Police & Fire

Joan Beard mugshot from SCPD

Police arrested a Port Jefferson Station woman on Saturday night after finding her unresponsive in a car with her toddler, allegedly under the influence of drugs.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, officers Michael Becker and Michael Cafarella from the 6th Precinct were responding to an anonymous 911 call about an unresponsive woman with a child in a car, parked at a Gulf station on Route 112 in Medford.

Becker and Cafarella arrived at about 7:30 p.m. and knocked on the car window, police said. The woman sitting in the driver’s seat, 31-year-old Joan Beard, did not respond to the knock but woke up when the officers opened the car door.

Police said Beard was under the influence of drugs, and was arrested.

Her 2-year-old daughter, who was in the backseat of the car, was unharmed. Child Protective Services was notified and the girl was released to family members, police said.

Beard was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Beard was listed on the New York State court system’s online database as representing herself and could not be reached for comment.

She has a previous charge pending against her as well, for possession of a hypodermic instrument.

A motorcyclist was seriously injured early on Saturday morning when an SUV hit him as he was lying in the road.

The Suffolk County Police Department said 31-year-old Flushing resident James Dang lost control of his bike, a 2004 Suzuki, while riding north at about 1:35 a.m. on Moriches Road in Lake Grove, just south of Jericho Turnpike. He was lying in the road when a dark-colored SUV struck him and then fled the scene.

Dang was treated at Stony Brook University Hospital for serious injuries, police said.

Detectives from the SCPD’s 4th Squad are investigating the crash. Anyone who may have witnessed it is asked to call them at 631-854-8452 or to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-220-TIPS.

Following investigation, police apprehend man in Greenlawn

File photo

A Centerport man who police said robbed three Suffolk County banks and attempted to hit a fourth in Huntington all in the same month was arrested on Friday morning in Greenlawn.

Police pored over video surveillance and multiple Crime Stoppers tips and ended up pinning Frank Marquez, 46, with the robbery of a TD Bank on Broadhollow Road in Farmingdale on July 7; the robbery of another TD Bank on Deer Park Avenue in Deer Park on July 14; and the July 21 robbery of a Capital One on Deer Park Avenue in North Babylon.

Police also said he tried to rob a People’s United Bank on E. Main Street in Huntington on July 14. At the time, police said a man in shorts, a white T-shirt and a red hat made verbal demands for money at the bank but fled after the teller did not comply. But he was successful 25 minutes later, when he allegedly showed up at the TD Bank on Deer Park Avenue and once again verbally demanded money from a teller.

Police said the teller gave the man money and he fled south from the Deer Park bank on foot. The suspect at the time was described as a Hispanic man with a gray goatee, between 40 and 45 years old, and between 5 foot 6 inches and 5 foot 7 inches tall with a medium build.

The Suffolk County Police Pattern Crime Unit detectives, with assistance from officers in the 2nd Precinct, found Marquez on Pulaski Road near Butterfield Drive in Greenlawn at 10:23 a.m. A detective from the Pattern Crime Unit said he was apprehended in his car, a 1994 Jeep Cherokee.

Marquez was charged with three counts of third-degree robbery, one count of attempted third-degree robbery and second-degree aggravated unlicensed operation, for driving with a suspended license.

Marquez is being held overnight and is scheduled for arraignment at First District Court in Central Islip on July 25.

Attorney information for Marquez wasn’t immediately available on Friday afternoon.

In threes
A group of young men were arrested in the early morning of July 16 and charged with second-degree robbery. According to police, a homeless 24-year-old, a 19-year-old from Stony Brook and an 18-year-old from Port Jefferson Station forcibly stole money from a person on Route 25A in Port Jefferson Station.

Quick cash
An unknown man pushed a woman to the ground and stole property from her by a bar in Port Jefferson Station on July 15 at around 4:15 a.m.

Failed getaway
Police arrested a 35-year-old Port Jefferson Station man in Port Jefferson on July 13 and charged him with second-degree criminal possession of a loaded firearm, third-degree possession of a narcotic with intent to sell, first-degree leaving the scene of a crash and second-degree obstructing government administration. According to police, at around 4:58 p.m. the man was instructed to shut down his vehicle when stopped at Old Town Road but instead drove north on Jayne Boulevard at a high speed. When he attempted to make a right onto Maple Avenue, he failed to stay to the right and collided with a 2013 Nissan, whose driver required medical attention. The man then fled on foot until apprehended by police. Police said the man possessed a loaded semiautomatic weapon and heroin.

Changing gears
An unknown person stole a bike right off the rack from the The Port Jeff Bike Dr. on Main Street in Port Jefferson on July 19, at around 2:10 p.m.

Can’t even
A woman assaulted another woman in the female bathroom at Portside Bar and Grill in Port Jefferson on July 18, at around 2:30 a.m. According to police, the suspect thought the victim said something negative about her, so she punched her. The victim was transported to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson to receive medical treatment. No arrests have been made.

Old-fashioned fisticuffs
A 25-year-old Rocky Point man was arrested in Port Jefferson and charged with disorderly conduct on July 18 after he engaged in a fistfight with security personnel at Billie’s 1890 Saloon on Main Street.

Friendly fire
Two co-workers at Heritage Diner in Mount Sinai were involved in a tiff on July 18. Police said one worker swung a utensil at the other, causing a laceration to the person’s face. No arrests have been made.

ATM on-the-go
An unknown person broke the front door of a CVS Pharmacy on Route 25A in Miller Place on July 16, at around 2:17 a.m., and fled with the cash register.

Lawn games
An unknown person drove across a lawn on Harrison Avenue in Miller Place on July 15 at some point between 10:45 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

Homerun
A Hawkins Road home in Centereach reported a broken window above a front door on July 16 at 11 p.m. The damage was thought to be caused by a softball.

I’mrich
A 2013 Honda parked at a Ulrich Road home in Centereach was robbed of a wallet and credit cards at some point between July 14 and July 15.

Caught
A woman was given a field appearance ticket after attempting to take property from a Bob’s Store in Selden on July 19 at around 2 p.m. Police said the culprit tried to conceal a bathing suit and blender bottle in her bag.

Coffee buzz interrupted
Police said two men from the Bronx were arrested in South Setauket on July 15 and charged with third-degree burglary and possession of burglar tools. According to police, the men entered a Dunkin’ Donuts on Nesconset Highway at about 1 a.m. on July 15 and attempted to break into a safe. Police said they possessed a sledgehammer, a wedge tool and a pry bar.

Does this gift card buy drugs?
Two men were arrested on Pond Path in Setauket-East Setauket on July 15 and charged with loitering and unlawful use of a controlled substance. Police said the men, one 23 and the other 34 years old, were observed in a 2014 Honda at about 1:20 p.m. Police said the 23-year-old was observed exchanging a Home Depot gift card for heroin. The other man was seated in the passenger seat and possessed heroin.

Repeat burglar busted
An 18-year-old man from East Setauket was arrested on July 15 at 6:37 p.m. at his home and charged with two counts of second-degree burglary of a dwelling and one count of petit larceny. Police said that sometime between Feb. 1 and 28 the man stole master keys to an apartment complex on Jefferson Ferry Drive in South Setauket. Sometime between March 22 and March 31, he entered a residence using the stolen keys and stole property. He entered another Jefferson Ferry Drive residence on March 29 and stole jewelry.

Movie, popcorn, mischief
Someone broke the passenger-side front window of a 2015 Mercedes parked at AMC Loews Stony Brook 17 theater on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook and stole Beats by Dre headphones, cash and cologne between 9:40 and 11:54 p.m. That same day, someone broke the window of a 2006 Ford F350 between 8 and 11:35 p.m. and stole tools from the same location.

Shattered window
Someone broke the rear passenger-side window of a 1994 Plymouth Voyager parked outside a home on Hollow Road in Stony Brook sometime between 8 p.m. on July 16 and 10 a.m. on July 17.

Jewelry box lifted
Someone snatched a jewelry box containing jewelry that was inside an unlocked 2006 Mercedes parked on Spring Meadow Road in Setauket-East Setauket sometime between 3:25 and 4:25 a.m. on July 19. There have been no arrests.

Car handle hulked
Someone ripped off the driver-side handle on a 2015 Ford Mustang parked on Adams Way at the Sayville Commons parking lot in Sayville. The incident happened on July 19 sometime between 12:05 and 12:50 p.m.

Phone jacked
Someone took an iPhone 4 and cash from an unlocked 2014 Honda CRV sometime between 6 p.m. on July 14 and 7 a.m. on July 15.

Bicyclist killed in Lake Ronkonkoma crash
Suffolk County police are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a Bohemia bicyclist in Lake Ronkonkoma on Tuesday evening.
Laura Heerbrandt, 23, of Ronkonkoma, was driving a 2014 Nissan eastbound on Portion Road when her car struck Luis Benitez, 51. According to police, Benitez swerved into her lane of traffic as he was traveling westbound on Portion Road.
Benitez was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner. Heerbrandt was not injured.
The vehicle was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information about this crash to contact the Fourth Squad at 631-854-8452.

Armed robber hits Hauppauge 7-Eleven
A masked man robbed a 7-Eleven in Hauppauge early Monday morning, injuring the clerk on duty.
According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the masked suspect, who was also wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, black pants and sunglasses, entered the convenience store on Townline Road shortly before 2 a.m., displayed what appeared to be a gun and demanded cash from the clerk. After the clerk complied, giving him cash from the drawer, the assailant fled on foot, heading west on Townline.
The clerk suffered a minor injury during the holdup, police said. He was treated at Stony Brook University Hospital and released.
Police described the robber as being about 6 feet tall and having a thin build.
Detectives from the SCPD’s 4th Squad are investigating the robbery. Anyone with information is asked to call them at 631-854-8452 or to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-220-TIPS.

Police search for man who stole $400 in clothes from Commack store
Suffolk County police and 4th Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help in identifying and locating a man who stole merchandise from a Commack store last month.
The man stole assorted men’s clothing from Kohl’s at 45 Crooked Hill Road on June 2 at about 6:15 p.m. The clothing has a value of about $400.
Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest.
Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

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The suggestive advertisement offers cash-only massages in Smithtown. Screenshot from Backpage.com

An office building on West Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown was allegedly used as a front to house an illegal massage parlor, Smithtown officials said in a statement Wednesday.

Smithtown Public Safety fire marshals busted the parlor on July 19 around 2 p.m. operating out of 811 West Jericho Tpke. to find what Department Director Chief John Valentine described as an elaborate hidden facility with multiple bedrooms, each holding three to four young Asian women. Officials cited suggestive advertisements for the space on Backpage.com, promising patrons body rubs from Korean and Japanese girls for $60 to $70.

Smithtown fire marshals allege the office building at 811 West Jericho Tpke. housed an illegal massage parlor. Photo from Google Maps
Smithtown fire marshals allege the office building at 811 West Jericho Tpke. housed an illegal massage parlor. Photo from Google Maps

Valentine said the fire marshals acted in response to a request for assistance from the Smithtown Fire Department to find the parlor, filled with young Asian women in “various stages of undress.” Upon their entry, Valentine said a roughly 35-year-old Asian woman confronted the fire marshals and tried to block their entrance into the location.

“The unidentified females and several apparent patrons fled the location upon entry,” Valentine said. “Suffolk County Police 4th Precinct officers were contacted and responded to the location.”

Inside, officials found what Valentine described as suggestive advertising and photographs promoting the services. Subsequent online searches posted that same day on Backpage.com advertised a grand opening for cash-only massage services with several provocative photos of young Asian women. The posting was listed under a “Long Island body rubs” thread.

An ongoing investigation was put into motion through the Smithtown Public Safety Department and fire marshals have uncovered multiple violations of the fire and property maintenance codes as well as town code violations, including interfering with emergency personnel, Valentine said.

It was not clear whether criminal charges would be filed.

File photo.

A pedestrian was seriously injured in Huntington Station on Wednesday night as he tried to cross Jericho Turnpike.

The Suffolk County Police Department said 15-year-old Carlos Veliz-Hernandez was trying to cross the busy turnpike in his hometown, just west of Melville Road, when he was hit by a 2008 BMW at 9:15 p.m.

Carlos was in serious condition at Stony Brook University Hospital, police said, while the BMW’s 56-year-old driver, a Huntington Station resident, was not hurt.

Police impounded the BMW for safety checks.

Detectives from the SCPD’s 2nd Squad are investigating the crash. Anyone with information is asked to call them at 631-854-8252.

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Photo from Jeff Bressler

The Smithtown Fire Department is in the final stages of having its historic 1935 Mack Ladder Truck fully restored. A Department Restoration Committee has been given the task of having this piece of Long Island history returned to its former glory.

The restoration is not using Fire Department funds or taxpayer dollars for the project. The entire restoration is being funded by the generosity of Smithtown Fire Department members and the general community.

For the second consecutive year the Restoration Committee will host a chicken barbecue at 5 p.m. on Aug. 1, featuring the sounds of South Bound, a popular Long Island country band. Entry is $25 in advance or $30 on the day of the event.

Last year’s event was enthusiastically received with hundreds of music lovers in attendance to enjoy a complete BBQ chicken dinner, hamburgers, hot dogs, soda, beer and wine. The event is held on the scenic Nissequogue River at the department’s River Property, located behind 419 West Main St., Smithtown.

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Suffolk County police car. File photo

Suffolk County police are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a Bohemia bicyclist in Lake Ronkonkoma on Tuesday evening.

Laura Heerbrandt, 23, of Ronkonkoma, was driving a 2014 Nissan eastbound on Portion Road when her car struck Luis Benitez, 51. According to police, Benitez swerved into her lane of traffic as he was traveling westbound on Portion Road.

Benitez was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner. Heerbrandt was not injured.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is continuing. Detectives are asking anyone with information about this crash to contact the Fourth Squad at (631) 854-8452.

File photo

A man was killed in Selden on Monday evening when his car collided with a Suffolk County Transit bus.

The Suffolk County Police Department said 20-year-old Zachary Rauso was driving south on Dare Road shortly before 6 p.m. when he crashed with the bus, which had been traveling in the opposite direction.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash.

A physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner pronounced Rauso, a Selden resident, dead at the scene.

The bus was carrying just one passenger at the time of the crash, police said. Both that passenger and the 52-year-old bus driver were treated for minor injuries at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Police impounded Rauso’s car, a 1999 Mercury, for a safety check, while the SCPD’s Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Safety Section inspected the bus and towed it away from the scene.

Detectives from the 6th Squad are investigating the collision, including its cause.

Anyone who witnessed the crash and has not yet been interviewed by police is asked to call the detectives at 631-854-8652.

From left, Amy Grabina, Brittany Schulman, Lauren Baruch and Stephanie Belli. Photos from Facebook

By Phil Corso

A risky U-turn in Cutchogue has left the greater Smithtown community directionless.

From left, Amy Grabina, Brittany Schulman, Lauren Baruch and Stephanie Belli. Photos from Facebook
From left, Amy Grabina, Brittney Schulman, Lauren Baruch and Stephanie Belli. Photos from Facebook

A limousine filled with friends doing the right thing fell victim to a driver who was doing the wrong thing when Steven Romeo, 55, was driving his red pickup truck in Cutchogue allegedly under the influence of alcohol and collided with the limousine as it attempted to make a U-turn near the intersection of Depot Lane and County Route 48, killing four and injuring six, including Romeo, Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said.

Emergency responders reported four victims dead on arrival, including Smithtown’s Brittney Schulman, 23, and Lauren Baruch, 24, as well as Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park, and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack. The crash also injured driver Carlos Pino, 58, of Bethpage, Joelle Dimonte, 25, of Elwood, Melissa Angela Crai, 23, of Scarsdale, Alicia Arundel, 24, of Setauket, and Olga Lipets, 24, of Brooklyn, all of whom were still hospitalized on Monday, Spota said.

Romeo was arraigned on Sunday at Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport due to injuries sustained in the crash and pleaded not guilty to one count of driving while intoxicated. He was ordered held in lieu of $500,000 cash bail or $1 million bond, Spota said.

Spota provided more details on the accident at a press conference in Southold on Monday afternoon alongside Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley, who was on the scene soon after the collision.

“This was a gathering of young women who were behaving responsibly by hiring a limo for the day, enjoying the North Fork vineyards together,” Spota said. “They knew they would be consuming some alcohol, and because they wanted to act responsibly, they did not choose to drive.”

Spota said the limousine kicked off its Saturday afternoon bachelorette party trip at Baruch’s home in Smithtown, embarking on a vineyard tour on the eastern part of Long Island, stopping at the Long Island Vodka distillery in Baiting Hollow and then Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue. They were on their way back to Smithtown when the driver of the limousine, who Spota said was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, made the turn and the fatal accident occurred.

The news sent shockwaves through Smithtown and the entire North Shore, moving Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) to order all flags at town buildings to fly at half-mast.

DA Tom Spota speaks about an alleged DWI that killed four women at a bachelorette party. Photo by Phil Corso
DA Tom Spota speaks about an alleged DWI that killed four women at a bachelorette party. Photo by Phil Corso

“The entire Smithtown community is affected by such a tragic loss and mourns deeply,” Vecchio said in a statement. “The shock of the loss of four young and beautiful women in the prime of life is difficult to comprehend. We pray for the families and friends who are suffering so.”

Belli, Baruch and Schulman were all decorated members of the national and language honor societies by the time they graduated from Smithtown High School West and were remembered Monday as shining lights in their graduating classes. Schools Superintendent James Grossane said Belli, a 2010 graduate, had an infectious smile and was an enthusiastic student and member of the district’s championship kick line team. Baruch, a 2009 graduate, was best known for her booming laugh and unforgettable smile, Grossane said. Schulman, he said, was another 2010 graduate and had a profound love for her family.

“The Smithtown School District administration, Board of Education, staff and school community are truly saddened over the horrific tragedy involving the deaths of three former High School West graduates,” Grossane said. “Although these girls graduated from the district several years ago, their personalities and memories they left behind are still remembered by those who had the honor and pleasure of knowing them while in school.”

Grabina graduated in 2010 from Commack High School and went on to pursue accounting at Florida State University, ultimately landing a job at Ernst & Young in Tallahassee, Florida. Brenda Lentsch, a spokeswoman for Commack High School, said in a statement the loss was difficult to put into words.

“This terrible tragedy affects our entire community, and all who knew them,” she said. “We send our heartfelt sympathies to their parents, family and friends. The Commack community always rallies around those in need.”

She and her former classmate Arundel were in the limo on Saturday, but only the latter made it out alive.

Both the speed of Romeo’s vehicle and his blood alcohol content were still not known, pending results as per the investigation, the DA said. Spota did say, however, that the man had admitted to drinking beer that afternoon before the crash.

Flatley, who responded to the crash soon after it was dispatched around 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, said Romeo remained at the scene for about 15 minutes following the collision, but then took off on foot and jumped a fence before police were able to retrieve him for questioning. The police chief said a witness was able to help provide details regarding the limousine accident, which has become all too common for that area.

“Over the last two or three years, we’ve had issues with limousines making very difficult turns at that intersection and we have been writing summonses for failing to yield the right-of-way to vehicles that are in the westbound direction at that intersection,” he said. “I’m sure we write at least, especially during the busier months, at least 10 or 12 summonses a month.”

Spota said Romeo, who will be processed at the Southold Police Department upon his release from the hospital, had not acquired any DWI-related charges before Saturday’s crash. No information on the possibility of additional charges was provided.

The horrific tragedy occurred just six days after another accident allegedly linked to driving while intoxicated, Spota said. Last week, another fatal crash on the Southern State Parkway killed 37-year-old Ancio Ostane, his 8-year-old son, Andy, and his 4-year-old daughter, Sephora, in what police charged as another alcohol-related hit-and-run accident.

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