Brendan J. Lyons
BALLSTON SPA — A young New York National Guard member from Clifton Park has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the disappearance two years ago of a Saratoga County biker, Michael P. Ahern of Stillwater.
Jack L. Jeffers, 25, a private first class, had been a focus of the investigation into Ahern’s disappearance along with associates of at least one other local motorcycle club.
Jeffers has an extensive arrest record that includes a federal conviction for gun trafficking. According to court records, Jeffers has been in custody since about April 2019, three months after Ahern was reported missing. When authorities went to investigate at a garage on Brickyard Road where Ahern had resided, his pets and vehicles were still there.
Saratoga County sheriff’s officials on Tuesday said that Jeffers may not have acted alone — either in causing Ahern’s death or disposing of the corpse — and that others associated with the area’s biker club network remain a focus of the investigation.
“I want to offer my sincere condolences to the Ahern family, and his three children,” Sheriff Michael H. Zurlo said at a news conference. “This will bring some type of closure to them and to the rest of his family members.”
The sheriff said that Ahern was “shot and killed” by Jeffers. The alleged murder weapon was recovered by investigators; Jeffers had possessed the gun illegally, he added.
Despite Jeffers’ admission to killing Ahern, he was charged with second-degree manslaughter rather than murder. That charge indicates that Jeffers “recklessly caused the death” of another person but the Saratoga County district attorney’s office and police did not specify what triggered the killing.
“The investigation revealed, and he was charged with, having recklessly caused the death of Michael Ahern and that’s the charge which was appropriate for the reckless homicide,” said District Attorney Karen A. Heggen, without elaborating.
Jeffers, who has been arrested multiple times in the past two years, was charged last year with other crimes related to the homicide investigation, including grand larceny, tampering with evidence and criminal possession of a weapon.
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Zurlo said that Jeffers disposed of evidence and also stole a truck that had belonged to Ahern. In jail on other charges, he was arrested on the manslaughter charge on Monday and arraigned in the town of Milton. He pleaded guilty on Tuesday and is expected to be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison under a plea agreement. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 30.
Although Zurlo said the two-year investigation had come to “a successful conclusion,” investigators acknowledged that the probe is ongoing and others may have had a role in Ahern’s disappearance.
“We’re still working on a few things with the (human) remains,” Capt. Jeffrey Brown, head of the sheriff’s investigations unit, said when asked if they had recovered Ahern’s remains. “I don’t want to get into too much. We do have some moving parts, some loose ends. … There are some other people that could be involved.”
Brown said that Jeffers and Ahern were living together, but investigators have not confirmed what sparked the dispute that led to the fatal shooting.
“We believe there was money issues; certainly I believe there was narcotics involved, so any one of those … multitude of things could have led them to argue that day and ultimately ended with Mr. Ahern (dead),” Brown said.
The captain confirmed that other area bikers are among the suspects they are still investigating in connection with the homicide.
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“A lot of the local people they hung out with were different local bike gangs and a lot of them are affiliated in one way or another with each other although they are separate in some ways,” Brown said, adding that additional arrests are possible. He added that Jeffers is cooperating in the investigation.
The building where Ahern was apparently killed had served as the clubhouse for his now-defunct motorcycle club, Rolling Pride. Police believe his body was disposed of elsewhere, according to a person briefed on the case. Cellphone records indicated he had been at that location around the time he vanished.
State Police forensic investigators, in coordination with Saratoga County sheriff’s deputies and local police, scoured the Brickyard Road property in 2019 for evidence of what happened to the biker, who also had dealings with members of the club known as the East Coast Syndicate. Although they found some forensic evidence at the garage, there were no human remains recovered.
Ahern’s disappearance led to Joseph Brady, a former state legislative aide and founding member of the Capital Region chapter of East Coast Syndicate, being questioned in 2019 after he and his biker associates were monitored by police for several months. No members of the club have been accused of wrongdoing and no charges have been filed against them.
During their surveillance of the group, investigators also learned a troubling allegation that Brady had purported to carry teeth in his pocket that he boasted belonged to someone who had disrespected their club. The Times Union could not independently verify if that allegation was connected to Ahern’s disappearance.
At least one member of the club also had posted a message on Facebook that appeared to taunt law enforcement investigators: “No body, no crime,” it read, according to a person who viewed the post, which has since been removed.
Brady was the longtime legislative director for state Assemblyman Peter J. Abbate Jr., a Brooklyn Democrat and state lawmaker since 1986 whose leadership of the chamber’s Governmental Employees Committee gave him significant influence over labor issues.
Jeffers joined the National Guard in 2012.
“He’s in the process of being dismissed because of a prior conviction,” said Eric Durr, a spokesman for the state’s Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
In October 2019, nine months after Ahern’s death, Jeffers and another man, Jeffrey Barber — also a New York resident — were arrested in Vermont on charges of using a straw buyer to purchase seven handguns and a rifle from a Bennington, Vt., gun store.
Barber and Jeffers both pleaded guilty in the federal criminal case. Last June, Jeffers was sentenced to nine months in federal prison.
A sentencing memorandum filed by Jeffers’ defense attorney said that alcoholism runs in his family and that in 2017 he began using large amounts of heroin and cocaine. That memo states that Jeffers also was in the U.S. Army, but a National Guard spokesman said their records indicate that Jeffers only served in that service branch.
“Mr. Jeffers’ increasing drug use coincided with new friends that he met a work. His family described this new peer group as ‘toxic’ and ‘attempted to steer (him) away from that group,’” the memorandum states. “Instead, Mr. Jeffers began spending less time with his family and more with his new peer group — all of whom were older. … Mr. Jeffers split from his live-in girlfriend and graduated from heavy drinker to cocaine abuser, to heroin abuser to methamphetamine abuser in short succession.”