Joseph Grippo used a pickax to kill Robert Casado after luring him into Kirk Park, Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini said shortly after Mr. Grippo’s arraignment on a second-degree murder charge in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday.
“The victim allegedly had a romantic relationship with the defendant’s significant other,” the district attorney said. “He stabbed and beat the victim in the face and the head. The victim succumbed to his injuries. The cause of death was blunt force trauma and stab wounds to the face and the head.”
Mr. Sini would not confirm if the murder weapon was recovered by the Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad.
Mr. Casado was found unconscious in Kirk Park at about 7:30 a.m. on June 6 and was transported to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Following an investigation with the East Hampton Town Police, Suffolk County Homicide Squad detectives arrested Mr. Grippo in a car at Montauk Highway and Old Montauk Highway in Montauk at 3:47 p.m. on Thursday, June 20. He was held overnight for arraignment in East Hampton Town Justice Court the next day.
Mr. Grippo, 47, who lives on Old Montauk Highway, was charged with second-degree murder.
Mr. Sini said Mr. Grippo had been convicted of armed robbery in Suffolk County in 1998 and served 15 years in prison. He also has several misdemeanors for attempted burglary, the DA said.
If convicted of second-degree murder, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
On Friday, Mr. Grippo pleaded not guilty before Justice Rana. He was remanded to the county jail in Riverside, with no bail set.
Arriving shortly after the brief arraignment. Mr. Sini confirmed that the two men, Mr. Grippo and Mr. Casado, had known each other and had been friends at one point.
About a dozen of Mr. Casado’s family and friends attended the arraignment. Mr. Casado’s father, Benny Garces of Montauk, seemed on the verge of collapsing after the arraignment. His sons Jose Garces and Ariel Garces, while holding him up, escorted their father to his car in the parking lot.
Mr. Casado’s family and friends wore pins with Mr. Casado’s face that said, “Siempre Te Recordaremos,” which translates to “We’ll Always Remember You.”
“We’re not sure how long they were friends for, or the nature of the relationship,” Sheila Kelly, director of communications for the DA’s office, said after the arraignment of the relationship between Mr. Casado and Mr. Grippo. She said, later in the day, that there was no indication that drugs or alcohol were involved in the murder.
Mr. Grippo had been living at his mother’s house on Old Montauk Highway, Ms. Kelly said. The DA’s office could not offer information regarding Mr. Grippo’s occupation.
Dan Russo, Mr. Grippo’s attorney, said his client had been living in Montauk for the past two years.
“It’s brand new. All I know is the accusation,” Mr. Russo said outside the courthouse after the arraignment. “I’m going to meet with him and go over the case. At this point, it’s an accusation, and we’re going to defend it.”
Mr. Russo said he could not comment further about his client. The indictment will be on Friday at Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverhead.
“The important message to the public is that the person responsible for the murder is now in custody and will remain in custody pending trial,” Mr. Sini said.
East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael D. Sarlo said much the same thing after Thursday’s arrest was made public. “On behalf of the East Hampton Town Police Department we would like to express our appreciation and thanks to the Suffolk Homicide Squad, crime scene investigation unit and the medical examiner’s office for their outstanding work on this tragic case,” he said in a statement.
“We hope the arrest begins to bring some closure for the family and friends of the victim, while also giving some relief to the Montauk community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family during this difficult time.”