Left and Center: Joseph circa, 1996
Right: Age Progressed to age 25
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: March 25, 1996
Missing From: Kerhonkson, Ulster County, New York
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: November 12, 1980
Age: 15 years old
Height and Weight: 5’2″ and 115 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Male, Blonde hair, Hazel eyes, Joseph’s two upper eyeteeth cross over each other, his left ear is double pierced, he had a slim but muscular build at the time of his 1996 disappearance, he might use the two nicknames “Joe” and “Joey” and his head was shaved at the time of his disappearance besides his ponytail
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A hooded green sweatshirt, green/blue flannel shirt, blue jeans, and dark colored sneakers
NCMEC Number: 816833
Details of Disappearance
Joseph went missing from Kerhonkson, New York on March 25th 1996. He snuck out of his house through his bedroom window at approximately 10:40 pm. He was going to hang out with two friends and watch the late night sky as comet Hyakutake passed over. He asked his brother if he wanted to join him but he declined the offer and Joey proceeded to leave the home.
He and his two friends, Daniel Malak and Alexander Barsky, planned to meet at the Schwabie Turnpike which was approximately a quarter mile away from his home. They told police that he never arrived and that they waited for him until midnight and then went home.
Joseph’s mother reported him missing the next morning when she discovered he never got on the bus to go to school. Investigators initially suspected that he ran away from home, there were rumors that he fled the area because he wanted to live in the city or to avoid legal trouble but those haven’t been confirmed. He has never been seen or heard from again.
Investigators considered the possibility that Joey ran away because he had a bad relationship with his stepfather, Lance Lightstone. There were unconfirmed sightings of Joey in the New Paltz area of New York in 1999, 3 years after his disappearance. Investigators aren’t sure if the person seen was Joey or not. They also received reports of him living as far away as California but none of this has been confirmed.
Investigators at one point considered Lance as a possible suspect in the case but he was adamant that he did not know his stepsons whereabouts and was cleared in the investigation. They began to investigate the possibility of foul play when much time passed and no one heard from him. Investigators looked into the possibility that Joey was picked up by passing criminals and might have been murdered at the time he disappeared.
Shortly after Joey disappeared, investigators received a very disturbing tip from a witness who overheard two boys bragging that they were responsible for Joey’s disappearance. They claimed they killed him in retaliation because he sold them bad weed or acid. According to the statement, Joey was abducted by a group of teenaged boys and taken up into the woods.
According to the boys, Joey was handcuffed to a tree and his kneecaps were shot several times before he was left to die. Investigators searched the wooded area indicated but didn’t find Joey’s body. They suspect it was a fantasy story the boys created while drunk. They were not charged in his disappearance.
Joey’s disappearance caused much stress and sadness for his loved ones. Investigators followed up on every lead and sighting of him but they all turned out to be letdowns or were never able to be confirmed. His case was looked at by several investigators but none were able to crack it.
The truth would remain unknown until 2008 when investigators reinterviewed Alexander Barsky about Joey’s disappearance. He was interviewed and given a polygraph exam by police which he failed. He would ultimately confess that he participated in the killing and disposal of Joey. He told them that he did in fact show up that night and that he and Daniel Malak went to a little cabin in the woods where they drank beer and smoked marijuana.
They then forced Joey to his knees and beat him in the head with a steel pipe until he died. They then put his body in a wheelbarrow and brought it to a rock formation with a cave like crevice. They put Joey’s body in the formation and returned to their homes. Alex said he felt horrible that whole night for what he did.
He told investigators that the attack had been planned for over two days before the murder. He told police that the beating occurred because Joey ripped them off for marijuana. They both lied to investigators in order to cover up his death. Alex admitted they never intended for him to die but they wanted to hurt him.
Investigators went to the site that Joey was buried in. Barsky told them that he went back to the site at least twice after the murder was committed. In 2002, he went to the burial site and retrieved Martin’s bones and dismantled them. He then reportedly returned to his home in Brooklyn and disposed of them in trash cans.
Investigators were able to recover fragments of Joey’s clothing and a tooth. They also found a bone fragment from the jaw of a person. The bone came from a human aged between 14 and 16 years of age. The bone showed signs of being fractured which concurred the statement that Joey was beat in the head with a pipe.
Joey’s body was never found. In August of 2008, Barsky was convicted of manslaughter in relation to Joey’s murder. He was sentenced to 3-10 years in prison. This was due to his age at the time of Joey’s death, he was 15 years old and if he had been 16 he could’ve faced 25 years to life in prison. He was just three months short of his birthday.
He apologized to Joey’s mother and relatives at the hearing for his sentencing. He also stated that Malak was the instigator of the attack and he struck the 1st 2 blows to his head. In September of 2009, Malak was charged with 2nd degree murder in Joey’s murder and was sentenced to a total of 15 years to life in prison. He was already serving time in prison for the 1997 shooting death of 62 year old George Allison who was killed in his Samsonville weekend home.
Daniels conviction was upheld in 2014 and is still in prison for both murders he committed. Barsky has since been released from prison. Investigators believe that Joey’s remains are unrecoverable at this point and have no idea where they could’ve ended up after being dumped in trash bins.
Some agencies continue to classify Joey as an endangered runaway. At the time of his disappearance, Joey was a student at Rondout Valley High School and enjoyed skateboarding in 1996. He also participated in school sports such as football, wrestling, and track. He is missed and loved by his family and friends. His family held a memorial for him after the confession.
Joseph has never been found and foul play is suspected in his disappearance.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
New York State Police 845-626-2800