03/28/13 12:30pm
03/28/2013 12:30 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO |  Nicholas Latasso (left) and Bert Roner at a Thursday morning arraignment.

Two Riverhead Town residents were arraigned on trespassing, stolen property and drug charges Thursday morning after they were caught with stolen copper telephone cables from Orient Point County Park in Orient Wednesday afternoon, Southold Town police said.

Bert Roner, 35, of Flanders and Nicholas Latasso, 33, of Riverhead pleaded not guilty to several misdemeanor charges stemming from their arrest.

The men were caught after cops received a tip from Plum Island security about 4 p.m. Wednesday, police said.

Police stopped Mr. Roner as he was driving a black 2004 Ford Suburban in the parking lot of the Cross Island Ferry about 4 p.m. while investigating a possible larceny, according to a criminal complaint filed in Southold Town Justice Court.

Officers noticed Mr. Roner’s eyes were “red and glassy” and he failed roadside sobriety tests at the scene, according to the complaint.

Police discovered Mr. Roner and his passenger, Mr. Latasso, had “several lengths of plastic encased copper telephone feeder cable” belonging to Verizon, according to the complaint. Mr. Latasso also had a small white envelope containing a white powdery substance that tested positive for heroin, a police officer reported.

The men admitted they had trespassed at the Orient Point County Park, according to a criminal complaint.

Both Mr. Roner and Mr. Latasso were charged with third-degree criminal trespassing and fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, court officials said.

Mr. Roner was also charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs while Mr. Latasso faces a seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance charge.

Mr. Roner had previously been arrested for stealing copper from a business in Mattituck in July 2010, according to a published report. He served 90 days in jail in connection with that incident, records show.

He was then arrested last March after he was found in possession of a controlled substance during a probation visit, according to a News-Review report.

Bail for both men was set at $1,500 cash or $7,500 bond. They are due back in Southold court next Friday.

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12/01/12 9:33am
12/01/2012 9:33 AM

GABBY GLANTZMAN PHOTO | The three-legged deer near an Orient home, with wood and wire tangled in its antlers.

It was a white-tailed deer, not a reindeer, but there was still holiday spirit aplenty when the North Fork Animal Welfare League got help from a local veterinarian in rescuing a three-legged buck whose antlers were hopelessly tangled in nylon ribbon, wooden posts and tomato cages at an Orient residence. The mess was attached to a nearby fence, trapping him.

“The poor guy, I figured if anyone deserves a second chance, he does,” said Dr. John Andresen, a veterinarian at Matittuck-Laurel Veterinary Hospital who helped to free the deer.

“He could still run around, but his head was tied to this long lead of tangled up fencing,” said NFAWL director Gillian Wood Pultz. She called Dr. Andresen, who has a keen interest in large animals, to come out with a tranquilizer gun so the rescue team to get close enough to remove the unwanted headgear without harming the animal or themselves.

“Once he was tranquilized it only took about 10 or 15 minutes to get him untangled,” Ms. Pultz said. Eventually the buck regained consciousness.

“That was a pretty traumatic experience and he needed to calm down, so we just let him be as he woke up and told the owners of the property to call us if he wasn’t up and moving around in an hour,” she said.

Dr. Andresen said he was only too happy to help save the deer.

“Initially, when I got out of vet school, I wanted to be a zoo vet,” he said. “But that’s not really practical because there aren’t many openings to do that, so it’s always just been an interest of mine.”

Ms. Wood Pultz described the rescue as “a good story because it had a good outcome. More often than not there are bad outcomes and we have to humanely euthanize the deer. Every year, we see deer that haven’t been tracked by hunters running around with arrows in them. Recently we had to humanely euthanize a fawn that was attacked by a dog and suffered a broken spine.”

Ms. Wood Pultz said traumatic injuries in deer are fairly common, but three-legged deer are less so and she knows of only one other, which has been living in Southold Town for years.

As for the Orient deer’s missing foreleg, she said the amputation appeared to be an old injury.

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11/02/12 5:57pm
11/02/2012 5:57 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The two gas tankers coming off the Orient ferry Friday afternoon.

Two tanker trucks each carrying 10,000 gallons of gasoline originating in New England arrived in Orient on a Cross Sound Ferry vessel Friday afternoon, bound for gas stations somewhere on Long Island with another delivery expected on a Saturday afternoon boat, said David Kapell, Cross Sound’s Long Island liaison.

The drivers were to meet up with two other truckers and switch the full tanks, which carried gas originating in Providence, R.I., with two empties, which they were to bring back on the 7 p.m. Orient to New London ferry.

The plan calls for the trucks to return Saturday with an additional 20,000 gallons of gasoline landing in Orient at 3 p.m.

With the gas shortage continuing, Cross Sound waived its standing prohibition against carrying bulk loads of gasoline on its vessels, Mr. Kapell said.

08/20/12 1:52pm
08/20/2012 1:52 PM

KAYLA CHIARAMONTE COURTESY PHOTO | Burning wreckage from the Shirley plane crash that took the life of David McElroy Sunday.

The Suffolk Times has reported that an Orient man was killed in a small airplane crash in Shirley Sunday morning that also killed one of the passengers of the plane and left a third person in critical condition.

According to multiple sources, David McElroy was inside and possibly flying the single-engine plane out of Brookhaven Calabro Airport shortly after 11:30 a.m. before it crashed into a dumpster outside a Shirley home a mile from the airport.

Mr. McElroy, the owner of the plane, was killed in the crash along with passenger Jane Unhjem, 60, of Goshen, N.Y., who died eight hours later. Another man in the plane Erik Unhjem, 61, also a pilot, was listed in critical condition at Stony Brook University Medical Center.

A witness to the crash said the plane navigated around several homes on the residential street before crashing into a dumpster, adding that he believed the pilot’s actions saved many more lives.

“I believe [the pilot] did everything he could to avoid hitting any houses,” said Chris Melendez, a homeowner near the site of the plane crash.

Mr. Melendez said he tried to save Mr. McElroy from the flames of the crash by spraying the wreckage with a garden hose, but was unable to reach him just a few feet away to pull him out.

“I wish there was more I could do for [Mr. McElroy],” he said. “It was just horrible. I’ll never be able to forget him.”

Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the crash.

Read the full story on The Suffolk Times here.

08/04/12 12:00pm
08/04/2012 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Steve Mezynieski with his wife Gretchen and son Cole, 16, at their new venture- transforming the former 42.5 acre Zeh farm in Calverton on Route 25 for growing nursery material and possibly grazing cattle.

During the Great Depression, Steven Mezynieski’s family was forced to sell off its South Fork farm. Now, generations later, the Wainscott native and Orient resident is piecing together a new agricultural legacy for his own children. And a dilapidated farm in Calverton is the latest tract to join the Mezynieskis’ growing collection of acreage.

Mr. Mezynieski and his wife, Gretchen, purchased the former Zeh property on Middle Country Road about a month ago and have been working over the past few weeks to fix up the forgotten farm.

“I like to see diamonds in the rough and make them diamonds,” he said.

The roughly 43-acre property, across from the Windy Acres farm stand, was previously owned by the Zeh family, but laid unused for years. The Mezynieskis said the property was littered with garbage when they arrived.

“If you came here three years ago you would’ve turned your car right around,” said Frank, who used to work the farm and has become friendly with the land’s new owners. He declined to give his last name. “Words can’t tell you how bad it was,” he said.

The family has cleared away much of the mess and begun recultivating the soil on the hilly land. A pile of torn-up trees sits next to a tin barn and the lawn in front of the vacant farmhouse is dusty and dry. The house will remain, for now, and may be renovated later, Mr. Mezynieski said.

This isn’t the Mezynieski family’s first investment in farming. They also own Driftwood Farms, a 140-acre property in Orient where they raise cattle and grow privet hedge for landscapers and private buyers. The family also purchased a cattle farm in Florida in 2005.

Mr. Mezynieski said he’ll also grow privet and raise cows in Calverton, and may feature a nursery. The goal, the Meznieskis said, is to leave something for their three children: Cole, 16; Mack, 10; and Anastasia, 5.

“Each of the kids will have farms when they get older,” Mr. Mezynieski said.

The oldest sibling, Cole, was 10 when his family bought the Orient farm. Now he is helping to get the new property ready for farming.

“I think I like this one the best,” he said as he drove a pickup up and down the steep hills around the property. Cole said he’d like to try to grow some different crops at the farm to add “diversity.”

Cole said he is looking forward to working on the farm; for the teenager, farming is in his blood.

“I never figured I’d do anything else,” he said.

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08/02/12 12:00pm
08/02/2012 12:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | The Burmese python was taken to the town animal shelter.

An Orient woman woke up Monday morning to find a Burmese python staring at her from the top of her television.

“I was sleeping on my couch, which I often do at night while watching old movies,” Leslie Provatas said. “I woke up about 5:30 Monday morning with the feeling that I was being watched. I looked across the room and there was this snake looking right at me. We had an eye-to-eye moment.”

Police said they do not know where the snake came from. It has since been taken to the Southold Town Animal shelter.

Read more on suffolktimes.com

07/30/12 10:00am
07/30/2012 10:00 AM

A Riverhead man was arrested for driving under the influence after he nearly collided with a police officer’s vehicle in Orient Sunday morning, Southold Town police said.

Nicholas Horton, 33, was driving westbound on Route 25 in Orient  at 9:00 a.m. when he entered the eastbound lane and nearly hit the arresting officer’s vehicle, police said.

Mr. Horton was found to be under the influence of narcotics, arrested and held for arraignment, according to the police report.

05/26/12 7:45am
05/26/2012 7:45 AM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | The runners and supporters outside the Southold firehouse Friday.

Marines from the 3rd Battalion of the 25th Marines Regiment are planning to disrupt Memorial Day celebrations along a more than 100-mile stretch of road from Orient to the site of the World Trade Center beginning this morning in honor of their 48 fellow servicemen who died in Iraq in 2005.

This is the third time the Marines have held a 100 Mile Memorial Relay, but the prior two events went from Richmond, Va. to the Iwo Jima Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. This year, Staff Sgt. Oscar Aguilera, who grew up in Greenport, suggested they hold the event on Long Island, and invite first responders and police officers, particularly those who were on the scene on 9/11, to join them in remembering the fallen.

This event has already raised more money to benefit Hope for the Warriors than any of the prior events, said Staff Sgt. Aguilera at a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the event at the Southold firehouse Friday night. He said the 26 runners who will each take a roughly 15-mile leg of the race have already raised more than $26,000 to help soldiers returning from war and their families.

The runners, who will run two at a time while carrying the American flag and the Hope for the Warriors flag, will be accompanied by an entourage including escorts from police and fire services and two RVs, where the runners will rest between runs.

“If you see traffic screwed up out there, that’s because of us,” said Navy medic Bill Sukitch, who helped to organize the event. “It’s time for you to remember and honor this special group of people.”

At Friday’s fundraiser were three people who have special reason to remember this weekend. Hospital Corpsman Jeff Wiener, whose wife Maria and daughter Mikayla live in Ridge, was one of the 48 men who lost their lives in Iraq in 2005.

Ms. Wiener hadn’t been in regular contact with members of her husband’s battalion, but when she heard they were coming to Long Island, she wanted to honor her husband, whose birthday would have been today. Mr. Wiener’s mother Diana, who flies to Long Island from her home in Kentucky every Memorial Day Weekend to be with her son’s family, also came to the event. They plan to cheer on the runners on the roadside when they pass through Ridge.

Ms. Wiener said her husband was killed in a roadside ambush in a van in Haditha, just outside of a civilian hospital. He had been in the service for two years and had been in Iraq for two-and-a-half months.

“I want people to remember what was sacrificed for something better. His goal was to make sure his kid’s future was secure,” she said.

Chrystyna Kestler, mother of Army 1st Lt. Joseph Theinert, who died in Afghanistan in 2010, was the keynote speaker Friday night.

Ms. Kestler said she also wants people to remember that Memorial Day is about more than sales and barbecues. Her son Jimbo will run in the relay.

“Memorial Day was first called Decoration Day, when they’d decorate the graves of soldiers,” she said. “Try to take some time to remember how special this is. Take some time to remember what so many gave for us. He [Lt. Theinert] volunteered. He said yes. Less than 1 percent do.”

She said her family is still struggling to repair the hole left in their lives when Lt. Theinert died.

“It’s only in service to others that we can get beyond ourselves and heal,” she said. “Everybody in this room has helped repair that tear.”

The Marines began their run at the Orient ferry dock at 8 a.m. They will run through Greenport at the start of the Tall Ships festival at 10 a.m., then run up to Route 48 and along Sound Avenue.

Check out photos from Friday night’s fundraiser on suffolktimes.com.

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