The second suspect in the December home invasion in Eastport that resulted in the shooting death of one man and the wounding of another surrendered Thursday at the Riverhead criminal courthouse and pleaded not guilty to charges of murder in the second degree and assault in the first degree, both felonies, Spota said.
Matthew D. Rooney, 22, of East Moriches, was the alleged gunman with defendant Paul Batterson Jr. who forced his way into an Eastport home on Dec. 8 and demanded cash from the up to seven tenants, who work as landscapers, Spota said.
Francisco Pirir-Canel, 45, died when Batterson, 22, of East Moriches, allegedly shot him in the face with a shotgun. The murder weapon was recovered during the execution of a search warrant of Battersons’ parents’ home, Spota said.
The second shooting victim, Cipriano Pirir-Patzan, age unknown, was shot in the hand while trying to hold a door closed as the masked pair broke into the house, Spota said.
Batterson pleaded not guilty to murder and assault charges Thursday morning before Judge Richard Ambro, who remanded both men to the Suffolk County jail without bail.
Batterson will return to court Feb. 28, Rooney on March 6.
Suffolk County Senior Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe said Batterson and Rooney were yelling outside the home, and then proceeded to shoot out the windows and door, before kicking in the door of the residence and demanding money during the incident, which occurred on East Moriches Boulevard.
"When the victim said he had no money and was going to call the police, the defendant shot him in the face, killing him instantly," Newcombe said.
The masked defendants then fled the scene, she said.
According to Newcombe, Batterson made admissions to others about his role in the crime.
Batterson's attorney, Edward Burke Jr., said that his client wished to plead not guilty and asked that bail be considered, based on that fact that his client lives with his parents near the court and works as a carpenter and window washer, with no prior convictions. Batterson, Burke said, has the support of his family, many of whom were present in the courtroom.
Burke also said his client would wear a monitoring device such as an ankle bracelet and would be present for all court appearances.
"He knows the gravity of the situation," he said.
Due to the "brutal" nature of the crime, Ambro ordered that Batterson be held without bail.
"My client firmly denies any involvement," Burke said. He added that he and his client looked forward to the discovery phase of proceedings.
Outside the courtroom, Batterson's parents, surrounded by family and friends, left, heads down, his mother wiping away tears. They declined when asked to comment.