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Traveling salesmen murdered

by Howard Appell
Clarion News Staff

9/5/96

9/5/96 Clarion News Service.

Two young men from out of state were allegedly murdered in Stafford, Genesee County, Aug. 27 by two fellow sales representatives of All Star Promotions, Pilot Point, Texas. Michael W. Grinnell, 24, of Massillon, Ohio and Jacob R. Russell, 19, of Elkgrove, Calif., stand accused of beating to death Billy Joe Gilbert, Jr., 20, of Terre Haute, Ind. and Adam Chesnek, 18, of Dixon, Ill, apparently because the victims refused to participate in a robbery.

The group, which included an 18-year-old female witness to the crime, had spent the day walking the streets of Geneseo, Mt. Morris, Dansville and Leicester, soliciting magazine subscriptions. They were part of an entourage of 30 young people employed by All Star Promotions, locally headquartered at the Batavia Sheraton Hotel, which had arrived Aug. 25 to sell subscriptions in the area.

According to the witness's account, the five headed back to Batavia at about 8:30 p.m. Once there, the group allegedly discussed the possibility of robbing the Sugar Creek store at the corner of Route 63 and Cedar Street in Batavia.

The witness maintained that Gilbert was dropped off at a parking lot on Route 63, while the remaining four drove to a gravel pit, located approximately half a mile off Seven Springs Road. There, Grinnell and Russell allegedly grabbed Chesnek and struck him about the head and face with rocks, killing him.

Grinnell and Russell then drove back and picked up Gilbert and returned to the gravel pit, where they beat and killed him in the same manner as Chesnek, said the witness, who told investigators that the attackers did not harm her because they believed she would not tell anyone about the killings. She informed her supervisor the next morning.

According to the Genesee County Sheriffs Department, Grinnell and Russell fled at 8:46 a.m., after they saw the witness being interviewed by investigators at the Sheraton. The two were caught and taken into custody, Grinnell after a brief chase on foot and Russell after a search of a wooded area near the hotel, on Veterans Administration grounds.

The same morning, the witness led sheriffs deputies to the gravel pit, where the bodies of the two victims were discovered in a lane, in a wooded area near the rear of the gravel pit. They appeared to have been bludgeoned to death with rocks and were severely beaten about the head and face. Blood-stained rocks were secured by sheriffs deputies as evidence. Their bodies were pronounced dead at the scene by Genesee County Coroner David Guile and were removed to the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office for autopsies.

Grinnell and Russell were arraigned before Stafford Town Justice Allen Hansen on two counts of second degree murder and committed to Genesee County Jail without bail.

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