Rumors of City Motel Murder Unfounded

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Nobody wants to read about a murder that didn’t happen.

Who would read a story about Jack the Ripper… of dandelions from gardens? Or an Edgar Allen Poe story entitled “The Murders THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN in the Rue Morgue”? Or an Agatha Christie mystery called And Then There Were None...Dead?

But that’s exactly what this story is about: the murder that didn’t happen last week at the Imperial Motel on Port Watson Street.

Despite rumors, social media gossip and city citizens’ concerns, no one was murdered at the motel last week. At all.

Cortland County coroner Kevin Sharp confirmed in a phone interview this afternoon there was no killing.

“There was no murder at the Imperial last week,” Sharp said. “We would have been called if there was.”

The rumors on social media were so pervasive, Sharp’s fellow coroner Whitney Meeker called County dispatch to confirm there was no 911 call from the motel, he said. There wasn’t.

“It’s unfounded,” said Sharp, “I can tell you that.”

But that fact hasn’t stopped the rumor from spreading on Facebook.

On an unrelated crime article on The Cortland Voice’s Facebook page one commenter asked, “Whatever happened to the woman murdered at the imperial hotel by her husband few days ago” (sic) The same commenter went on to claim a witness overheard screams during the murder but didn’t call 911. A witness also saw a man wash blood from his body in the laundry room sink, the commenter continued.

City police Lt. Michael Strangeway stated he’s heard other sordid rumors that the city police department was covering up a murder at the motel.

“I’ve received a half dozen inquiries from individuals and media outlets,” Strangeway said. “I had even read posts on social media that the mayor had asked us to cover up a murder at the Imperial, which is unequivically untrue.”

There was no murder at the motel, but if there was, the city police would investigate, he said.

“It goes without saying, if there’s a homicide that occurs in the City of Cortland, the City will investigate,” Strangeway said.

State police and the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office confirmed those agencies are also not investigating any murder at the motel.

No state police forensic teams were called to the motel over the last month, noted Trooper and Public Information Officer Aga Dembinska, adding they would have assisted if there was a murder.

The manager of the Imperial Motel also confirmed there was no murder on the premises. The manager, who gave his name to The Cortland Voice but asked it be withheld from publication for security reasons, added that if there had been a murder, teams of police would have cordoned off the motel and investigated for one to two days. But nothing like that happened, he said.

The Cortland Voice was first made aware of the rumors on July 30 and confirmed they were false, said Owner and Publisher Tim Bennett.

“Any time anything happens in Cortland County, it is my duty as the Owner and Publisher of The Cortland Voice to make sure that correct information is shared with our community,” Bennett said. “I looked into this rumor on July 30 and we were told by the proper authorities it was false.”

Strangeway suspects onlookers may have seen police officers at the motel on a call and started the rumor.

“I think people saw police over there and this just got going,” he said. “It’s another prime example of these social media posts impacting people’s perception of what’s real and what’s not.”