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Elma man arraigned in Hamburg murder of Toys R Us manager

HAMBURG — The suspect in the June 29 murder of Toys R Us Assistant Manager Laurence “Larry” Wells was arrested Oct. 16 and arraigned before Justice Walter Rooth in Hamburg Town Court.

Toys R Us Regional Loss Prevention Manager Bernard “Bernie” Grucza, 38, who was, until recently, a resident of Kettle Run in Elma, was charged with second degree murder in the stabbing death of the Blasdell resident. Grucza is being held without bail, pending a felony hearing in the Erie County Holding Center.

Wells, 35, was killed in the early morning hours of June 29 in his office at the Toys R Us store in the town of Hamburg. As reported in the official statement of the town of Hamburg Police, the following sequence occurred:

“Video security surveillance showed the suspect [Grucza] holding a knife, enter the building, walk through the store and enter the manager’s office and close the door behind him. Roughly 7 minutes later, the video system was disabled from within that office.”

Wells walked into his office, surprising Grucza as he was attempting to open the office safe, police said, adding that they believed Grucza stabbed Wells multiple times.

Wells was taken to Mercy Hospital with wounds to his shoulder and abdomen; he later died from his injuries.

Grucza was a 1993 graduate of Saint Francis High School. Police said that he had recently moved back to Western New York from Florida. A Florida Gators cap left at the scene contained DNA that matched the store offficer.

Grucza had regular access to the Hamburg store and was in regular contact with police, as their investigation into the murder continued.

A $25,000 reward had been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer.

Police said that they eventually narrowed their focus to the one person of interest. Hamburg Police Capt. Kevin Trask said, “There were several pieces of evidence that started stacking up, that led us to him.”

Police said that they do not believe Grucza went to the store with the intention of killing Wells. “It looks like it started out as a theft and turned into a homicide,” a police spokesperson said.

The investigation is continuing. Police are searching Grucza’s home in Elma, as well as a friend’s residence in the village of Alleghany, where the subject was arrested.

Grucza had previously been charged in a domestic incident in his Elma home last June, where it was reported that shots were fired. Grucza was charged with criminal possession of a weapon; disposition of that matter is unknown, at this time.

Investigators said that Grucza is also a suspect in other burglaries at other Toys R Us stores in southern Pennsylvania.

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