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Unsolved But Not Forgotten: The 1995 Murder of Joel Friedman

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Unsolved But Not Forgotten: The 1995 Murder of Joel Friedman
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Watch Another Unsolved But Not Forgotten Story: Witnesses Could Close 1981 Oneida Cold Case Today

Nearly 20 years ago, a Lewis County man was found shot to death in his home. But his loner lifestyle left police with questions piling up and no answers in sight. As Brian Dwyer explains in this edition of "Unsolved But Not Forgotten," there were so many things that could have been the reason for Joel Friedman's murder, but so far, that's all they are.

LEWIS COUNTY, N.Y. -- Joel Friedman moved to Lewis County in 1992, building a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. He was rarely seen. He'd hit up the post office a few times a week. He'd go to the store even less frequently.

"The neighbors didn't socialize with him," said now retired New York State Police Senior Investigator Bill Walsemann. "He was really a loner."

He was though, by all accounts, a law-abiding citizen. His only interactions with police, were when he'd call to complain about snowmobile traffic.

"People parking obstructing his driveway," Lewis County Sheriff's Department Senior Investigator Dale Roberts said. "Snowmobilers at night going by at high rates of speed. People would knock on his door to use the phone."

So when police were called to his home on a sunny day in early March of 1995, they didn't have much to go on.

"No motive. No reason. The building, the contents, the rooms did not seem disturbed," Roberts said of the initial walk through of the home.

Joel Friedman had been shot to death. All police knew, was what a found receipt shows. He was alive on the morning of March 9, a Thursday, but not found dead until three days later.

"It makes it a little bit frustrating because for a while you don't know what way to go," Walsemann said.

Days passed and police still had nothing, until they met Preston Friedman. Joel's identical twin brother, with a checkered past.

"There were allegations and arrests made by the DEA back in the mid-80s, I believe, of a huge marijuana operation that Preston was involved in and he freely admitted to us," Roberts said.

Preston was a small player, but it was a big ring.

Could this be it? Was Joel involved? Or maybe was Joel not the man the killer was looking for?

"We thought about that. Maybe the target really was Preston," Roberts said, adding they found nothing to show that to be the case.

Roberts also said tests were done to make sure it was actually Joel dead, and not Preston, a case of switching identities. It was not.

Police would continue to hit hard what little they did have and continue to hit blocks.

They found a calendar with a woman's name on it, Mary. Going through DMV records of women named Mary, born on April 14, they tracked down the right one. She admitted to a casual relationship with Joel. She also admitted she was married.

Mary though, passed a polygraph and her husband wouldn't give police the time of day.

"The investigator assigned to that particular lead, ran down a lot of different angles on it. He came up with nothing," Roberts said.

It's the common theme throughout. Thoughts come and and go as the years and decades do.

A new senior investigator has come in, Reece Treen with the State Police's Major Crimes Unit. Everyone is hoping one thought new or old becomes the answer, even 20 years later.

"I think it's always good to have a fresh set of eyes look at a case," Treen said. "Try to see if there's anything that can be done now with modern technology such as DNA."

"Every game you play might be the most important hit of your career. This case is unsolved and we're just looking for that hit," Roberts said.

Police say at one point Preston Friedman and his family offered a $100,000 reward for information on Joel's murder. It generated zero calls, not even a prank.

Police are asking anyone may know anything about this murder to please either call the Lewis County Sheriff's Department or the New York State Police. It means closing this case and giving the people involved closure.

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