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Man tells of finding wife dead

JOHNSON NEWSPAPERS
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MASSENA — Businessman James A. Farbotnik said he had no idea how his wife, Vinira, died on their Massena property early Monday.


But he said he did have a lot of enemies, and one of those enemies may have played a role in his wife's death.


Mr. Farbotnik spoke at length Tuesday afternoon, detailing the moments leading up to early Monday when he said he discovered his wife submerged in three feet of water in the family pond with a canoe on top of her.


Mrs. Farbotnik, 43, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her body was taken to Massena Memorial Hospital on Monday afternoon for an autopsy. St. Lawrence County Coroner James M. Sienkiewcyz said the results of Tuesday's autopsy were still pending because of the ongoing investigation. The autopsy was performed by Dr. Michael Sikirica, a forensic pathologist from Albany.


"There were no signs of any physical trauma to Mrs. Farbotnik," Mr. Sienkiewcyz said.


Toxicology reports detailing any foreign substances in Mrs. Farbotnik's body at the time of her death will take more time, Mr. Sienkiewcyz said.


Mr. Farbotnik said he was questioned extensively by state police Monday on possible involvement he had in his wife's death. He denied any wrongdoing Tuesday.


"I have done nothing wrong. My wife is dead and my children have done nothing wrong," he said. "I'm praying to God this was a terrible tragedy."


On Sunday night, Mr. Farbotnik said, he stayed in the house to watch a movie with his children as his wife was running chores between the house and a garage on his property. He said he last saw her alive about 11 p.m.


Shortly after that, the movie ended.


He said he then went with his 12-year-old son, Neil, to look around the property for his wife. He checked the barn near the back of his property with his son, and walked by the family pond.


"As we walked by the pond, I shined (the flashlight) toward the pond to see in that direction, and I see the canoe about 10 feet outside of the water and it's upside down," he said. "All you saw was her hand sticking out from underneath the canoe. I ran as fast as I could and I grabbed her hand. I started pulling her. My son Neil, he grabbed the other hand, the left hand."


Mr. Farbotnik said his son called 911 as soon as they pulled the canoe and Mrs. Farbotnik to shore. St. Lawrence County Emergency Services registered the call at 1:10 a.m.


After emergency crews responded, he said, state police separated him from his children and held him from about 2 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday.


State police did not return calls for comment Tuesday, and did not issue any further news releases on Mrs. Farbotnik's death.


"They interrogated me for a good eight to 10 hours, trying to say 'did I have anything to do with it?' Of course I didn't. I just lost my wife and my best friend ... I just lost everything," he said. "They asked me if my kids had anything to do with it, any arguments with my wife ... I said no, my wife was the best mother and wife in the world."


On Tuesday, state police continued their investigation at the property on Route 37C. Police also were stationed outside Mr. Farbotnik's Main Street store, CyberWorld USA.


Mr. Farbotnik said he now is staying at a neighbor's house, and still does not know where his children are, other than being told they are safe.


He said he suspected his wife's death may have been related to the deaths of two alpacas on his farm last month and the genital mutilation of one of his horses. Mr. Farbotnik reported the horse mutilation to state police April 18 after he read about a similar mutilation to a horse owned by Massena resident Teri L. Chapin.


"I'm taking this as a violent message of mutilation towards my family," he said last month. "I have had death threats on my phone against my children."


None of those threats was confirmed by police.


Times staff writer Gabrielle Hovendon contributed to this report.

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