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Murder

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Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the murder of a man who was found in Huntington early Wednesday morning.

Suffolk County Police Department 2nd Precinct officers responded to Clinton Avenue at 3:17 a.m. after a 911 caller reported that a man was unconscious and covered in blood. When officers arrived, they found Bay Shore resident Edwin Rivera, 39, lying on the ground next to his 2015 Mercedes.

Rivera was transported by Huntington Community First Aid Squad to Huntington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His death has been ruled criminal and an autopsy will be performed by the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner to determine the cause.

Rivera’s is the second dead body found in Huntington this week. Early Sunday morning, May 22, officers found the body of 33-year-old William Sarcenolima, who lives in Huntington Station, partially in the roadway on West Hills Road in Huntington Station. Sarcenolima was pronounced dead at Huntington Hospital. His body was then transported to the Suffolk County medical examiner’s office for an autopsy. Police have not yet announced a cause of death, but said at the time the body was found that Sarcenolima may have been a victim of violence.

Anyone with information is asked to call Homicide Squad detectives at 631-852-6392 or call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

Christopher O'Brien mugshot from the DA's office

A Port Jefferson Station man pleaded not guilty on Monday to a slew of charges that include murder and driving drunk, three months after a wrong-way crash that killed another driver.

Authorities allege 54-year-old defendant Christopher O’Brien was impaired and driving an Audi A4 east in the westbound lanes of Sunrise Highway two days before Christmas when he hit a Toyota Corolla head-on in the left lane shortly after 5:30 a.m., killing driver Thomas D’Eletto, 57, of Aquebogue.

“At the scene, police observed that O’Brien was unsteady on his feet, had bloodshot, glassy eyes and was slurring his words, and he gave oral admissions to the police about drinking and driving,” Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said in a statement.

Police at the crash scene, just east of Horseblock Road, charged the suspect with driving while intoxicated, the DA’s office said, and a blood test two hours after the crash showed a blood-alcohol content of 0.17 as well as cocaine.

While D’Eletto was pronounced dead at the scene, O’Brien was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Center in East Patchogue.

According to Spota, another driver allegedly saw the defendant drive into oncoming traffic three times about 20 minutes before the fatal crash, at a location north of the Long Island Expressway.

“Then on Sunrise Highway, several drivers reported to police they had to go onto the median or the shoulder of the road to avoid a collision with O’Brien,” Spota said.

The DA’s Office said O’Brien has been remanded to jail for the now numerous charges, from an indictment unsealed Monday, which include second-degree murder by depraved indifference; aggravated vehicular homicide; second-degree manslaughter; second-degree vehicular manslaughter; first-degree reckless endangerment; aggravated driving while intoxicated; driving while intoxicated; driving while impaired by a drug; driving while impaired by the combined influence of alcohol and a drug; and reckless driving.

O’Brien’s attorney, Hauppauge-based Scott Gross, called the crash a “significant tragedy” but maintained his client’s innocence.

“We’re going to evaluate the evidence,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday, “take a look at what the prosecution provides and then make our determination as to how to proceed from there.”

Gross added that the DA’s office had until recently pursued the case as a misdemeanor and said that would not have been true if it had a strong case.

“Their delay is indicative of provability issues,” the attorney said.

O’Brien is due back in court before State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho on April 4.

Joseph Jones mugshot from SCPD

A Centereach man has been charged with second-degree murder, more than five years after his wife’s body was found in the woods near her home.

The Suffolk County Police Department announced on Friday that officers had arrested Joseph T. Jones, 33, in connection with Nicole Tessa’s December 2010 murder.

Tessa’s family had reported her missing on Dec. 19 that year, two days after the 31-year-old was last seen alive. Two days after that, police said at the time, police dog Blue and Canine Section officer John Mallia found Tessa’s body while searching a wooded area near her home on Prince Street in North Patchogue.

Attorney information for Jones, who lives near the border of Centereach and Selden, a few blocks from Newfield High School, was not immediately available. He was scheduled to be arraigned in Riverhead on Monday.

A murder mystery thousands of years old and a continent away is coming to Long Island, where middle school and high school students can look at a rare face from human history.

During the ice age, an arrow went through a man’s shoulder blade, nicked an artery that leaves the aorta and caused him to bleed to death. Some time after he died, weather conditions effectively freeze dried him, preserving him in a remarkably pristine state until German hikers found his five-foot, five-inch body protruding from a melting glacier in 1991. He was found in the Ötztal Alps (on the border between Austria and Italy) — hence the name Ötzi.

David Micklos, executive director of the DNA Learning Center, stands next to the only authorized replica of Ötzi outside of the South Tyrol Museum in Italy. Photo by Daniel Dunaief
Dave Micklos, executive director of the DNA Learning Center, stands next to the only authorized replica of Ötzi outside of the South Tyrol Museum in Italy. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

While Ötzi, as he is now called, remains preserved carefully in a special facility in Italy, a master craftsman and artist has created a painstaking replica of a 45-year-old man killed at over 10,000 feet that is now on display at the DNA Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

“Kids are fascinated by it,” said Dave Micklos, the executive director of the DNA Learning Center, who has shared the newest mummified celebrity with students for several weeks in advance of the official exhibit opening in the middle of February. “The story is quite fascinating: it’s an ancient murder mystery. We take it from the forensic slant: what is the biological evidence we can see on Ötzi’s body that tells us who he was and how he died.”

Ötzi, or the Iceman as he is also known, has become the subject of extensive investigation by scientists around the world, who have explored everything from the over 60 tattoos on his body, to the copper axe found next to him, to the contents of his stomach and intestines, which have helped tell the story about the last day of Ötzi’s life.

“It’s a story that’s been assembled, bit by bit,” Micklos said. “Each scientific investigation adds new twists to the story.”

The Learning Center came up with the idea to create a replica and proposed it to the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, Italy. Eventually, the museum granted the center the rights to use the CT scans, which provide detailed anatomical features. Ultimately, artist and paleo-sculptor Gary Staab used the images and studied the Iceman himself.

Staab, who has recreated copies of extinct animals for museums around the world, used a three-dimensional printer and sculpting and painting techniques to create an exact replica of a man who probably didn’t know he was in immediate danger when he was hit, because he seemed to be taking a break, Micklos said. Staab built one layer at a time of a resin-based prototype, then worked on the skin through sculpting, molding and painting.

A close-up of Ötzi the Iceman mummy’s replica at the DNA Learning Center. Photo by Daniel Dunaief
A close-up of Ötzi the Iceman mummy’s replica at the DNA Learning Center. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

Nova produced a television feature called “Nova’s Iceman Reborn” on PBS that captures the process of combining art and science to make a replica of the rare and highly valued fossil, which viewers can stream online through the link http://www.pbs.org/nova.

Long Islanders can see the replica at the Learning Center, where they can ask a host of questions about a man born during the copper age — hence the copper axe — and about 2,500 years before Rome was founded. Visitors interested in seeing Ötzi need to purchase tickets, which cost $10, ahead of time through the Learning Center’s website at www.dnalc.org.

Ötzi’s entire genetic sequence is available online. The Learning Center is the first science center worldwide to focus on DNA and genetics.

The center is especially interested in helping students understand what DNA says about human evolution. In one experiment, students can compare their own DNA to Ötzi, a Neanderthal and another ancient hominid group, called the Denisovans. Students can see how similar modern DNA is to Ötzi and how different it is from the Neanderthals and Denisovans. The 5,200 year differences with Ötzi is “no time in DNA time,” Micklos said.

Ötzi’s genes reveal that he had atherosclerosis and the deposition of plaques on the inner walls of the arteries. Ötzi was a healthy, active, relatively long-lived man in the Paleolithic era, who ate a diet of natural, unprocessed foods, and yet he had heart disease. His heart condition came as a surprise to scientists.

A 3-D resin model of Ötzi’s head before being painted. Photo by Daniel Dunaief
A 3-D resin model of Ötzi’s head before being painted. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

In addition to his genes, Ötzi’s body left clues about his life, where he’d spent his last day and what he’d eaten. Scientists have explored the contents of each part of his digestive tract, which, remarkably, remained well preserved during those thousands of years.

Ötzi had eaten different kinds of ibex meat, which is a goat found in the mountains. The pollen that was in his system, which came from the air he inhaled and from the food he ate, were pieces of a puzzle that showed where he’d been. The pollen near the top of his digestive track came from coniferous trees, including relatives of spruces and pines, which came from higher altitudes. Stored deeper in his system was pollen from deciduous trees, like birch and hazel, which grew lower in the valleys.

In addition to the Ötzi replica, the Learning Center also has reproductions of the clothes he was wearing and the artifacts he was carrying, which included a couple of containers of birch bark sewn together with fibers.

The Learning Center is developing a program to help students from the age of 10 to 18 explore Ötzi, so students can ask what the artifacts tell them about neolithic time.

Micklos said students have shown a strong interest in this old replica.

“It’s a little bit morbid, but not too much, and it’s a little gruesome, but not too much,” he said. “Everybody loves a mummy,” he continued, citing the popularity of the mummy exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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The house at 401 Beach Street was the site of a brutal double murder. Photo from Port Jefferson Village historical archive

“Silent but smiling, Henry hit William again and again, leaving the young man lying senseless on the carpeted floor.”

It’s a story that unfolds like a dark novel. A member of a prominent family in a quiet, seaside village snaps one day and beats his relatives to death at the home they shared, splattering blood everywhere, before hanging himself in the backyard barn. A child who narrowly escapes the massacre grows up to be a successful businessman but will remain forever haunted by his memories.

The 1857 murder-suicide on Beach Street shocked the Port Jefferson community and would likely still shock residents today.

It could have all started with the reportedly turbulent relationship between Henry Walters and his wife of three years, Elizabeth Darling-Walters. Or perhaps it was the feud between Walters and his wife’s son-in-law William Sturtevant that was boiling into legal action despite the two living under the same roof.

According to a narrative written by former Port Jefferson historian Ken Brady and published in the Port Times Record 10 years ago, the gossip around the village was that Walters, 57, and Darling-Walters, 46, fought frequently, with things so bad that they did not share a bed. The husband, a carpenter and a farmer, felt ignored and was “worried that his wife would leave her substantial estate to Martha Jane and Emmet,” her children from her first marriage to the late Matthew Darling, one of the founders of the nearby Darling Shipyard on the west side of the harbor.

The Darling family was originally from Smithtown but built their Port Jefferson shipyard in 1832 and quickly became prolific, building 13 ships during that decade alone.

A house at 401 Beach Street was the site of a brutal double murder. Above, a view of the home in the distance, overlooking a frozen Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo from Port Jefferson Village historical archive
A house at 401 Beach Street was the site of a brutal double murder. Above, a view of the home in the distance, overlooking a frozen Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo from Port Jefferson Village historical archive

If the chatter is true, Walters showed warning signs of a violent outburst. Brady wrote, “In a creepy attempt to win back his wife’s affections, Henry bought a shroud from local coffin maker Ambrose King. Walters often wore the white burial sheet about the homestead, threatening to commit suicide if Elizabeth did not return his love.”

At the same time, the farmer’s feud with Sturtevant and his father, fellow ship carpenter Amasa Sturtevant, who also lived on Beach Street, had reached a climax the day before the son-in-law’s murder — according to Brady, Walters received a letter from William Sturtevant’s attorney, Thomas Strong, warning him to “retract statements he had made about young Sturtevant” by Nov. 21, the day of the bloodshed, “or to expect a slander suit.”

That Saturday morning in the white, one-and-a-half-story home, Darling-Walters was eating breakfast with the young Sturtevant couple when Walters, finished feeding the horses, grabbed an iron bar and rushed into the dining room. According to Brady, the son-in-law was bludgeoned to death first with blows to the head, “splattering brain matter on the walls and furniture.” Then Walters went after his wife and 20-year-old stepdaughter, who both fled outside.

“Elizabeth tried to shield herself from the savage blows, but soon fell to the ground mortally wounded, her skull fractured and dress soaked with blood.”

Martha Jane Sturtevant was spared when Matthew Darling’s younger brother, Beach Street resident John E. Darling, heard his seriously injured niece’s screams. Brady said when Walters caught sight of the man, he went back inside and looked for 11-year-old Emmet Brewster Darling. But the boy was hiding under a bed in the attic and, while his stepfather was in another room, ran down the stairs and escaped Walters’ pursuit.

“Her barn was haunted by the ghost of Henry Walters, whose terrifying screams supposedly echoed over the harbor.”

That’s when Walters went into the barn, put a white handkerchief over his face and hanged himself. According to Brady, the murderer had neatly folded his coat and vest and placed them on a bench.

Despite his traumatic experience, Emmet Darling, who also went by E.B. Darling and whose first name has sometimes been misspelled as “Emmett,” grew into a productive adult. According to former Cedar Hill Cemetery historian George Moraitis, Darling took over his family’s shipyard and married twice before his death almost 30 years after the murders.

His elder sister moved on to a degree — in his written history “Forevermore on Cedar Hill,” Moraitis noted that Martha Jane later remarried, to Capt. Oliver Davis. But Brady said the woman lived in the same house where her mother and first husband were murdered until her own death in 1906, “despite claims from some villagers that her barn was haunted by the ghost of Henry Walters, whose terrifying screams supposedly echoed over the harbor.”

No one else will live in the murder house, however — both the home and the shipyard property have been torn down and rebuilt. The Port Jefferson Village historical photo archive notes that the Port Jefferson Fire Department burned down the home during a drill 60 years ago, on Jan. 22, 1956, and a Suffolk County sewer facility took its place. The Darling shipyard, on the other hand, eventually became a power plant.

Darling-Walters is buried at Cedar Hill with her first husband and daughter, and William Sturtevant at his own family’s grave site there. Emmet Darling rests at Oak Hill Cemetery in Stony Brook with his second wife, Julia A. Oakes.

According to Moraitis, the killer’s burial place is unknown.

A man has pleaded guilty to murdering his girlfriend outside their apartment and then firing on officers in a subsequent standoff, during which he held his two children hostage.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office announced on Wednesday that Jose C. Rodriguez will soon be sentenced to 30 years to life in prison for his two charges, second-degree murder and attempted aggravated murder of a police officer.

At the time of the shooting, in November 2013, the Suffolk County Police Department said officers responding to several 911 calls about hearing gunshots found a woman, 36-year-old Kimberly Sellitto, lying on the front lawn of the apartment in the Brookwood at Ridge complex, off of Middle Country Road. They moved her body to safety, but authorities later determined she was dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

Rodriguez, who is now 34, fired several shotgun rounds at those responding officers while he was barricaded in the apartment with his two children, the DA’s office said.

Emergency Service Section and Hostage Negotiation Team officers got Rodriguez to release his two children, police said at the time. Later on, the man fired multiple rifle rounds at officers.

None of the officers were hurt, police said, but bullets struck an armored SCPD vehicle.

The officers fired back, also not injuring Rodriguez. The man subsequently surrendered and was taken into custody, a couple of hours after the incident began.

The children were not hurt, and were released to the custody of their mother. Sellitto was pronounced dead at the scene.

Although Rodriguez originally pleaded not guilty to the charges and has been remanded to jail since the murder, he pleaded guilty during a pretrial hearing in Riverhead this week, the DA’s office said. He was scheduled to be sentenced in State Supreme Court to 30 years to life in prison on Jan. 8.

Detectives charged a man with second-degree murder this week, just days after his wife was found dead in their Lake Grove home.

The Suffolk County Police Department said Paul Leitgeb injured his own wrist and throat, threatened to further harm himself and threatened officers before he was taken into custody on Tuesday. Cops had tracked him to a hiking trail in Pawling, N.Y., and authorities from the state police, the Dutchess County sheriff’s office and the Metro-North police extensively searched the area before a state canine team found the suspect on the Appalachian Trail that day.

Police allege that Leitgeb, 49, murdered his wife, 42-year-old Tricia Odierna. The SCPD said last week that Odierna was found dead in their home on Win Place in Lake Grove on Oct. 1, and authorities believed the woman’s cause of death was criminal in nature.

Her body was discovered as Suffolk County patrol officers responded to a 911 call that afternoon and entered the house, near Hawkins Avenue. The woman was publicly identified a few days later.

Attorney information for Leitgeb was not available Thursday. Police said he was treated for his injuries at a hospital in Poughkeepsie before being transported to a hospital in Suffolk County for further treatment, and would be arraigned when he is released.

Detectives from the SCPD’s Homicide Squad are still investigating the alleged murder. Anyone with information is asked to call them at 631-852-6392, or to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-220-TIPS.

Update, Oct. 5, 10:15 a.m.: Police identified the deceased woman found in a Lake Grove home last week as 42-year-old Tricia Odierna.

A woman found dead in Lake Grove on Thursday afternoon was killed, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.

The case began when patrol officers responded to a 911 call at 1:50 p.m., entering a house on Win Place, off of Hawkins Avenue. Police said the officers found a dead woman inside.

Authorities had not released the woman’s identity by Friday morning.

According to police, the woman’s death is believed to have a criminal cause.

Detectives from the SCPD’s Homicide Squad are investigating the incident. Anyone with information is asked to call them at 631-852-6392, or to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-220-TIPS.

Friends, family of young victims dedicate memorial to trio

Friends, family and town officials gather to remember Maggie Rosales, Danny Carbajal and Sarah Strobel in Huntington Station on Thursday. Three trees were planted in their honor. Photo by Mary Beth Steenson Kraese

Friends and family of three Huntington Station youths who were killed over the last two years came together on Thursday evening to dedicate trees and a memorial stone in their honor.

The Huntington Town-sponsored memorial ceremony took place at Depot Road Park and featured friends and family of 18-year-old Maggie Rosales, 25-year-old Danny Carbajal and 23-year old Sarah Strobel, as well as a number of community members.

Rosales was found stabbed to death, lying on Lynch Street in Huntington Station last October. Carbajal was shot in the head in July 2014 outside his Huntington Station home. Strobel’s body was found off the side of a path in Froehlich Farm Nature Preserve in October 2013.

Friends, family and town officials gather to remember Maggie Rosales, Danny Carbajal and Sarah Strobel in Huntington Station on Thursday. Three trees were planted in their honor. Photo by Mary Beth Steenson Kraese
Friends, family and town officials gather to remember Maggie Rosales, Danny Carbajal and Sarah Strobel in Huntington Station on Thursday. Three trees were planted in their honor. Photo by Mary Beth Steenson Kraese

Town officials attended the memorial service and offered some words, town spokesman A.J. Carter said on Friday. Many community members took part in the effort, including Kathleen Kufs and Jim McGoldrick, two individuals who organized the event.

“To be honest with you, it was a sad thing that we had to do this, but in a way it brought the community together,” McGoldrick reflected in a phone call on Friday. “And the community is very concerned about our children, and our teenagers especially.”

While there’s still more to do, McGoldrick said “things are getting better” in Huntington Station. He said he got involved in efforts to extinguish crime in the neighborhood after Rosales was found dead in the street in front of his home.

Kufs said she came up with the idea for the memorial a few months ago. She wanted “to have a place for the families and friends of these poor young people who were murdered, a place to go for peace and reflection and for the community to remember that these young lives were lost but not forgotten, and also to shed light on the fact that two of them are still unsolved.”

Police have charged Huntington Station man Adam Saalfield with Rosales’ murder, but the other two victims have not yet seen justice.

“There’s no closure,” McGoldrick said. “Danny and Sarah’s murderers have never been caught. People are very concerned about that.”

Christopher Foster mugshot from the DA's office

A Long Island man has been convicted of beating his month-old son to death and faces up to 25 years in prison.

According to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, a jury convicted the 32-year-old Kings Park man of first-degree manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child four years after the boy, who was 43 days old, was killed.

The defendant, Christopher Foster, was found not guilty of second-degree murder.

The DA’s office said in a press release that an autopsy showed infant Jonathan Hertzler had suffered a fractured skull, four broken ribs and bruises on his face. When he died on Oct. 11, 2011, his fatal injuries had been caused by multiple blows.

Clarissa Hertzler, the boy’s mother, testified that Foster often became angry when the baby cried, the DA’s office said, and the infant “was a source of constant aggravation.”

According to the DA’s office, Assistant District Attorney Dana Brown told the jury that the night the baby died, Foster was the last person to hold him. She said Foster called his boss — not 911 — to report Jonathan was not breathing.

First-degree manslaughter is a Class B felony, and is defined as occurring when an adult intends to cause physical injury to someone younger than 11 years old and “recklessly engages in conduct which creates a grave risk of serious physical injury … and thereby causes the death of such a person,” the DA’s office said.

Foster was remanded to the county jail and will be sentenced on Sept. 8. He faces up to 25 years in state prison.