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Aug 17, 2016 10:41 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Town Police Investigator Says Stabbing Case Continues, Includes Forensic Evidence And A Confession

Southampton Town Police investigate the stabbing at CB's in Hampton Bays on May 21.  DANA SHAW
Aug 17, 2016 10:49 AM

A Southampton Town Police official on Tuesday rejected the notion that the investigation into a double stabbing outside a Hampton Bays tavern in May is in jeopardy, saying that the case against all four suspects is “complex” but solid—and investigators are still building their case.

Still, three of the four suspects in the May 21 stabbing—including the man who reportedly admitted to wielding the machete-type knife and nearly killing one man in the attack—remain free, without bail. They were released less than a week after they were arrested a short distance from the crime scene, covered in blood, because prosecutors had failed to obtain a grand jury indictment within the required five days of arrest. One of those released suspects, Marvin Siciliano-Nunez, 20, of Hampton Bays, subsequently was arrested and accused of a burglary and sexual assault in Southampton Village earlier this month.

Last week, a source familiar with the investigation said a lack of evidence was to blame for the Suffolk County district attorney’s office’s decision not to take the case to a grand jury. A spokesman for District Attorney Thomas Spota had confirmed the source’s report that, in the case of Mr. Siciliano-Nunez specifically, there were no witnesses identifying him as being part of the assault that hospitalized two men, and no forensic evidence connecting him to the crime.

But on Tuesday, Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa, who is part of the investigative team, challenged that report, saying there was enough evidence to obtain a grand jury indictment to hold all four men.

“I was surprised the DA didn’t present the case to a grand jury,” Det. Sgt. Costa said. “Why they chose not to go ahead, I can’t answer. But I found it surprising.”

She presented a different evaluation of the case in the days after the arrest. The four suspects—they also include Carlos Gutierrez-Zacupa, 23, of Flanders; Luis Linares-Chavez, 22, of Westhampton; and Nelvin Ramos-Andrades, 18, of Hampton Bays, who was a high school senior at the time—were all quickly arrested a short distance from Charlie Brown’s Bar and Grill in Hampton Bays; the attack took place in a parking lot next to the West Montauk Highway bar that has since closed. Witnesses, Det. Sgt. Costa said, had described the vehicle and the direction it had left the scene.

Arresting officers found the vehicle interior, and all four occupants, covered in blood, she said. Det. Sgt. Costa also said that though police searched in vain for the foot-long machete-type knife used in the assault, they did find a sheath in the vehicle that is believed to have been for that knife.

After being taken into custody, Mr. Gutierrez-Zacupa confessed to being the primary assailant in the attack on the two men, Det. Sgt. Costa said, and a second suspect confirmed that he wielded the weapon. The fight began over “a girl,” she said, but quickly escalated—fueled in part by Central American gang affiliations: the victims are believed to have been affiliated with the 18th Street gang, while the attackers have some ties to MS-13.

Following a recent hearing, Antonio Salva of Bay Shore, the attorney representing Mr. Gutierrez-Zacupa, had maintained that his client did not stab anyone during the altercation, and that Mr. Gutierrez-Zacupa was only at the bar to pick up his father’s car.

Det. Sgt. Costa said that shortly after the arrests, investigators had evidence to present to a grand jury that would have connected the four to the attack: eyewitness statements, the confession, and the blood found on the four men in the vehicle, along with the knife case. She also confirmed a source’s report that there is security camera footage of the incident, though not of the actual assault. All told, some 450 photographs were taken by investigators on the night of the incident.

Last week, a source had said no forensics had been turned over to prosecutors in time to obtain a grand jury indictment. Though forensic evidence wasn’t available immediately after the arrests, Det. Sgt. Costa said, samples had been taken, and testing is now being completed—a process, she noted, that can take some time. In the meantime, she said, investigators are continuing to build evidence.

“A case doesn’t end with the arrest—it just begins a new chapter,” she said. “It’s still very active. We are certainly committed to building the strongest case possible.”

Mr. Clifford, when reached on Wednesday, declined to comment on Det. Sgt. Costa’s comments.

Det. Sgt. Costa noted that there was a great deal of blood involved because the more seriously injured victim, a 30-year-old Riverhead man, was “eviscerated” in the assault, to the point where his organs had begun to spill out. Investigators had believed there was a “50/50” chance that he wouldn’t survive and the stabbing would evolve into a murder case—but both he and a 23-year-old Riverhead man also injured in the attack have since recovered.

She also noted that several issues have complicated the investigation. It was a “bar melee” with large groups involved in several skirmishes, she noted, creating a dynamic crime scene. Also, witness accounts have varied, and language barriers have been an issue.

She also noted that “as the case evolves, we’re learning more and more about the gang affiliations” that are connected to the case.

“It’s a complex case,” she said.

The four suspects had originally been held after their arrests after failing to post $250,000 cash bail on various charges, including felony gang assault, which is a criminal charge related to an attack by several people on a victim. But state law requires suspects to be released without bail if an indictment is not brought within five days of arrest. Prosecutors can also file a “free bill” with the court to extend time in custody while a grand jury indictment is under way. Neither was offered in the case of the four suspects.

All four suspects were undocumented immigrants, investigators said. Only Mr. Ramos-Andrades was handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for undisclosed reasons, and he remains in custody. Mr. Gutierrez-Zacupa and Mr. Linares-Chavez remain free, despite the felony charge. Mr. Siciliano-Nunez is being held at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside after failing to post $2 million cash bail or a $4 million bond in connection with the Southampton Village home invasion on August 5.

Mr. Linares-Chavez is due back in court on September 14, while Mr. Siciliano-Nunez, Mr. Gutierrez-Zacupa and Mr. Ramos-Andrades are tentatively scheduled to return on September 22.

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