ALBANY, N.Y. – An unassuming 77-year-old bachelor who had hoped to sell a valuable comic book collection and leave the money to his family was robbed by a Rochester businessman's thugs, was roughed up and hours later died of a heart attack, authorities said.
Homer Marciniak got his first comic book when he was 6 and hoped to leave his sisters and nephew with the proceeds from the collection, valued at $40,000 to $100,000, said Jose Avila, police chief in Medina, in rural western New York between Rochester and Buffalo.
That quest took him to several comic book shops in the Rochester area — and to Rico Vendetti, the owner of a tavern and a restaurant who once owned a collectibles business, the police chief said.
"I think he ran into the wrong person, and this person thought, 'This is something I can get from this guy,'" Avila said.
Marciniak, who wasn't married and had no children, was a "very well-known, very quiet churchgoing man" around Medina who had worked as a janitor at a bank, said Avila, the police chief.
Thieves broke into his home around 4 a.m. July 5 and hit him in the face. He was treated at a hospital, returned home that afternoon and was interviewed by police, and died of the heart attack after officers left, the police chief said. He had a heart condition, authorities said.
The case broke Thursday night when a woman charged with prostitution in Rochester gave investigators information that led to the arrest, Orleans County District Attorney Joseph Cardone said.
Police charged Vendetti, 41, and Juan Javier, 17, with burglary. They are not charged with beating Marciniak and will not be charged with murder, Avila said, but more charges are pending against them and more arrests are expected.
Vendetti was freed after posting $100,000 bail Friday. Javier was arraigned Monday and jailed on $100,000 bail. Messages left with their lawyers weren't immediately returned. Messages left for Vendetti at his two Rochester businesses — Papa Van's Restaurant and Al's Green Tavern — also went unreturned.
The comic books haven't been recovered, and the exact connection to the woman charged with prostitution wasn't clear.
Elizabeth Mielcarek, the victim's 83-year-old sister, would say only that she was surprised and pleased about the arrests.
In addition to the comic books, some of which dated to the '30s and '40s, the thieves made off with cash, coins and firearms, authorities said.
Avila said that in the weeks afterward, he and his wife spent Sundays visiting flea markets and garage sales, hoping a comic book dealer would have a tip that could lead to an arrest, Avila said.
"I was hoping to get a lucky break for Homer," Avila said. "He could not handle losing those comic books. To him, they were priceless."