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What you need to know for 08/16/2017

Murder victims’ family, friends ask for justice, prayers

Murder victims’ family, friends ask for justice, prayers

Doreen Pitsas spoke for the McCormack family Wednesday outside the Schenectady County Courthouse, wh
Murder victims’ family, friends ask for justice, prayers
Accused murderer Brice Rivenburgh talks to his attorney, public defender Sven Paul, at his arraignment in Schenectady County Court on Wednesday morning.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Doreen Pitsas spoke for the McCormack family Wednesday outside the Schenectady County Courthouse, where the man accused of killing Tammy McCormack and her daughter Jessica had just been arraigned.

Pitsas and more than a half-dozen family members and friends of the victims attended the arraignment, where defendant Brice C. Rivenburgh pleaded not guilty in the killings.

“All we can hope for is justice, and pray,” Pitsas told reporters afterward. “Pray for our family.”

The two women were found dead inside their home at 1142 Inner Drive in Rotterdam the morning of April 10. The man accused of killing them, Jessica McCormack’s former boyfriend, formally learned of a 26-count indictment against him at Wednesday morning’s arraignment.

The indictment was handed up the day before, and includes a long list of charges, including first-degree murder, rape, burglary and robbery. The first-degree rape charge accuses Rivenburgh of raping Jessica McCormack before killing her.

Rivenburgh, 28, of 2501 Oaklawn Ave., is also accused of re-entering the home twice after the killings, the final time in an attempt to set a fire to destroy the crime scene, authorities said. He is also accused of attempts to cover up his involvement in the crime.

Rivenburgh allegedly set the fire minutes before a McCormack family member summoned authorities, who discovered the bodies and the fire. The fire was doused before it could spread.

Tammy McCormack was a mother of three described as someone who was kind to everyone. Jessica McCormack was a young woman who loved swimming and music and looked forward to a career in dental hygiene, according to friends and family.

At Wednesday’s arraignment, under added security, Rivenburgh answered several standard questions posed by Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago, including his age and date of birth. Drago also outlined the possible sentences, should Rivenburgh be convicted. The top charges, four total counts of first-degree murder in the two deaths, carry a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole.

“Do you understand what I have said?” Drago asked Rivenburgh after outlining the possible penalties.

“Yes,” he responded.

Prosecutor Philip Mueller noted his readiness for trial, a standard declaration at arraignment. Any trial would be several months away, at the least.

Mueller also noted two possibly key deadlines for the defense, ones that could indicate the defense strategy. He said the prosecution is demanding any notice of alibi in writing. He also noted a deadline for the defense to provide notice of intent to offer psychiatric evidence.

“We do intend to enforce that notice requirement,” Mueller said in reference to the first deadline.

Rivenburgh’s attorney, Sven Paul, acknowledged receipt of the indictment. Motion deadlines were also set for June, with any decisions to be issued in July. Any hearings ordered would be scheduled after that.

Members of the McCormack family and friends sat quietly during the proceedings, with some dabbing their eyes with tissues. Outside the courthouse, Pitsas, a cousin of Tammy McCormack, was asked about seeing Rivenburgh.

“I hope he gets what he deserves, and what that should be, I have no idea,” she said.

For the McCormack family, she said, it’s like they’ve been living in a nightmare since the slayings. But they have also received much support from the community.

“It’s been wonderful, wonderful,” Pitsas said. “I can’t even begin to tell you, between the phone calls, cards, food, flowers and donations.

“Just Rotterdam is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful,” she said.

Rivenburgh’s arraignment came the same day as the annual Ceremony of Remembrance of Homicide Victims in Schenectady’s Central Park Rose Garden. The proceedings concluded in time for McCormack family members to get from the courthouse to the ceremony in time.

During that ceremony, the names of nearly 250 homicide victims were read, among them Tammy and Jessica McCormack.

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