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Community reacts after grandmother killed in fire, grandson faces charges

Local News

The musty stench from fatal flames that exploded throughout the Riverside home on Townsend Avenue still lingered in the neighborhood Wednesday afternoon. 

A toppled fire extinguisher laid on the porch steps and glass shards perched at the foot of the stairwell.

Area residents weren’t surprised when they heard that methamphetamine manufacturing items were found in the house.

“Meth and drugs are all so bad around here and they just continue to get worse,” Susan McNeil, a Lindley resident who felt inclined to take a walk past the house said. “I walk in Corning and I was kind of curious, I saw Townsend Avenue on the news and I could smell the smoke as I was starting down the street.”

Justin Gause, the grandson of 82-year-old Gladys Willow remains behind bars after being charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment and unlawful manufacturing of meth. 

State police say the cause of the fire is under investigation and several items found were used to make meth. 

One neighbor, who knows Gause, felt it was unfathomable to be in the position Gause is in. 

“I know that if I were to ever be in a situation like his, I probably wouldn’t be able to live with it, dragging another family member into a mess like that,” Jeffery McChesney, a Corning resident, said. 

Corning City Police said there have been a few incidents with explosions and minimal fires from meth labs in just the past couple months. 

They’re aware meth use and manufacturing are prevalent not only in Corning but throughout Steuben County. Area agencies and investigators use due diligence to handle the issue. 

Overall, One of the major challenges Corning City Police faces when it comes to patrolling drug uses is an understaffed department.

However, understaffing doesn’t only impact Corning.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the growth rate for “Police and Detectives” as “slower than average” at 4 percent with the average growth rate at 7 percent for other professions. 

Another challenge is the ease and discreteness in making meth. Ingredients can be bought at any convenient store and cooked anywhere. 

“We can’t know everything that’s going on,” Corning Police Lt. Richard Swan said. “We encourage people to call the anonymous tip line.”

That tip line can be found here or call 1-844-378-4847.

Police encourage the public who notices or smells anything suspicious to call that number to avoid another incident like this to happen again. 

For more information on how to detect meth, click here

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