash:

— On Monday, Feb. 13, the owner of the truck, from Clifton Park, let a friend from Schenectady borrow it to move some personal belongings. The vehicle was seen parked in front of the friend’s residence on Manchester Road in the afternoon of Feb. 14;

— At about 6 p.m., Arnold left a friend’s house on Central Avenue in Colonie and went to De Marco’s Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge, also on Central Avenue;

— After leaving De Marco’s at about 9 p.m., Arnold went to Humpy’s Bar on Central Avenue in Schenectady, where he met with a friend’s father. After learning that Arnold had nowhere to stay that night, the father offered to bring him home and let him sleep there, and the two left Humpy’s just after midnight;

— The friend’s father brought Arnold to his residence on Manchester Road in Schenectady, where the 1990 Chevrolet was parked. One of the residents reportedly woke at 3 a.m. to the sound of a door slamming. After checking outside, the resident discovered that the truck, which he had borrowed from its owner in Clifton Park, was gone;

— At about 2:45 a.m. Arnold was recorded on video, driving the truck into the Xtra-mart at 3522 State Street in Schenectady, where he purchased $20 worth of gas; the store itself was not open.

Arnold then went to the Mobil station at the corner of Central Avenue and Route 155 at about 3 a.m., where he purchased beer and cigarettes. His activity here was captured on video, too;

— At about 4 a.m., the accident was reported to the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office, and transferred to the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, and sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the scene, where they discovered the burning wreckage.

Arnold had a run in with the sheriff’s department in October, when he was arrested for allegedly stealing $1,200 and two blank checks from his former employer, Bozenkill Farms in Knox. He was charged with second-degree possession of a forged instrument and fourth-degree grand larceny, both felonies, and petit larceny, a misdemeanor.

Apple said that Arnold had no arrests prior to the larceny.

“That case,” Apple said this week, “hadn’t been adjudicated till the time of his death.”

Carl Peterson, who had employed Arnold on Bozenkill Farm before the arrest, said Wednesday that Arnold was a hard worker, and a pleasure to work with.

“I felt bad that a young person like that was taking a wrong turn on the road,” Peterson said.

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