State police combing for clues in 1978 double murder

TOWN OF ALLEGANY, N.Y. (WIVB) — A long-closed steel bridge at the end of an overgrown road here may look picturesque, but it holds a secret. It was the final act of murders to get rid of their evidence, when they tossed an empty floor safe over the edge into the Allegany River below.

The 1978 murders of 30-year-old Stephen Bender and 29-year-old Michael Forness at the Wing Hollow Ski resort are said to haunt the mountain — although the property’s current owners don’t believe in such things.
What was once a bustling winter spot for many in the Southern Tier has long since been bought out by the Walsh family.
Only a few buildings remain. Mostly brush and rusty, faded snow groomers put out to pasture. The lodge where the murders took place has been gone for decades.
Some key evidence is missing, like pictures of the victims are no where to be found among the five case files.
The two men who were killed were taken by surprise during a robbery, according to New York State Police senior investigator Gulio Giardini.
“There was a floor mounted safe that was taken from the ski lodge, and it contained approximately $18,000 and currency,” Giardini said. “We believe it would’ve taken at least a couple people to grab it. We believe the safe weighed approximately 175 pounds. It was a floor mounted safe so it would’ve had to been pulled from the floor.”
The employee who found the men when he showed up for his shift in the early morning hours of Feb. 6 is not a suspect, although investigators still believe it could have been an inside job.
“We think there might of been some prior knowledge, and we also believe that they were surprised and again, removing that safe from the floor, that would take some work,” Giardini said. “That’s not something that you’d be able to do in just a few minutes. That would take some time to remove that from the floor.”
The killers also didn’t have the combination, but they were prepared.
“Saws or any other type of equipment that it would be able to pull it from the floor, because it was mounted to the concrete floor,” Giardini said.
The case landed on Giardini’s desk in May of 2015. He and other investigators are still looking for leads nearly four decades later, and they’re just as eager to solve the mystery.

“Where enthusiastic about solving it,” he said. “I know it’s been nearly 39 years now, but for the two people that were killed, they were loved ones of somebody else. Anything we can do to close the case and maybe have some closure for the families, we definitely would like to do.”

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Senior Investigator Giardini of the New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Olean at 373-2552. State police ask callers to reference number: SJS# 3021805. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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