This week in Riverhead History: Wine Country pioneer’s connection to two presidential assassinations

David Mudd on page 2 of the Feb. 6, 1992 issue of the Riverhead News-Review.

The following stories were excerpted from Riverhead News-Review issues published 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years ago this week:

20 years ago …

The name Mudd is clean at last

Did you know that David Mudd, patriarch of the Mudd Vineyards family, had a personal connection to two presidential assassinations?

Former Suffolk Times scribe Ruth Jernick explained the connections in the Feb. 6, 1992 issue of The Suffolk Times.

Mr. Mudd was a “cousin way, way down the road” to Dr. Samuel Mudd, who infamously set the leg of John Wilkes Booth after he broke it jumping to the stage at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C., moments after shooting President Abraham Lincoln.

Dr. Mudd was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement with the assassination, but was later pardoned and released from prison by President Andrew Johnson. His conviction, however, has never been overturned.

Mr. Mudd’s other assassination connection stems from his career as a pilot for Eastern Airlines, where he served as first captain to David Ferrie, a man some have long said played a role in the plot to kill President John F. Kennedy.

Mr. Mudd told The Suffolk Times he believed Mr. Ferrie could have conspired to have Mr. Kennedy killed. “There’s a very strong possibility,” he said.

Postscript: Mr. Mudd died last August at age 90. Fans of the Oliver Stone film “JFK” might remember Mr. Ferrie as the character played by Joe Pesci.

DEIS: Breslin center will help

Wilbur Breslin’s proposed “strip” shopping center on Route 58 would “significantly boost economic activity” by creating 440 temporary construction jobs and 375 shopping center jobs, and injecting the local economy with $73.5 million through the “ripple effect,” reporter Cheryl Clark wrote in the Feb. 6, 1992 issue of The Riverhead News-Review.

That information was taken from a draft environmental impact study of Mr. Breslin’s proposed shopping center on the corner of Route 58 and Northville Turnpike.

The project would end up being what is now BJ’s and Kmart, but at the time the proposal would have also included three more smaller stores on the property.

Mr. Breslin had previously proposed an indoor mall for the site, but protests by residents on nearby Oliver Street forced the developer to limit the scope of his project.

 25 years ago …

 Oil spill dumps PCBs into soil

Some 1,000 gallons  of PCB-contaminated mineral oil leaked from a truck parked at a LILCO substation on West Main Street Jan. 31, 1987, we reported in that week’s issue of the Riverhead News-Review.

The oil had been pumped from LILCO transformers and was awaiting transport, when a cracked valve in the truck caused int to spill onto the ground and down a dirt road at the substation near Mill Road, we reported.

PCBS, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are chemical compounds used in insulating liquids until the federal government banned their usage in 1976.

We reported that four days after the spill some of the oil had not yet been cleaned up.

15 years ago …

‘Big Ed’ Danowski, ex-Giant dead at 85

Riverhead Town native Edward Danowski, who starred on the New york Giants football team in the period leading up to World War II, died at his home in East Patchogue Feb. 1, 1997, we reported in an obituary published in that week’s News-Review.

Mr. Danowski, a native of Aquebogue, was the starting halfback, a position that then operated more like a quarterback would today, on the Giants first two NFL championship teams.

“He was an awfully big man, who had an enormous physical structure,” said then-Riverhead Town Supervisor Jim Stark. “But, later, as the generation gap closed and I got to know him, I found that he was a very gentle man, a good family man who never lost sight of his roots in Riverhead.”

Postscript: Mr. Danowski was named as the area’s greatest athlete by Times/Review newsgroup this past summer. He would have been 100 years old this past September.

BID looks to fill vacant shops

As many as 20 new businesses may be enticed to set up shop in downtown Riverhead this summer, reporter Ruth Jernick wrote in the Feb. 6, 1997 issue of the Riverhead News-Review.

There were six vacant stores totaling 40,000 square feet, but consultants recommended to the town that the space be divided into 20 2,000 square-foot units to accommodate all the businesses looking at downtown, we wrote.

Farm worker dies in house fire

A Guatemalan immigrant was killed in a fire Feb. 1, 1997 in what town officials said was an illegal apartment, reporter Tim Gannon wrote in that week’s issue of the Riverhead News-Review.

As a result, Riverhead Town was looking at evicting residents of a home behind the burned-down house on West Main Street, we reported.

A dozen people, including a pregnant woman, were living in the house where the fire occurred.

10 years ago …

Robbery fugitive caught

The last of three men wanted in the September 1997 murder of an armored car guard in Riverhead was captured in Connecticut after he was featured on a recent episode of “America’s Most Wanted,” reporter Tim Gannon wrote Feb. 7, 2002.

Jamal Starks, then 31, was arrested after a viewer of the popular television show phoned in a tip.

Mr. Starks was one of three men who ambushed a pair of Patriot Security guards making a late night drop at Suffolk County National Bank branch on Ostrander Avenue. One of the guards, Andre Herring of Bay Shore, was killed in the robbery.

The other two robbers were arrested in 1998, while Mr. Stark roamed free for four more years.

Postscript: Mr. Starks is currently serving a 15 years to life sentence for second-degree murder. He will first be eligible for parole in 2016.

5 years ago …

DeVito takes pot shots in radio ad

Former Riverhead Board of Education member Angela Devito drew criticism in February 2007 over a radio spot she paid for on 1390 AM WRIV blasted three Town Board members.

The ad was a parody of the Dion song “Abraham, Martin and John” and it contained lyrics knocking Barbara Blass, Ed Densieski and John Dunleavy for actions at the landfill and development of Route 58.

“Two of the cuncil members skewered in the commercial … recently voted in favor of Ms. Devito’s appointment to the Riverhead IDA,” former News-Review editor John Stefans wrote.

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