(HAMBURG, N.Y.) — A regional Toys R Us manager in Hamburg, N.Y., has been charged with murder after police say he killed an employee in the store and later consoled other workers who were grieving steps away from the crime scene.
Bernard Grucza, 38, was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree murder for killing assistant manager Larry Wells, 35. Wells, the father of a 4-year-old girl, was stabbed to death in the early morning hours of June 29, police said.
Grucza pleaded not guilty. “Bernard Grucza did not murder Larry Wells, and we are confident that he will be vindicated at trial,” his lawyer told ABC News.
The case went unsolved for months and all authorities had was grainy surveillance video of an unidentified man sporting a baseball cap entering the store around 4:20 a.m. the day of the slaying. The man, according to police, used a key and walked in the manager’s office with the intention to steal. Roughly seven minutes later, the video system was disabled from within the office, police say.
Wells reportedly walked in moments later and that’s when police say he was stabbed to death. Days later, police say Grucza comforted other Toys R Us employees outside the store to mourn the loss of Wells.
Police say they were in constant contact with Grucza during the investigation because he was a regional manager with the toy chain.
“Well, he was the regional manager so we talked to him on a regular basis about the investigation,” Hamburg Police Capt. Kevin Trask told ABC News affiliate WKBW-TV.
Police say the baseball cap seen on surveillance video was found at the crime scene and DNA was found on it. Police won’t elaborate on the source of DNA.
“There were several pieces of evidence that started stacking up that led us to him,” Trask said.
Authorities believe Grucza was stealing from the store after he fell into a financial hole following his divorce.
Wells’ family described him as an “amazing person, a wonderful husband and the best father. We miss him every day.”
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