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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Recapping the Capital Region’s Three Gripping Tragedies of 2023


EDITOR’S NOTE: As 2023 comes to a close, we’re looking back at a variety of the year’s defining stories in our region.

Pain persists from Schenectady to Hebron to Moreau Lake State Park.

Three high-profile Capital Region tragedies from 2023 involve ongoing cases, two of which are set to go to trial in the first half of 2024.

Here’s a closer look at an unsolved death, a lethal driveway shooting in the countryside and an alleged abduction that quickly gained national interest. 


One billboard on Erie Boulevard in Schenectady reads: “$10,000 REWARD for information leading to the arrest & conviction for the MURDER on 11/25/22 of Samantha Humphrey.” Another reads: “MURDERED 11/25/22.”

The Schenectady teenager was last seen alive on surveillance video around that date last year in the Stockade neighborhood. It took the first two months of 2023 to find and identify the remains of Humphrey, who was 14 years old and in ninth grade when she went missing.

No charges have been filed. No arrests have been made.

In February, after her body was found by local fishermen at Riverside Park, Schenectady police announced that her death was being investigated as homicide. However, by May, police Chief Eric Clifford said nothing could be ruled out.

Humphrey reportedly left home to meet up with her 14-year-old ex-boyfriend at the park where her body was found. He’s been cooperative, according to police.

Authorities have asked anyone with potential information regarding the girl’s death to call 518-788-6566.

Loved ones have pushed to raise awareness for the unsolved case. The girl’s aunt organized a walk in September, demanding justice for Humphrey. The family held a candlelight vigil for her at Riverside Park on Nov. 11.

In October, her father Jeff Humphrey endorsed then-Republican mayoral candidate Matt Nelligan against Democratic incumbent Gary McCarthy, believing the challenger would be able to break the case. McCarthy has expressed disgust towards the move, saying on election night that it “tarnished a homicide investigation.”


Kaylin Gillis, 20, was known to be compassionate. The 2021 Schuylerville High School alumna expected to head to Florida for college, hoping to become a veterinarian or marine biologist.

But her life ended abruptly around 10 p.m. on April 15. Around that time, Gillis and her friends got lost on a trip to visit a friend in Hebron. While the caravan turned around in a driveway, Kevin Monahan, the property owner, allegedly fired a 20-gauge shotgun twice at the vehicles, including the SUV that Gillis was in, killing her in the process.

Hebron Town Supervisor Brian Campbell in a statement at the time described the incident as the “saddest and most inexcusable event” in the rural community’s history.

Monahan, 65, in May faces a civil suit and has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, reckless endangerment and tampering with physical evidence. He’s been denied bail.

Defense lawyers attempted to bring on two experts to discuss Monahan’s mental state, but Washington County Judge Adam Michelini declined, noting that the defendant hasn’t been diagnosed with any psychological condition.

He’s set to go to trial come January.

Outrage and sorrow poured from the surrounding community over Gillis’ death. The story made national headlines, as it followed a series of similar incidents across the country.

The family amassed more than $141,000 in donations from over 3,600 donors to pay for financial needs, including bereavement expenses. More than 200 members of the Schuylerville community showed up for a candlelight vigil five days after the tragedy.


A fingerprint from a 1999 drunk driving arrest in Saratoga Springs ultimately led state police to Craig Nelson Ross Jr. on Oct. 2.

He had allegedly left his fingerprint on a ransom note at the home of a missing girl earlier that morning. Later that day, police raided Ross Jr.’s trailer in West Milton and found the 9-year-old alive.

Nearly 48 hours had passed since she first went missing during a family camping trip at Moreau Lake State Park. An Amber Alert was issued early on the second day.

Headshots of the child went viral and the case entered the national media sphere.

More than 34 agencies and 400 searchers assisted in search efforts. Authorities used sonar, drones and bloodhounds. The case also attracted the attention of Gov. Kathy Hochul, who twice made public appearances to announce updates.

“We started thinking the worst, but what happened was extraordinary,” Hochul said at a press conference after Ross Jr. was named and arrested.

The alleged perpetrator last month pleaded not guilty to nine counts against him, including charges related to abduction and rape. The top charge — first-degree kidnapping — could result in a life sentence.

Ross Jr.’s proposed trial is set to begin on April 1, 2024. He is being held behind bars in Milton without bail.

Kiara Thomas
Kiara Thomas
I uncover quirky and compelling stories. Always on the lookout for the 'why' behind the 'what'.
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  1. Good punctuation and grammar, disagree:

    This is a sensitive topic and it’s important to handle it with respect, not exploit it for entertainment purposes. #Inappropriate


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