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One vehicle seized after overnight weekend patrol on Route 347 serves as warning before Labor Day

Eleven arrests are the result of a weekend sobriety checkpoint in Smithtown. File photo

Suffolk County Police collected 11 arrests and one vehicle seizure by the end of an overnight sobriety checkpoint in Smithtown this past weekend, authorities said.

The county’s police highway patrol bureau set up the sobriety checkpoint at 575 Smithtown Bypass in Smithtown around 11:37 p.m. on Friday night and stayed there until about 3:20 a.m. on Saturday with hopes of preventing injuries and fatalities associated with driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, cops said.

The checkpoint, police said, served as a prelude to the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend.

The driving while intoxicated arrests included residents across the North Shore and beyond. Arrests included Rachel Hartman, 23, of Centereach; Jorge Reina, 54, of Flushing; Brian McMahon, 32, of Nesconset; Patrick Kotowicz, 25, of Hauppauge; Russel Figueroa, 58, of Miller Place; Orrie Wolfer, 21, of Smithtown; Odys Kurek, 45, of Nesconset; Nakia Brantley, 22, of Bay Shore; Peter Evans, 22, of Smithtown; and Dennis Sposato, 39, of Lindenhurst. Frederick Panciroli, 18, of Hauppauge, was also arrested for driving while ability impaired by drugs.

A total of 988 vehicles went through the checkpoint, Suffolk County cops said.

Suffolk County Police have used checkpoints as a precursor to the upcoming Labor Day weekend, so residents are reminded not to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs as they celebrate the holiday.

Galip Gulmez mugshot from SCPD

Police arrested an elderly man on Monday, three weeks after they say he lured children with candy while masturbating.

The 87-year-old Lloyd Harbor man was sitting in his gray 2011 Subaru at West Neck Beach on the afternoon of Aug. 10, when he allegedly offered candy to nearby children. The Suffolk County Police Department said a woman who was at the beach with the kids went up to the Subaru to intervene and saw that the suspect was not wearing pants and was masturbating.

Detectives from the SCPD’s 2nd Squad investigated the case, and on Monday afternoon arrested Horseshoe Path resident Galip Gulmez. He is charged with public lewdness and with endangering the welfare of a child.

Attorney information for Gulmez was not available Tuesday morning.

According to police, the suspect was scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday.

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers freed a trapped bird in Northport. Photo from SCPD

A bird has got new wind beneath its wings, thanks to rescue efforts by the Suffolk County Police Department’s Marine Bureau, whose officers freed the creature on Sunday after it became entangled on an offshore fuel platform in Northport.

Officers Charles Marchiselli and Michael O’Leary were aboard Marine Bravo when they observed the bird tangled in string along the railing of the platform, about two miles north of National Grid’s Northport power plant, at approximately 11:15 a.m. O’Leary distracted the bird with a wildlife pole while Marchiselli covered it with a blanket and cut the entangling lines.

The bird appeared uninjured and swam away after being freed, police said.

The officers saw the bird while they were conducting a homeland security check of the platform, which is used to offload fuel for the power plant.

National Grid owns and operates the plant, and sells its produced energy to utility PSEG Long Island, which distributes the power to Long Island residents.

The scene of the Friday evening crash on Woodbury Road. Photo by Marilyn McDermott

By Rohma Abbas & Elana Glowatz

An elderly woman died in Cold Spring Harbor Friday evening when she lost control of her car on Woodbury Road and crashed into the woods.

The Suffolk County Police Department said 80-year-old Eugenia Kouwenhoven, a Huntington resident, was driving a 2014 Buick Regal west on the road at the time of the crash, close to 6:30 p.m. She was pronounced dead at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Woodbury Road has been the topic of much debate at Huntington Town Board meetings, as residents have cited numerous car crashes along the road. The town commissioned a traffic study of the thoroughfare, but the stretch of roadway along which Kouwenhoven crashed and lost her life is not in the traffic calming study area, according to A.J. Carter, a spokesman for the town.

“The unfortunate accident occurred on a portion of Woodbury Road that is past Cold Spring Harbor train station, which is not part of the study area,” Carter said.

Marilyn McDermott, a resident of Woodbury Road, echoed similar sentiments. She questioned whether the accident had much to do with the safety road. She was on the scene shortly after the accident and said she didn’t see any skid marks.

“I’m not sure if it was inherent of the actual dangers of the road or singular to her,” McDermott said in a Monday phone interview.

Kouwenhoven was a widow, and a mother to three children, a grandmother to 10, and a great grandmother to four, according to her obituary on A.L Jacobsen Funeral Home’s website.

Attempts to reach Kouwenhoven’s family this week were unsuccessful.

Friends of Kouwenhoven, who also went by “Jean” or “Gene,” shared some of their memories and condolences on an online tribute page.

One person spoke of Kouwenhoven’s gourmet cooking skills and her “kind and thoughtful” nature. She said Kouwenhoven would often wash and style the hair of neighborhood girls before a birthday party.

“Can you imagine someone taking the time to [style] 2 or 3 young girls’ hair?” Janet Stanton Schaaf wrote. “It took hours! I felt so pampered and so glamorous, and so cared for. What a wonderful feeling”

Schaaf continued, “Jean had such a positive impact on my life and I hope she now sees how much she added to our little Huntington neighborhood of kids. Thanks for everything, Jean.”

Cathy and Walter Kennedy also left a message honoring Kouwenhoven.

“She was so full of life and knew how to enjoy it,” they wrote. “She had a special way of wrapping herself around your heart. We feel blessed to have known her and to have shared many a time with her.”

While he’s not handling the case and doesn’t know the exact details, 2nd Precinct Dt. Sgt. James Scimoni said it’s “definitely possible” the woman could have undergone a medical emergency before crashing. But there’s no confirmation of that, he said.

On the subject of Woodbury Road traffic safety improvements, town officials have already embarked on fixes to attempt to make the road safer.

On Tuesday, the town released a statement noting that it had implemented the first phase of its traffic study consultants’ recommendations. Town highway department workers trimmed trees along the shoulder of the road, running 2.5 miles from Main Street in Huntington village to Pulaski Road in Cold Spring Harbor. The workers also replaced road signs to increase visibility — the 165 new signs are larger than the ones they replaced, including larger chevron signs to further highlight the horizontal curves in the roadway.

The town installed new turn and reverse turn signs to replace curve and reverse curve signs, bringing the signage up to federal standards. Also, the town upgraded the reflectivity of traffic signs.

“That stuff is the first phase,” Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) said in a phone interview. “Now we’re waiting for the analysis of the road for the second phase to implement the suggestions for narrowing the road, the markings and the strips in the middle.”

This story was last updated on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at 5 p.m.

File photo.

A driver was seriously injured in Huntington Station early Friday morning when he hit a utility pole.

The Suffolk County Police Department said the man had been driving south on New York Avenue in a 1991 Mazda SUV at about 2:20 a.m. when his car left the road and hit the pole, just north of Schwab Road.

The man was brought to Huntington Hospital with serious injuries, then transferred to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.

Police identified the victim as 50-year-old West Babylon resident Giovanni Saccente.

Detectives from the SCPD’s 2nd Squad are investigating the case, and the Mazda was impounded for a safety check.

Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call detectives at 631-854-8252 or to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-220-TIPS.

Story last updated on Friday, Aug. 28, at 1:15 p.m.

The dangerous reptile sits on a table at Thursday's press conference. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Victoria Espinoza

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.

A 25-pound alligator snapping turtle was found this past weekend in the stream opposite the Smithtown Bull on Route 25 in Smithtown, with enough power to bite off someone’s finger or toe, officials said.

“We’re just lucky the gentleman who found it knew how to handle it, and knew to contact us,” said Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “This reptile is capable of taking toes and part of a foot clean off. People are constantly walking by this area barefoot, including children.”

A father and son, both Suffolk County residents, found the reptile while they were preparing to go kayaking, officials said. Gross said that this freshwater reptile is not indigenous to this area, and is mainly found from eastern Texas to the Florida panhandle.

SPCA Chief Roy Gross handles the alligator snapping turtle on Thursday, Aug. 27. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
SPCA Chief Roy Gross handles the alligator snapping turtle on Thursday, Aug. 27. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Gross and Dan Losquadro, highway superintendent for Brookhaven Town, both said that this is another example of people dumping reptiles in public places, creating a serious threat and risk to the public.

“This is a dangerous animal. We don’t want animals abandoned. But we don’t want to endanger the public,” Losquadro said.

According to Losquadro, the turtle will be transported to the Holtsville Ecology Center, where it will be given shelter and a veterinarian will make sure it is physically healthy, and identify what gender it is.

The ecology center is a refuge for all abandoned animals. Gross said that over the years there have been many incidents of animals being released to the public, and that someone guilty of this can be faced with multiple charges and prosecuted.

Gross suspected this was originally someone’s pet, but stressed that this is not the kind of pet you want to have.

“I can’t imagine curled up on the couch watching television with this guy,” Gross said.

When transporting the turtle to the SPCA’s office, he said the turtle was able to make a hole in the container he was being kept in, and was trying to escape.

Parking lot possession
Police arrested a 23-year-old woman from Shoreham on Aug. 20 for possession of Suboxone, a controlled substance. The arrest took place in a parking lot on Mariners Way in Port Jefferson. A 25-year-old man from Huntington was arrested in the same location that day, for possession of heroin.

Give him some credit
On Aug. 21, police arrested a 40-year-old man from Miller Place for petit larceny in the Sunrise Service Road Plaza, for stealing Timberland boots from an unidentified store and returning them for store credit. Police also found heroin in the man’s possession.

Can’t dodge DUI
A 53-year-old man from Bohemia was arrested in Centereach on Aug. 22 for driving under the influence. The man was driving a 2002 Dodge south on County Road 97 when he rear-ended the car in front of him. Police discovered the man was driving while impaired.

At the corner of heroin and theft
Police arrested a 39-year-old woman from Coram on Aug. 22, after she took unidentified items from a Walgreens on Middle Country Road. She was also found in possession of heroin.

King of barcodes
On Aug. 21, a 63-year-old man was arrested at the King Kullen in Independence Plaza in Selden for manipulating a barcode scanner machine. Police said the man previously committed the same act at two other locations.

Kicked and keyed
On Aug. 20 an unknown person dented and keyed a person’s car on Piedmont Drive in Port Jefferson Station. The individual dented the car by kicking it.

Dognap ends happily
A female took a small black Maltese dog from a female complainant on Piedmont Drive in Port Jefferson Station on Aug. 20, at 1:40 a.m. The complainant was reunited with her dog and didn’t want to press charges. Police said the complainant knows the woman who took the dog.

You’re Heinekidding me
An unknown person walked into the CVS Pharmacy on Main Street in Port Jefferson on Aug. 22 and stole a six-pack of Heineken beer.

Up against the wall
On Aug. 19 at 8:40 p.m. a man was walking on Linden Place in Port Jefferson when someone approached him from behind and pushed him against a brick wall. The suspect demanded money and took it from the man’s wallet before fleeing on foot.

I’ve got the power
An unknown person removed assorted power tools from a box truck on Aug. 19, at 1:56 a.m., on Middle Country Road in Miller Place.

Unsafe driving comment
Two male customers at a gas station on Nesconset Highway in Mount Sinai got into a dispute on Aug. 22. One customer assaulted the other, punching and pushing him to the ground. According to police, the dispute arose because the complainant told the other customer that he had made an unsafe driving maneuver.

Turning the other cheek
Two women got into a dispute on Broadway in Rocky Point on Aug. 19. At 12:05 a.m., one woman threw a drink at the complainant and struck her on the side of the face with a beer bottle. There were no serious injuries.

Tackling petty crime
Police said on Aug. 21 a suspect and two other people ran “football-style” into a person’s mailbox on Monticello Drive in Shoreham at 1:19 a.m. The mailbox was damaged.

Gas money
On Aug. 19 at 9:40 p.m. an unknown suspect entered a gas station on Middle Country Road in Centereach and displayed a black handgun. He demanded cash from the register before taking it out himself.

Check, please
An unknown person and their party got into a verbal dispute with other people at the Olive Garden in Centereach. The incident took place on Aug. 19 at 9 p.m., when police said the former group chased the latter out of the restaurant and damaged the restaurant’s front door in the process.

Pumping and running
An unknown person pumped gas on Middle Country Road in Centereach and left the station without paying.

DWI crash
A 54-year-old man from Ronkonkoma was arrested in Stony Brook on Aug. 21 and charged with driving while intoxicated in the first degree. Police said the man was driving a 2014 Dodge pickup at 10:09 p.m. at Gibbs Pond Road and Pleasant Drive in Smithtown when he was involved in a motor vehicle crash. He was transferred to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was arrested.

Gifted
A 39-year-old man from Shirley was arrested on Aug. 21 at 11:40 a.m. and charged with petit larceny. Police said he activated a Visa gift card and left Home Depot on Pond Path without paying at 10 p.m. on Aug. 20.

Dunkin’ GoNuts
A Dunkin’ Donuts employee at a store on Nesconset Highway in Setauket-East Setauket told police that someone head-butted him in the nose at 5:50 a.m. on Aug. 22. The attack came after staff asked the angry customer to leave.

Like taking candy from a baby
Someone stole a female Walmart shopper’s pocketbook that was located in the rear of a baby carriage while at the store on Nesconset Highway in Setauket-East Setauket on Aug. 19. The pocketbook contained cash, an iPhone and a child’s wallet.

Gone in a flash
Someone stole earphones, a cell phone case and a flashlight from Target located on Pond Path in South Setauket on Aug. 19 at 3:50 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Swept away
Someone took a Dyson vacuum cleaner from Lowe’s Home Improvement on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook on Aug. 23 at 3:50 p.m. There have been no arrests.

An unwelcome visit
Suffolk County Police said a 28-year-old man from Lake Grove was arrested at the 4th Precinct on Aug. 21 at 12:20 a.m. and charged with second-degree burglary. Police said the man entered a residence on Shepherd Lane in Nesconset and stole property sometime between Aug. 3 at 6 p.m. and Aug. 4 at 11:30 a.m. Police couldn’t say what he stole.

Speedy DWI
A 22-year-old Northport man was arrested on Aug. 20 at Derby Place and Route 25A in Smithtown at 1:45 a.m. and charged with first-degree driving while intoxicated. Police said the man, who was driving on Route 25A in a 1997 Buick, was observed speeding before being pulled over.

Bad reality check
Police said a 44-year-old man from Brentwood was arrested by Suffolk County Police on Aug. 20 at the 4th Precinct at 10:50 a.m. and charged with third-degree grand larceny. Police said the man knowingly cashed a bad check.

Jewelry jam
A 49-year-old man from Selden was arrested in Smithtown on Aug. 19 and charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property. Police said that in 2013 and 2014, the man sold several items of stolen jewelry to pawn shops on Walt Whitman Road in Melville.

Falling flat
Police arrested a 49-year-old woman from Central Islip on Aug. 19 and charged her with petit larceny. Police said she stole a 48-inch flat screen TV from Walmart on Veterans Memorial Highway in Islandia on Aug. 8 at 2:25 p.m. She was arrested at the 4th Precinct.

Pole patrol
A 23-year-old man from Medford was arrested in St. James on Aug. 22 and charged with operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 of 1 percent in the first degree, and driving while intoxicated. Police said the man was driving a 2008 Jeep on Middle Country Road east of Lake Avenue in St. James at 3:15 a.m. when he struck a pole.

Lights out
Someone pushed over a light post in front of Katie’s bar on West Main Street in Smithtown on Aug. 20 at 1:47 a.m. There have been no arrests.

Come take my car
A man told police that someone took his 2014 Nissan Altima parked on the street in front of his parents’ home on Valleywood Drive in Smithtown on Aug. 19. Police said the complainant told them he left his car unlocked and the key in the glove box.

Wallet woes
A man told police someone stole his wallet from a 2007 Honda CRV sometime between Aug. 20 and Aug. 21 on Springmeadow Drive in Kings Park. The wallet contained credit cards and a driver’s license.

Crash ‘n dash
A 52-year-old woman from Huntington driving a 2013 Nissan Sentra attempted to flee the scene on Aug. 21 following an accident. She was arrested on New York Avenue and charged with an aggravated DWI, DWI and leaving the scene. She rear-ended a 2015 Chevrolet. There were no passengers inside the car.

Taking the high road
Police arrested a 48-year-old woman from Huntington at exit 50 of the Long Island Expressway on Aug. 21 and charged her with operating a motor vehicle impaired by drugs. She was driving a 2005 Chrysler and was involved in a crash with an unknown vehicle.

Stickin’ it to them
On Aug. 20, a 21-year-old woman from Huntington was arrested at the LIE and Route 110 in Huntington and charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, for unlawful possession of a collapsible baton. She was also charged with using a vehicle by temporary custody, no contest. She had it in the passenger side of the 2015 Ford she was driving. Police discovered this after pulling her over for being in violation of a rental agreement with U-Haul.

Joy ride
At approximately 10 p.m. on Aug. 20, a 19-year-old man from Huntington was arrested on Clay Pitts Road in Greenlawn and charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Cops found the drug on him during a traffic stop.

Parks and theft
On Aug. 22, at approximately 10:40 p.m., a man told cops that three men surrounded him while he was at Heckscher Park in Huntington. One of the three men punched him and stole his laptop.

On a roll
Huntington Mazda, on Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station, reported to police that four rims and four tires were stolen from a 2010 BMW between midnight and 12:30 am on Aug. 19.

Charger jacked
A woman at the Family Service League on Park Avenue in Huntington reported to police that her cell phone charger was stolen on Aug. 20. She said she placed it by a common sleeping area and when she returned it was gone.

A Middle Country man may have been unwell on Wednesday when his pickup truck crashed into the center median on the Long Island Expressway, before he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The Suffolk County Police Department said the 63-year-old Coram man, David Hutchings, was driving a 2005 GMC east near exit 63 in Holtsville at about 1:15 p.m. when he collided with the median near the carpool lane. The pickup came to a stop after the crash.

According to police, officers and rescue personnel arrived to find Hutchings unconscious behind the wheel. The Holtsville Fire Department ambulance brought him to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police said detectives from the SCPD’s 6th Squad, who are investigating the incident, believe Hutchings experienced a medical emergency, causing the fatal one-car crash.

The pickup was impounded for safety checks.

Stephen Ruth mugshot from the SCPD

Police arrested a Centereach man on Tuesday afternoon who they say used a pole to turn red light cameras away from the road and potential violators.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the suspect used an expandable pole to tamper with the cameras, pushing the lenses toward the sky. Officers from the SCPD’s 6th Precinct Crime Section received anonymous tips regarding a video post on social media that allegedly shows 42-year-old Stephen Ruth tampering with several of the cameras in Ronkonkoma, including one on Ocean Avenue at the Long Island Expressway’s south service road on both Aug. 21 and Aug. 24. Shortly before being arrested on Tuesday afternoon, he also allegedly tampered with two other cameras on that same service road, at the intersection with Hawkins Avenue.

After an investigation, officers arrested Ruth at his home on Stewart Circle.

He was charged with four counts of third-degree criminal tampering and four counts of second-degree obstruction of governmental administration.

Attorney information for Ruth was not immediately available on Wednesday.

The red light cameras, which are maintained by Baltimore-based Affiliated Computer Services Incorporated, take photographs at busy intersections throughout Suffolk County, recording license plates of vehicles whose drivers run through a red light or do not come to a complete stop before making a right turn on a red signal. The company reviews the photos snapped — and gets final approval from the county — and for each confirmed violation, the registered owner of the vehicle receives a $50 traffic citation.

Suffolk’s red light camera program began in summer 2010, and signs alert approaching drivers at every intersection where there is a camera.

Unlike other moving violations, red light camera violations do not add points to a driver’s license, as the cameras only record rear license plates and cannot confirm the driver of a violating vehicle.

Cops charge Eddie Schmidt with grand, petit larceny as association continues search for missing finances

Former Poquott civic President Eddie Schmidt goes over civic matters over the summer. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Former Poquott Village Trustee Eddie Schmidt, who was accused of stealing more than $23,000 from the civic association while the 22-year-old was the group’s president, was arrested and charged with grand and petit larcenies last week.

Police said Schmidt, who was arrested at 10:45 a.m. on Aug. 17 at his home on Birchwood Avenue, was charged with two counts of petit larceny and one count of grand larceny for incidents of theft that occurred between September 2013 and May 2014, according to a police spokeswoman. She said Schmidt took cash from the Poquott Civic Association.

Tad Scharfenberg, an attorney representing Schmidt, called the situation “outrageous,” and said “from what I’ve seen he’s actually done nothing wrong.” In a phone interview on Tuesday, Scharfenberg defended his client and said he didn’t steal any money.

“They’re just unhappy with the way it was spent.”

Scharfenberg said Schmidt didn’t spend any of the money on himself. Asked what he spent the money on, Schmidt’s attorney said they’re analyzing that now, and he called it a “situation where I don’t think he did a great job of record keeping.”

“This is a really good kid,” Scharfenberg said. “College kid, working hard. They’re trying to blow him up and it’s not right.”

The arrest marks a milestone in a saga that had gripped the village earlier this year, when civic officials alleged he took more than $23,000 while he was the president of the Poquott Civic Association.

Officials had claimed that while president, Schmidt used money raised at civic events to purchase things unrelated to civic expenses, like gasoline, Vineyard Vines clothing and dining at gourmet restaurants.

Schmidt resigned as president of the group last September.

Earlier this year, Schmidt fired back against the accusations in an email, breaking his silence since the allegations arose late last year. He called the claims rumors.

“The silence was a courtesy as I thought the present Board was genuinely working towards a mutual agreement between us to benefit the community. Unfortunately, the board was not genuine in its dealings, and has acted contrary to resolution,” Schmidt said in the letter. “I am writing this letter now to explain the situation, as I have genuine concerns regarding the presentation of the information by the Board, and by the climate of rumor that has spread throughout our village.”

In that letter, he spoke about the events he helped bring forward as president of the civic, despite carrying a hefty workload while attending college at 19 years old.

“I did my best to work towards common ground while rumors became widespread, and incorrect information and damaging assumptions were presented.”

In March, Poquott Civic Association officials spoke publicly about a potential settlement between Schmidt and the board for $15,000. President Carol Pesek said at the time that the settlement offer was for $15,000 — $5,000 less than the money originally demanded late last year — and also included a controversial confidentiality clause that would forbid the board from speaking of the matter. There was also a nondisclosure clause that would forbid it from letting the community know where the money came from, and an agreement that Schmidt would not be prosecuted, the civic board said. But civic officials couldn’t get past the confidentiality clause.

It’s not immediately clear what happened to that settlement offer.

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