This Week in Riverhead History: A crime he didn’t commit

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | After spending seven years in jail for a crime he didn't commit, Clarence Bruce Braunskill came home the week of April 10, 1997.

The following stories were excerpted from News-Review issues published between 15 and 100 years ago this week:

15 years ago

Riverhead man freed after spending seven years in prison

After spending seven years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, Clarence Bruce Braunskill came home the week of April 10, 1997.

Mr. Braunskill was wrongfully convicted of selling cocaine to an undercover Riverhead police officer in 1990 and sentenced to 30 years in prison, reporter Phil Cardinale Jr. wrote in that week’s News-Review.

After police released a recording of the transaction, Mr. Braunskill said it wasn’t his voice on the tape.

His brother Leonard of Middle Island then spent years trying to get someone to listen to the tape. Leonard’s big breakthrough came when he met former Suffolk County District Attorney James Catterson at a press conference for Riverhead beating victim Shane Daniels and the DA agreed to reintroduce the evidence to investigators.

“It’s like a dream,” said Clarence after spending much of his first week out of prison with his children. “You still don’t believe it,  because it’s just … unbelievable.”

Postscript: Four years later, Mr. Braunskill was awarded $1 million in a settlement for his wrongful imprisonment. He still lives in Riverhead.

20 years ago

Residents to KKK: Get out of town

A visit in the first week of April 1992 by alleged members of the Ku Klux Klan has plunged Riverhead and the East End into a new round of negative publicity, we reported in that week’s News-Review.

The self-proclaimed white supremacists, who stayed at the former Best Western on Route 25, said they were called here from North Carolina by East End residents to recruit new members.

The incident followed closely on the heels of a nationally publicized controversy over the recruitment of several black Riverhead High School students to a police lineup, we reported.

25 years ago

Wading River demands a moratorium

Armed with signs bearing slogans like: “Thou Shalt Not Build” and no “T.D.R. in W.R.” some 35 Wading River residents made their demands known to the Town board Tuesday night during a public hearing on rezoning proposed for North Wading River Road, read the lead of a Page 3 story in the April 9, 1987 issue of the Riverhead News-Review.

“We need to stop and take an overview of where Wading River is headed,” said Sid Bail, then the president of the Wading River Civic Association.

At the time, Riverhead Town was in the midst of a Wading River land use survey, which then-Supervisor Joe Janoski said was the first step in a hamlet study.

The Town Board agreed at the meeting that week to discuss a possible moratorium at a future work session.

Postscript: That was then, this is now.

Tower-top restaurant nixed?

A revolving restaurant on top of a water tower in Baiting Hollow? While such a proposal has been floating around Riverhead Town Hall for nearly two years, it seems the idea has recently been nixed once and for all, we wrote 25 years ago this week.

The restaurant idea was nixed because it was determined the soil under the water tower could not support the additional weight of the restaurant, we reported.

75 years ago

Mr. Hallock hurt

Henry Hallock is about on crutches this week, we wrote in the April 9, 1937 issue of the Riverhead News. He had the misfortune to fall from the seat of a heavy roller in front of the machine, while it was in motion.

Because the roller was drawn by horses, rather than a tractor, he was unable to stop and could not get out from under, we wrote.

One leg was badly bruised, but no bones were broken.

Riverhead Fire Department puts out Calverton fire

The home of Mr. and Mrs. S.H. Edwards caught fire in the basement April 1, 1937, but thanks to the efforts of Riverhead firemen the blaze was contained to the basement, we reported in that week’s issue of The News. However, some of the main house and some of the downstairs rugs were scorched.

100 years ago

Boy’s toes sawed off

While working at E.E. Smith’s in Calverton Wednesday, John Rilinski, 17 years, got one of his feet in a buzz saw, and the toes were nearly all severed. The wound was a diagonal one, we reported in the April 5, 1912 issue of the Riverhead News.

Doctor Terrell found the toes hanging by a mere thread and wanted to complete the operation, but the boy did not desire it, so he was taken to St. Peter’s Hospital in Brooklyn, we wrote.

[email protected]