A week following Joseph Grippo’s arrest, his attorney, Daniel Russo, said in Suffolk County Criminal Court that his client had an alibi—he had been at work—the morning that Robert Casado, 38, was found barely breathing in Kirk Park in Montauk.
Mr. Casado was pronounced dead at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital not long afterward, the victim of severe blunt force trauma to the head and stab wounds. Mr. Grippo has been charged with his murder.
After being transported from the Suffolk County jail on Friday, to which he was returned the same day, Mr. Grippo stood in silence next to his attorney, hands cuffed behind his back, as Daryl Levy, the assistant district attorney of the Suffolk County homicide bureau, who is prosecuting the case, read aloud details about Mr. Casado’s death.
Following the unsealing on Friday of an indictment handed down by the grand jury, Judge Stephen L. Braslow denied bail. Mr. Russo entered a plea of not guilty for his client, who has been charged with second-degree murder.
“For the last five years, he had gone to work every single day,” Mr. Russo said to Judge Braslow, explaining that he’d been in contact with Mr. Grippo’s employer, whom he did not name, who called him an “excellent employee” and confirmed that Mr. Grippo was in fact at work when the incident occurred.
Mr. Casado’s brother, Rolando Ariel Garces, said after the court session that Mr. Grippo worked as a landscaper, but did not know for which company.
Last week, the DA’s office said that Mr. Grippo and Mr. Casado were friends at one point, and both had a romantic relationship with the same woman—a story Mr. Russo disputed on Friday.
Mr. Grippo was convicted of armed robbery 21 years ago and after pleading guilty served 15 years in prison, “accepting responsibility for his actions,” his attorney said.
Outside the courtroom, Gary Swanson, a longtime friend of Benny Garces, Mr. Casado’s father, called Mr. Grippo’s actions “evil in the purest form against a man who’s done nothing but good.” Mr. Casado and his father have different last names because Mr. Casado was given his mother’s maiden name, Mr. Swanson explained.
“I met Robert a number of times,” Mr. Swanson said, adding that Mr. Casado was “kind” and a “sweetheart.”
Before Mr. Casado’s funeral on Wednesday, June 12, Mr. Swanson said, there was a “parade” of people and cars traveling to Mr. Garces’s house. Mr. Swanson said he’d never seen so many people bringing food and showing their condolences.
“He’s now facing a life sentence himself,” Mr. Swanson said of Mr. Garces losing his son, adding that Mr. Garces has been showing up to work at Gurney’s Montauk Resort and Seawater Spa every day. “He’s not an average man,” Mr. Swanson said before exiting the courthouse.
Rolando Ariel Garces was walking outside when he said that Mr. Grippo’s sister and her children had been in the courtroom on Friday.
“We’re all just hanging in there,” he said as members of his own family walked to their cars. “We have to be strong … It happened. We can’t get him back. You just have to deal with it and hope for justice.”
Mr. Grippo was arrested on Thursday, June 20, at 3:47 p.m. at the intersection of Old Montauk Highway and Montauk Highway following an investigation by East Hampton Town Police and Suffolk County homicide squad detectives.
Last week Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini confirmed that Mr. Casado was murdered with a pickax.
According to the indictment, Mr. Grippo ambushed Mr. Casado on the Kirk Park trail on the morning of June 6. Mr. Casado succumbed to severe blunt force trauma and stab wounds to his head, face and side, the indictment said.