by: David Andreatta
It was around midnight on Wednesday that Paul Wiele got the word from Rochester police: There was a body buried in his backyard.
Then the panic set in. “How else do you react to that other than saying to yourself, ‘What the hell is going on?’ ” said Wiele, who rents an apartment with his fiancée in the rear of the house at 27 Rowley St., where court papers show the owner, Dr. William Lewek, admitted hiding the remains of Matthew Straton.
Wiele spoke Friday morning from the restaurant of a local hotel, where he said the police department is putting him and his fiancée up while its investigation into Lewek and his expansive American Foursquare home continues.A New Hampshire native and experimental psychology graduate student at Rochester Institute of Technology, Wiele described his nearly two-and-a-half years living in the apartment as uneventful until Wednesday evening, when police rapped on his door to tell him they had a search warrant for Lewek’s portion of the house.
In the ensuing hours, Wiele, 24, and his bride-to-be watched as dozens of police officers came and went from their landlord’s residence and combed the backyard with dogs and digging tools.
“Around midnight they told us that a body was found,” Wiele said. “On Thursday, they moved us out.”
Wiele described his interaction with Lewek, a psychiatrist, as being limited to mundane landlord-tenant business, and their mutual interest in the human psyche as coincidental. He characterized Lewek as an “accommodating” and “flexible” landlord who promptly addressed any concerns about his rental unit.
“We really don’t know him very well,” Wiele said. “He never really made any attempt to chat with us.”
Wiele said neither he nor his fiancée recall Lewek exhibiting any unusual or alarming behavior, and that they did not know Straton and had never seen him at the house.
“There’s nothing I can think of that was suspicious,” Wiele said. “I’ve definitely never met (Straton). I honestly don’t even remember if I ever saw the missing poster.”
A missing person flier bearing Straton’s photograph was stapled to a telephone pole across the street from the Rowley Street home.
Waiting for the hotel breakfast he and his fiancée had ordered, Wiele recalled being able to tell police very little about his landlord that he believed would be relevant to their investigation. Then their food arrived and Wiele excused himself.
He and his fiancee had business to discuss — namely, where they were going to live. “It’s completely bizarre,” Wiele said.