03/08/13 5:05pm
03/08/2013 5:05 PM

Ashley Murray, the Peconic teen who went missing Feb. 25, touching off a massive search that lit up the social media world and involved agencies including the FBI, is on her way to a hospital for an evaluation after appearing with an unidentified adult friend at Southold police headquarters at 3:15 p.m. Friday, police said.

The teen was interviewed by police for about an hour and 15 minutes before being taken to a “regional hospital,” said Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley.

She said little about where she was during her absence, he added.

“She didn’t give a lot of information,” said the chief. “She was reluctant to say where she was.”

He added that police believe she was a runway, not abducted, and remained on the East End.

[Related: Relief and joy on social media for Ashley’s safe return]

Reached at her family’s home, her brother Jamie Cradehl, said he hasn’t had time to process the news of his sister’s return.

“I’m waiting for everything to sink in,” he said.

He added that when the family asked Ashley if they should join her at the hospital, she said no, that she needed time by herself.

Ms. Murray was reported missing after failing to turn up at school that Monday morning. The ensuing search was unprecedented for the North Fork with police seeking assistance from other public departments, the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Chief Flatley said that while the search is over, the investigation is continuing.

On the question of charges being filed, he said. “There’s always that chance. That’s what we have to look for.”

But he sees no reason to charge Ashley.

“We have look to see if there’s anyone else who should be looked at or might fit into a criminal charge, perhaps others who assisted her in remaining out of view,” he said.

Asked if the police interviews answered the questions on why she left and where she went, the chief said, “Not in their entirety, no.”

Southold Junior-Senior High School principal William Galati said he received a call about Ashley’s return about 4 p.m.

“We’re very excited, and I’m glad to hear that she is safe,” Mr. Galati said, adding that others in the school and the surrounding community will feel the same way.

“We have a caring, compassionate, educated community,” he said. “They express such great love and great care for these kids.”

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With Carrie Miller and Jennifer Gustavson


02/27/13 12:24pm

Southold Police issued a Missing Person poster Wednesday with details on 16-year-old Ashley Murray of Peconic.

The search for a Peconic teen missing since Monday went viral this week, as local appeals to find her were shared over social networking sites across the country and beyond.

Ashley Murray, 16, was last seen at 8:30 a.m., the time she normally leaves her home on Spring Lane to catch the school bus.

She never arrived at school.

“You just keep hoping that the game is up and she’ll come walking through the door,” her mother, Charlotte, said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

[Previous Coverage: Missing teen left suicide note, mom says]

Ms. Murray learned of her daughter’s disappearance after receiving a call from school officials who told her social workers got word from students who had received texts from Ashley that said she would kill herself. Her mom later found a note from her daughter, which she called a “suicide note,” saying it made reference to a “watery grave.”

“This was all thought out and planned the night before,” Ms. Murray said.

Southold Police initially employed a marine patrol, its canine unit and a Suffolk County Police helicopter to perform a physical search Monday morning, but later focused their investigation on the possibility that she may have left the area. They then ended the active local search Monday afternoon and began to concentrate on examining phone and computer records, and interviewing close friends and family, police said.

Police did not release an official missing person report until Wednesday morning, more than 50 hours after Ashley’s disappearance. Law enforcement officials said Ashley’s case does not fit criteria for an “Amber Alert,” since she is not believed to have been abducted.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Ashley Murray (above) should contact Southold Police at 765-2600.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Ashley Murray (above) should contact Southold Police at 765-2600.

That did not stop local residents from conducting their own searches and using social media to reach thousands of concerned web surfers from across the country.

A missing poster created Tuesday night by the Facebook page “Missing,” which has a reach of about 125,000 Facebook users, was already shared by more than 14,000 people the following morning, with an additional 1,200 people “liking” the poster and another 1,000 users commenting.

“Shared in Ottawa, Ontario Canada,” one user wrote.

“I encourage everyone to pray for this young girl,” said another commenter.

Locally, friends of Ashley created a Facebook page called “Ashley Come Home,” which was already followed by more than 1,000 Facebook users just hours after its creation. Users shared their photos of Ashley and the page, where they made desperate pleas for their friend to return safely.

“If anyone knows ANYTHING that could help lead to Ashley’s safe return please tell someone as soon as possible! We need to know as much as we can so we can find this beautiful young lady!” the moderator of the page wrote.

Many of her classmates posted that they were out searching locally for their friend, who they said was often bullied in school.

Ashley is 5-foot 4-inches and 140 pounds with reddish-brown hair, her mother said. She was last seen wearing red sweatpants “four sizes too big,” black boots and a zip-up sweatshirt with a hood, Charlotte Murray said. Police added that she has a scar on her right wrist and wears hearing aids in both ears.

“She didn’t even leave with a winter coat,” her mom said, and she left behind medication she must take for anemia.

Ashley’s mom also said her daughter has never run away from home before.

“I’d like for her to come home,” Ms. Murray said, adding that she hadn’t slept since her daughter went missing Monday morning.

Ms. Murray said her daughter’s phone is turned off or not working.

Southold Superintendent David Gamberg said the district has been cooperating with the Southold Police Department since the investigation began Monday.

“We have deep, deep concerns about her whereabouts and her safety,” Mr. Gamberg said. “Anything and everything we can do we will do.”

Anyone with information should contact Southold Police at (631) 765-2600. Information will remain confidential.

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01/03/13 10:49am
01/03/2013 10:49 AM

Southold Police arrested an Aquebogue woman on Wednesday morning for multiple vehicle and traffic violations, police reported.

Kerryann Brown, 39, was stopped at 11:08 a.m. on Route 48 in Cutchogue for having an expired inspection sticker when an officer discovered she was also driving with a suspended license, according to police.

She was charged with third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation and driving with an expired inspection and held for arraignment, police said.

12/07/12 3:06pm
12/07/2012 3:06 PM

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Mattituck rescue personel work to free a woman from a Volkswagen Passat Friday afternoon on Route 25 in Laurel.

The driver of one of three-vehicles involved in a crash on Main Road in Laurel Friday afternoon was treated for what appeared to be non-life threatening injuries.

Main Road was closed in both directions for about an hour as police and the Mattituck Fire Department rescue squad responded to the crash, which occurred shortly before 2 p.m. The road has since reopened.

Witnesses said a Mercury Mountaineer heading west on Route 25 attempted to make a left turn into a driveway when it was rear-ended by a late-model Ford Taurus.

The impact apparently pushed the SUV into the eastbound lane, where it collided with a Volkswagen Passat.

The Passat’s driver, a young woman, appeared conscious and alert when she was being tended to by Mattituck firefighters, though it was not immediately known if she was hospitalized.

Jorge Perez, 20, who lives at the address where the SUV was headed, said his sister was driving the Mountaineer and was not hurt..

“This happened last year to my cousin. She was OK too. And my father was hit, same thing — rear ended, at the Laurel Post Office.

“People just don’t look where they’re going.”

The Ford’s driver, a man, also appeared to be uninjured after the crash.

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11/21/12 8:00am
11/21/2012 8:00 AM

FILE PHOTOS | Four armed robberies have been reported at local businesses in the past month. Police officials say they are stepping up patrols.

An armed robbery at a Mattituck gas station Monday night marked the fourth such incident at a local business in the past month, and town police department officials say they’re stepping up patrols and investigating to see whether the crimes are related.

The first reported robbery occurred on Oct. 20 when two masked men armed with handguns robbed the Spirit Halloween store on Route 58 about 9:30 p.m., Riverhead police said.

The men removed an undisclosed amount of cash from the store’s registers and fled south across the parking lot. No one was injured in the incident.

About a week and a half later, three masked men dressed in costumes robbed a Valero gas station in Riverside on Halloween night, Southampton police said.

At least two of the men were armed with handguns when they held up the Flanders Road station, also at 9:30 p.m., police said.

The men struck the gas attendant and took about $270 in cash from the store’s register, said Southampton Town police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa in a previous interview. The men attempted to rob the clerk as well, but fled the scene because they believed police were on their way, she said.

One week later on Nov. 7, three masked men wearing hooded black sweatshirts stormed Barth’s Pharmacy in Riverhead about 6 p.m., Riverhead police said. The men, one of whom was armed with a handgun, demanded cash and prescription drugs from the store’s employees.

The men made off with assorted merchandise and cash and fled the store through a rear door, police said. No one was hurt in the robbery. Police later released stills from a store surveillence video showing the suspects.

A parked vehicle was seen in the vicinity, with its headlights on, facing the rear door as the suspects fled the area, police said. Another vehicle was seen at the same time driving in an easterly direction through the lot.

The most recent robbery occurred Monday night, when three masked men robbed a Mattituck gas station of more than $4,000 in cash and cigarettes, police and a store manager said.

A masked man entered the BP station on Main Road about 10:15 p.m. and pointed a handgun at the store’s cashier, ordering him to lie down on the floor, manager Recep Zaim said on Tuesday.

Two other men wearing masks or bandanas over their faces entered the store and began emptying the cash register behind the counter, police said.

About $4,000 in cash and 11 cartons of cigarettes were taken in the robbery, Mr. Zaim said. The men then went to the back of the store and smashed the surveillance cameras before fleeing the scene, he said, causing about $2,000 worth of damage.

The employee was unharmed in the robbery, Mr. Zaim said.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said in an interview that the suspects fled the area down a nearby side street. K-9 units were called to the scene Monday night to investigate, though police have not made an any arrests, he said.

Chief Flatley said it was too early to tell if the robbery Monday night was related to the other armed robberies in the area, though it was “obviously one of the things we’re looking into.”

Southold police have increased their patrols in the western part of Southold Town as a result of the robberies.

“We’re stepping up our patrols of gas stations and other similar types of stores,” Chief Flatley said. “Our patrol officers are definitely aware of what’s going on and are keeping a close look in those areas.”

The police chief also advised business owners to remain vigilant and staff stores with more than one employee for safety reasons.

Riverhead police Det. Sgt. Joseph Loggia said the department is still investigating the two robberies in Riverhead Town.

“We don’t have anything definite, but we’re looking into the possibility [that the robberies are related],” he said.

Like in Southold, Riverhead police have also increased patrols around town, Sgt. Loggia said.

“Patrols are stepped up,” he said. “Everybody’s on the lookout for anything that could happen.”

Sgt. Loggia also asked residents with information about the robberies to tell police.

“If you thought you saw something, say something,” he said. “Anyone with information is encouraged to come forward.”

Southampton police Det. Sgt. Lisa Costa could not be reached to comment on the department’s investigation of the Riverside robbery.

Residents with information regarding the robberies can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers at (800) 220-TIPS, Riverhead police at (631) 727-4500, Southampton town police detectives at (631) 702-2230, or Southold police at (631) 765-2600.

Police have offered a $5,000 cash reward for information about the Barth’s Pharmacy robbery. All calls will be kept confidential.

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11/20/12 2:11pm
11/20/2012 2:11 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Three men robbed this Mattituck gas station of more than $4,000 worth of cash and cigarettes.

A Mattituck gas station was robbed of thousands in cash and cigarettes by three masked men armed with a handgun Monday night, according to the station’s manager.

A masked man entered the BP station on Main Road about 10:15 p.m. and brandished a handgun at the store’s cashier, said manager Recep Zaim on Tuesday. The man forced the employee to lie down on the ground while two other men wearing masks over their faces entered the store began emptying the cash register behind the counter.

About $4,000 in cash and 11 cartons of cigarettes were taken in the robbery, Mr. Zaim said. The men then went to the back of the store and smashed the surveillance cameras before fleeing the scene, he said. The cameras will cost about $2,000 to replace, the manager said.

The employee was unharmed in the robbery, Mr. Zaim said. Police arrived on scene, he said, and were investigating the incident.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said in an interview that the suspects fled the area down a nearby side street. K-9 units were called to the scene to investigate, though no one has been arrested yet, he said.

Southold detectives are currently investigating the incident.

The store had been broken into after closing time before, the manager said, but never robbed.

“Not at gunpoint, but every year it’s something,” Mr. Zaim said. Still, he said the area is generally very safe and he was surprised by the robbery.

“I worked other places and you know, this happens, but not here,” Mr. Zaim said. “You think you’re in a safe neighborhood and then this happens.”

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10/25/12 7:00am
10/25/2012 7:00 AM

GRANT PARPAN FILE PHOTO | This crash in Calverton led to a DWI arrest earlier this year. Police say DWI arrests rose this year. See the infographic below for more details.

This summer marked the busiest season for drunken driving arrests across the North Fork’s two towns in five years, according to reports from Southold and Riverhead police.

From June through August of this year, Riverhead police reported 70 alleged incidents of people driving under the influence of alcohol within the town, nearly double last year’s summer total of 41 incidents, according to the reports.

And August was the busiest month this summer in Riverhead, the reports show, with 27 arrests. There were 26 arrests in July and 17 in June, the figures show.

This summer had the most reported arrests since 2008, when 78 were reported in Riverhead Town. Until this year, the numbers had steadily decreased, according to the reports.

The trend in Riverhead mirrored that of Southold Town, where 42 drunken driving arrests were reported in 2012, an increase from the 28 incidents reported the year before, according to a document provided by police. While just nine drunken driving arrests were reported in August, according to the figures, 17 were documented in July and 16 in June.

Like Riverhead, this summer was also the busiest in Southold Town since 2008, when 44 incidents occurred.

The figures were being compiled for the newspaper just as a Riverhead man suffered minor injuries in two separate accidents involving alleged drunken drivers at the same intersection within a 3 1/2-hour span, startling readers and residents and renewing concerns that our roads have been getting more and more dangerous.

Those DWI accidents were followed up Monday with the arrest of a Deer Park man accused of striking a pedestrian near the Route 58 traffic circle and fleeing the scene. That person was also charged with DWI.

But both Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller and Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said the higher number of reported arrests doesn’t necessarily mean there are more cases of people driving drunk around Riverhead or across the region.

“More manpower” through patrols and checkpoints on the part of the East End DWI Task Force’s inaugural year has led to the higher numbers, Chief Hegermiller said.

“[There were] a lot of extra eyes on the roads,” he said of this past summer. “There were nights when you had more than half a dozen cars out there.”

The task force, run by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, includes officers from East End town and village police departments, as well as state and county police and DA officials. The task force was formed in the spring and began operations on the North and South Forks on Memorial Day weekend.

The East End police departments involved in the task force worked in one another’s jurisdictions at checkpoints and patrols on scheduled weekends to crack down on drunk drivers in the county’s five East End towns.

Locally, a task force patrol in Riverhead in June netted 11 drunken driving arrests, with another six people being arrested at a July checkpoint in Southold, police said.

The task force will continue operations into the fall and will focus on reducing boating while intoxicated in local waters next year as well, authorities said.

Chief Hegermiller thanked the DA’s office for being “the glue that holds it all together.”

“It was a great effort,” he said.

Chief Flatley agreed that the DWI task force helped Southold Town police by providing more manpower for checkpoints. The task force allowed the department to target high-traffic weekends for greater enforcement without causing congestion on the roads.

“Up to this point, we tried to do DWI checkpoints but it takes a lot of officers,” Chief Flatley said. “It’s very difficult to pull something like that off on our own.”

He believes the dip in numbers over the last few years until this summer was because the department had fewer officers to devote to patrols. For most of this summer the department operated with 46 officers, and that number dropped lower because of injuries to some officers that took them off active duty.

The figures don’t take into account arrests in neighboring Flanders, Riverside or Northampton, as those hamlets are in Southampton Town.

While Chief Flatley credited some of the increased DWI arrests to the extra manpower from the task force, he also said more motorists are using Bluetooth cellphones to report drunk drivers.

The department has seen an increase in the number of 911 calls from the road in the past few years, he said.

“Realistically that’s where a lot of DWI [reports] are coming from,” Chief Flatley said.

Local community groups agreed that awareness and enforcement seemed to be increasing.

“There is more of an awareness and there is more of a vigilance about it,” said Felicia Scocozza, executive director of the Riverhead Community Awareness Program (CAP).

Ms. Scocozza said her organization works with the Riverhead department to raise awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving.

CAP normally hosts a program in the spring to teach 10th-graders not to drink and drive, but the program’s funding through the county was cut this year, she said.

“It was a very effective program, [the students] really showed an increased awareness,” Ms. Scocozza said.

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See the infographic below for more details:

10/18/12 9:45am
10/18/2012 9:45 AM

A 22-year-old Riverhead man was arrested Wednesday evening in Cutchogue after a physical altercation with police, Southold Town police said.

Curtis Trent was pulled over by police at the intersection of Eugene Road and Beebe drive about 9 p.m. for traffic violations when he became combative, fighting with officers, police said.

After Mr. Trent was subdued, he was found to be in possession of marijuana.

Mr. Trent was arrested for three misdemeanor offenses, transported to police headquarters, processed and held for arraignment, according to the report.

Police did not name the exact charges in a release, and were not immediately available to provide more detailed information.