Shooting suspect pleads not guilty

A local man accused of shooting his wife in the hand with a shotgun during a domestic dispute was in Franklin County Court on Tuesday.

Oleg Tchernyetchenko, 35, of Saranac Lake, was indicted by a Franklin County Grand Jury earlier this month on charges of first-degree assault, first-degree reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child.

He entered not guilty pleas at an arraignment Tuesday before county court Judge Robert G. Main Jr.

The charges stem from a Feb. 26 incident at a McClelland Street house where Tchernyetchenko lived with his wife and their three young children.

Police have said the couple was arguing in the living room of the home around 1:50 a.m. when Tchernyetchenko pointed a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun at her. She tried to push it away, but the shotgun fired, and a slug struck her right hand, severing her index finger.

In a statement to police, Tchernyetchenko said the dispute started after he saw an 8-year-old text message on his wife’s phone from her old boyfriend that reportedly said, “I love you.” Tchernyetchenko later told police he was sorry for and upset over what happened. In a separate statement, the woman told police it was an accident.

The couple’s three children, between 5 months and 4 years of age, were in the living room at the time of the shooting. Police have said it was the only habitable room in what they described as a squalid house that was home to a dog breeding operation. The children were subsequently taken into custody by child protective services. Seventeen dogs were seized from the home.

Prosecutors had talked with Tchernyetchenko’s lawyer, Peter Dumas of Malone, about resolving the case with a plea agreement before it went to the grand jury, but that apparently didn’t happen. District Attorney Derek Champagne said Tuesday that Judge Main will likely ask lawyers on each side if the case can be resolved before it goes to trial.

Asked if his office wants to bring the matter to trial, Champagne spoke in generalities about the difficulties of prosecuting domestic violence cases.

“Quite often there are only two people who truly know what transpired, and those people may or may not be cooperative with the criminal justice system,” he said. “These can be very difficult cases when custody, loyalty and long-standing relationships come into play.”

Following Tuesday’s arraignment, Tchernyetchenko was remanded back to the Franklin County Jail in Malone in lieu of $50,000 cash bail or $100,000 bond, pending an Aug. 8 court conference.