Mother of missing infant is arraigned
Puleski faces multiple felonies; not yet charged in baby’s death BY JAKE LAHUT AND STEVEN COOK Gazette Reporters
Heaven Puleski, the mother of 4-month-old Rayen Puleski, has been charged with multiple felonies related to the discovery of Rayen’s body last week and her actions prior to his death, police said Wednesday.
She was arraigned Wednesday afternoon and ordered held on $20,000 cash bail or $40,000 bond.
The allegations involve Puleski using heroin while “being responsible for the care” of Rayen last month, and her intentional disposal of Rayen’s body to prevent its discovery by placing it inside plastic bags and leaving it in a grassy field behind an apartment building, according to police allegations filed in court.
The charges don’t relate directly to Rayen’s death, the cause of which remains under investigation.
Heaven Puleski’s aunt Lisa Dutcher and her brother Tony were in court for the arraignment. Both appeared visibly upset throughout. Dutcher could be seen crying before the proceedings got underway.
Heaven Puleski faces one count each of tampering with physical evidence and concealment of a human corpse, both felonies, as well as misdemeanor child endangerment.
She was represented in court by attorney Lara Barnett. Puleski entered a not guilty plea on the misdemeanor charge. No formal plea could be taken on the felony counts.
In court, Heaven Puleski could be seen mouthing a question about money to her brother. He appeared to shake his head to indicate “no.” Dutcher and Puleski’s brother declined to comment afterward. Dutcher earlier, however, indicated she reacted with anger and satisfaction upon hearing of the charges.
“Upset and at the same time kind of happy that somebody — regardless of if it’s my niece — that somebody’s going to be liable for what happened to him,” Lisa Dutcher said outside Schenectady City Court Wednesday morning.
One factor cited by prosecutors in court, as they argued for a higher bail, was Puleski’s prior flight history. She was arrested in October 2016 by police in Gloversville on a warrant but managed to escape custody. She was later recaptured by police in Schenectady.
The charge behind the outstanding warrant related to misdemeanor drug possession in Saratoga County. She later pleaded guilty to escape and was sentenced to 10 months in jail, records show.
Prosecutor Christina Tremante-Pelham emphasized the 2016 escape case in court on Wednesday.
“Her actions have centered around deception and concealment,” Tremante-Pelham said.
The charges are based on statements Puleski gave to investigators Tuesday evening, police said. Investigators from city police, state police and the FBI participated.
Puleski’s attorney responded that Puleski has been fully cooperating with police. The prosecutor, however, refuted that, citing the origin of the investigation as a missing persons case.
“She did not in any way voluntarily come to the police” at the outset, Tremante-Pelham said. Police found Puleski last Wednesday near the Days Inn downtown. Puleski went with them voluntarily without being charged.
She did voluntarily subject herself to questioning Tuesday, Tremante-Pelham noted in court, but police brought her there.
Authorities said that, prior to Puleski’s being charged, they knew her location. However, they did not say where she was. Tremante-Pelham explained in court Wednesday that Puleski had been in detox since police picked her up last week.
She is due back in court on Aug. 20. That appearance would be canceled if an indictment is voted by then.
Police said Monday the infant’s remains had not been positively identified. A police spokesman Wednesday morning said the remains are now presumed to be Rayen’s, based on Puleski’s statements to investigators.
The autopsy and cause of death are going to take an extended period of time, due to the condition of the remains, police have said.
Police believe Rayen died sometime between July 17 and July 23. July 17 is the day family members believe Ray-en was last seen alive.
According to Dutcher, Rayen was born at the Saratoga Lake Motel after Heaven Puleski went into labor unexpectedly. Puleski eventually called 911, Dutcher said, but by the time the ambulance arrived, Rayen had been born and was taken to Saratoga Hospital, where he and his mother stayed overnight.
Dutcher added that she called the hospital and urged doctors to take a blood sample from Rayen to test for heroin, since she suspected Puleski was using the drug during her pregnancy.
Citing privacy laws, Saratoga Hospital was unable to comment on any specifics regarding Puleski.
A Saratoga Lake Motel employee who answered the phone Wednesday — and did not give his name — said the motel had been visited by Child Protective Services staff and police investigators. He said Puleski had only stayed there for eight days and insisted that “no baby was born here — not a single one,” before hanging up.
Police believe Heaven Puleski used heroin at 766 State St., apartment 2, while she was caring for Rayen. Puleski had been living in that apartment building at the time of the infant’s death, police have said.
Police found the infant’s body Thursday evening behind the apartment building.
Police began investigating Rayen’s disappearance on Aug. 7, after they were contacted by Child Protective Services, police have said. City police spokesman Sgt. Matthew Dearing said on Monday that he did not have information about how long CPS had been involved prior to notifying police that they were looking for the mother and child.
Police found Heaven Pule-ski last Wednesday near the Days Inn on Nott Terrace, but the infant wasn’t with her.
MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Heaven Puleski’s brother Tony Puleski and aunt Lisa Dutcher walk from Schenectady City Court after arraignment of Heaven Puleski’s arraignment on felonies connected to her dead son Rayen’s disappearance.
PETER R. BARBER/ GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Puleski is led to a sheriff’s department van after her arraignment.