Rating the top local crime stories of the year is never fun. Instead of focusing on who spilled the most blood or stole the most money, this year we’re ranking our (in some cases, alleged) crooks on the amount of fear they spread.
10. Wrong-way DWI’s—Thirteen drivers in the past eight weeks (as of press time) allegedly got drunk and/or high, then drove the wrong-way on a highway or crossed over double yellow lines on a main road. Seven involved head-on crashes, the first of which was with an ambulance. Three were killed in victims’ vehicles, including an off-duty New York City police officer. In one case, an elderly man was killed when a drag-racing landscaping truck plowed into his car. The fear: sharing the road with these people.
9. Pill Swapped—With all the regulations and packaging to ensure medicine is safe, most people think there is little concern but the side-effects. Then someone allegedly figured out a way to exploit the supply chain to make a buck: Buy pills, swap the bottle’s contents with expired pills, repackage the pills, return them at the store for a refund, then sell the real pills online. This is how Nassau County authorities say Rabin Purnsrian of North Woodmere sparked a public health scare at CVS stores last month.
8. Pounds of Flesh—It is an uphill battle in the war on human trafficking, but authorities are cracking down on the exploitation of vulnerable immigrants, women and children who become enslaved through force, fraud and coercion. This year, Suffolk County prosecutors for the first time used a state anti-sex trafficking law against a madam who allegedly forced Korean women into prostitution. Meanwhile, the feds on Long Island turned their attention to in-plain-sight trafficking victims: restaurant workers.
7. Wannabe Columbine Kids—It’s hard enough to get kids to want to go to school. Students at these four schools, however, can be cut some slack for having anxieties after they learned their classmates were planning to shoot up—or blow up—the place. None of the suspects got their hands on weapons. But that is little comfort to students at Plainedge, Patchogue-Medford, Connetquot and Douglas MacArthur high schools, where cops say teens threatened violence this year.
6. Love’s Tragic End—Love makes people do crazy things. But there’s fun crazy and then there’s homicidal crazy. In the case of 26-year-old Genis Walker of Central Islip, police say he was the latter when he fatally stabbed his 22-year-old live-in girlfriend, Jessica Hernandez, in September. Walker then drove to the Patchogue home of the couple’s mutual friend, Arthur Ward, 26, and shot him to death, police say. Scariest of all is that the families involved may never know why. Walker fatally shot himself in the head following a police chase.
5. All in the Family—Some crimes leave police scratching their heads. Such was the case when police say 42-year-old Scott Maxwell of East Northport killed his 13-year-old son, Connele Pabo, and the boy’s 47-year-old mother, Ann Pabo, with whom Maxwell had a rocky relationship. This is another case where the motive was taken to the grave. Maxwell jumped in front of a Long Island Rail Road train, killing himself.
4. Killer in Uniform—A sworn officer’s arrest always shakes the public’s trust. But this Nassau County corrections officer went well beyond corruption. Kim Wolfe allegedly killed her ex-girlfriend at Nassau University Medical Center, drove to her family’s Hempstead home and fatally shot her 56-year-old uncle, Marshall Williams, Jr., and shot and injured her 88-year-old grandfather, Marshall Williams, Sr., police say. Wolfe, 43, is also accused of kidnapping her niece.
3. Raped, Then Framed—Prison is full of innocent men, so the saying goes. But convicts not admitting to their crimes are laughable compared to this case, which casts doubt on the system itself. Investigators say Seemona Sumasar, 35, of Queens, was raped by her ex-boyfriend, who then framed her for impersonating an officer in Nassau County robberies when she wouldn’t drop the charges. Prosecutors later learned the victims in each case were paid off by the ex. Sumasar sat in jail for six months until authorities believed her story.
2. Suffolk County: Gangland—With a high-profile string of murders in Brentwood and Central Islip as of summer 2009—five of them this past February—fear spilled into community meetings where residents demanded police do more. After pouring resources into the area, things calmed down. Then shootings in Huntington Station prompted the school board to close Jack Abrams Intermediate School out of fear for students. Once again, there were contentious community meetings and police poured resources into the area. This neighborhood too has since calmed down. Where the next flare-up will be is anyone’s guess.
1. Boy stabbing—This one is every parent’s worst nightmare. Evan Sachs, a 23-year-old Merrick man who is on psychiatric medication, according this lawyer, allegedly walked up to an 8-year-old boy at Dave & Buster’s in Westbury and plunged a knife into the kid’s back in October. The press corps asked the question in unison at a news conference the next day: “Why?” While we wait for the answer in court, at least we can take solace in the fact that the boy lived.