Suspect in custody in murder of elderly store owner in Port Jervis

PORT JERVIS (WABC) -- Police in Orange County say a suspect is under arrest in the murder of a long-time business owner.

"He just loved his craft. I guess somebody up in heaven needed new shoes," said Tom Hazelton, the victim's friend.

Outside the downtown business where 77-year-old Joe Kucher perfected his trade as a cobbler, a moving memorial to a Port Jervis institution that set up shop here in 1969.

Tom Hazelton already misses his friend of 40 years.

"Just one of the nicest guys I ever knew. One of the nicest, I used to walk up and down the street with him," Hazelton said.

During a packed City Hall news conference Monday afternoon, police and prosecutors detailed their case against Dennis McBee.

Investigators say the 29-year-old Port Jervis man robbed and beat Kucher Friday morning inside his Front Street store. That's where a customer found the beloved shoe maker.

Emergency crews rushed the Korean War veteran to the hospital, but he died the following day.

McBee, who is jailed in Pennsylvania on a parole violation, is charged with second degree murder.

"We flooded this investigation heavy from the beginning with resources and were able to develop information that led us to that suspect," said Chief William Worden, of the Port Jervis City Police Department.

"I have to say this thing has rocked the foundations of our peaceful community. It's such a tragedy," said Steve Neuhaus, the Orange County Executive.

Investigators said surveillance video from a neighboring gun store, along with tips from the community, helped police identify and then track McBee to a hotel in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Back in Port Jervis they are mourning for a man who proudly served generations of customers.

"This is not that type of town that you'd imagine anything like this happening, and he was a peaceful person," said Judy Metzroth, a Port Jervis resident.

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