Remains of missing man found in psychiatrist's backyard

January 16, 2014

More than a day after human remains were found in the backyard of a local psychiatrist, the police were providing few answers and the identification of the body remained unconfirmed.

Sources familiar with the investigation agree on one issue: The mystery is an odd one that could not be sorted out on Thursday.

What is known is that the 27 Rowley St. home where the body was found is owned by Dr. William Lewek, a psychiatrist who also has an office at the city house. Also, a brother of Matthew Straton, a 31-year-old Rochester local man missing since late October, said Thursday that police indicated the body was likely Matthew.

He said police contacted his mother Wednesday about the possibility that the remains were Matthew Straton.

However, that could not be confirmed Thursday, and the decomposed state of the remains made immediate identification difficult.

No suspect has been publicly identified in the suspicious death. The body was found in the backyard, covered — by what has not been revealed — but not buried.

Jeremy Straton, a younger brother of Matthew, came to the city street where media gathered Thursday morning. After a long hug with another brother, Corey, he told the media about the suspicions that Matthew had been found.

"They said it looked like he had been there a while," Jeremy Straton said about the police conversation with his mother. " ... I wanted it to end but not like this."

Police, meanwhile, provided little public information Thursday.

Rochester Police Investigator Frank Camp said Thursday that police received a report Wednesday evening about human remains behind the Rowley Street home.

"The scene was secured and the recovery effort was suspended until daylight hours," Camp said in a prepared statement. "The circumstances of the death are under investigation."

Jeremy Straton said police indicated that, sometime after Matthew's disappearance, they traced a cellphone signal to the neighborhood where the remains were found.

After Matthew went missing, the Straton family and friends started a campaign on Facebook encouraging anyone with information to contact authorities.

The brothers of Matthew Straton embrace each other on Rowley Street on Jan. 16.  TINA MACINTYRE-YEE / Staff photographer

Early Thursday, Jeremy Straton wrote on the page: "Rest in peace Matthew Straton I love you brother."

Matthew Straton was not a stranger in the neighborhood. Jeremy lived nearby, as does Joseph Cecchi, who said he was a close friend.

A missing poster for Straton was stapled on a utility pole near the home where the body was found.

Cecchi said Matthew was recovering from drug issues. A Rowley Street resident, Cecchi said he attended Webster High School with Matthew.

Cecchi said Straton was agoraphobic, suffered from anxiety and did not like to leave his house. He was battling drug issues, but was serious about recovery, he said.

"I know he didn't hurt himself," said Cecchi, 30.

Jeremy Straton declined to answer Thursday when asked whether Matthew was dealing with any issues.

"He was so loving and caring," Jeremy said of his brother.

The city neighborhood, between Park and Monroe Avenues, was abuzz with concern over the police activity.

Kyle Freid, who lives in the neighborhood, said he saw a dozen or more police cars pull up to the scene Wednesday night. He said he saw officers take digging tools into the backyard of the scene and bring bags out from the home.

Neighbors Melissa Hill and Althea Menguy said they were shaken up by the incident.

"I came outside and I saw all the police cars and I got scared. This is our home. We don't want to be scared in our home," said Menguy.

In his statement, Camp said that neighbors should not be fearful.

"There are no immediate concerns for public safety in the neighborhood," he said.

Police "investigators and technicians will work with the Monroe County medical examiner to conduct a thorough examination of the area, and recover the body," Camp said. "This is a slow and methodical process that will take some time."

Lewek bought the Rowley Street home in 2002, records show. Attempts to contact him for this story were unsuccessful.

Lewek received his New York medical license on March 30, 1979, according to records on the state Department of Health website. He is board certified in addiction psychiatry, forensic psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine and geriatric psychiatry.

Source: Gary Craig, "A body found in the backyard of a city residence could be a man missing since late October," Democrat & Chronicle, January 16, 2014.

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