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Homicide victim Vincent J. Cottone’s tavern in Kenmore was the site of three crimes – a burglary, a suspicious fire and a petit larceny – in the last two months, but Kenmore police aren’t sure whether any of those crimes were related to his weekend killing.

But, Kenmore Police Chief Peter J. Breitnauer said Monday, investigators also “don’t believe this was a random act.”

The chief assured: “Residents of the village of Kenmore should not be alarmed. I believe this was a possible acquaintance.”

Cottone died sometime Sunday morning, an apparent victim of blunt-force trauma, Breitnauer said. No gun was used, but the chief would not discuss any other weapons used in the attack at the victim’s Landers Road home.

There was no sign of forced entry, police added.

Cottone, known to everyone as Jimmy, left his tavern, Malone’s Bar & Grill, at 3020 Delaware Ave., a few minutes before midnight Saturday. When he did not appear at a scheduled Sunday morning staff meeting, his employees repeatedly called him. After they spotted his truck in the driveway of his nearby home, one of the workers went there, where she discovered his body at about 11 a.m.

“She came out screaming,” said Toni Barone, Cottone’s first cousin. “She was hysterical.”

The bar was closed Monday afternoon and neighbors on Landers Road declined to comment out of respect for Cottone’s family. Crime scene tape and a police presence remained in place for a second day.

Kenmore police confirmed three recent crimes at Malone’s:

• A March 26 burglary, in which $350 was reported missing.

• An April 22 suspicious fire in a shed behind the tavern.

• A May 10 petit larceny.

Asked whether his investigators believe any of those crimes are connected to the killing, Breitnauer said, “I’m not going to say anything. It’s all part of an ongoing investigation. We’re going to look at everything.”

Relatives said that after one of the crimes, a key was discovered in the front-door lock, which was confirmed by Breitnauer. Relatives said Cottone then asked to see each of his employees’ keys; one of them claimed to have lost the key, and that worker was fired, relatives said.

“I know there have been people let go,” Breitnauer said. “Would I term any of them a person of interest or a suspect now? No.”

Family members say they can’t make sense of the killing of a conscientious, hard-working man known for putting in long days at his tavern.

“Jimmy was the nicest, easygoing guy,” Barone said. “He was just an outgoing person. He’d give you the shirt off his back.”

She recalled telling him that she wanted new hardwood floors in her home but couldn’t afford the labor. So Cottone, who liked to buy and remodel homes, did the work himself.

“I didn’t even have to ask him,” she said.

People in the Kenmore business community remembered Cottone for his determination to be a good neighbor. He worked hard to create a clean, inviting atmosphere at his bar – even if it meant doing the work himself.

“The first week he was here he took every piece of equipment out of the kitchen, put it in the parking lot and power-cleaned the kitchen,” said Joe Carriero, owner of Malone’s neighbor, Marco’s Italian Deli. “He wouldn’t even cook until it was clean.”

After the suspicious shed fire in April, which wasn’t covered by insurance, Cottone and a friend bought lumber and rebuilt it themselves, Carriero said.

Cottone stopped in at Marco’s late Saturday afternoon for a bowl of soup, Carriero said, and the two men had plans to cross-promote each other’s businesses with coupons.

“I lost a guy I considered a friend,” he said.

Melissa Foster, founder of the Kenmore Village Improvement Society, said she was thrilled with the improvements Cottone was making to his bar, including the addition of flowers on the patio, large mirrors and dividers inside and an expanded kitchen.

“I went in one day and he himself was personally covering the bar stools in new fabric,” she said. “This is how concerned he was with the comfort of the people who go there.”

“He wanted it to be known as a friendly place and as really a Kenmore gathering place,” she said.

Family members suspect the killer may have been involved in at least some of the recent crimes at the bar, but they don’t understand why Cottone had to be killed.

“If you want to rob somebody, why would you have to kill him?” Barone asked. “And we heard it was very brutal.”

Relatives also identified Cottone as the uncle of Carly Collard Cottone, founder of Carly’s Club for Kids, a group founded to offer support programs for children and their families affected by cancer. Carly was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1999 when she was 8 years old. She died three years later.

email: gwarner@buffnews.com and jpopiolkowski@buffnews.com