With his feet cuffed together and a dingy white inside-out t-shirt on his back, Douglas Rico pleaded not guilty Saturday to second-degree manslaughter charges for the death of a homeless woman inside the Budget Host Inn in Riverside.
The 44-year-old Mr. Rico, who police say is also homeless, stood wide-eyed as Southampton Town Justice Ed Burke
remanded him to the county jail without bail in connection with the death of Henrietta Sholl.
Mr. Rico’s court-appointed lawyer, Dan Russo of Westhampton Beach, said he had just met his client and had no additional details about the case. Mr. Russo said a grand jury will soon review the case.
Assistant District Attorney Todd Pettigrew declined comment.
Court records show Mr. Rico had been arrested on drug charges in Brooklyn last December. He is not due back in court on that matter until early next year.
Ms. Sholl’s lifeless body was discovered by employees just before noon Thursday at the 30 Lake Avenue motel, Suffolk Police said. The body of the 53-year-old woman was found on a bed in one of the motel’s rooms.
Soon after, the county medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.
Although authorities were not immediately releasing a cause of death, detectives said there was no weapon involved.
Ms. Sholl had been staying at the motel “for more than a day,” said a police spokeswoman.
Local police sources said Thursday they were unfamiliar with Ms. Sholl.
Ms. Sholl had been arrested by Suffolk cops Nov. 3 and in January pleaded guilty to petit larceny and served 90 days in Suffolk County jail, said District Attorney spokesman Bob Clifford. She was released from jail April 14, Mr. Clifford said.
She had given police a Mastic address at the time of her arrest and told investigators she was unemployed, police records show.
The Budget Host Inn is the frequent scene of police calls for robberies, assaults and drug-related incidents. At least one convicted sex offender is currently living there, according to the New York State Sex Offender Registry.
“This place was filled up with cop cars when we got here,” said a White Plains man who checked in Thursday afternoon. “I heard somebody got killed. I didn’t ask any questions though.”
When asked if he was considering switching motels, the man, who gave his name only as Willie, said, “It doesn’t bother me none. I’ve been through worse.”
A worker in the motel’s lobby, where a snarly English bulldog stares down incoming guests, declined to comment when asked about the incident.
A sign posted inside the building reads that the premises are “protected by surveillance.” Cameras are mounted throughout the hallways and one motel guest said clear video images are fed to a monitor behind the front desk.
That same guest, a woman who has been staying at the motel with a boyfriend for the last few weeks, said she didn’t know the victim. Still, she said, “I cried. I felt unsafe” upon hearing that someone had been killed there.
There are “a couple of girls that hang out here,” she added.
Southampton Town police officers showed up to the Budget Host Friday, the day after the woman was found dead, shortly before 10 a.m. on an unrelated call.
With Michael White
This is a developing story. Check back at RiverheadNewsReview.com for updates.
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Riverside man targets sex offender living at area motel, Aug. 19