Following a news report earlier Thursday, Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller confirmed Friday that a 46-year-old Riverhead man accused of beating and robbing a man early Monday is a “possible suspect” in a string of other assaults and robberies in the area.
Kenneth Belcher was arrested after fleeing police on foot shortly after the robbery about 1:45 a.m. near the Riverhead DMV, police said. The victim told police that two other men had beaten him and stolen $300 in cash, according to police.
Mr. Belcher — who had been recently released on his own recognizance after pleading guilty to weapons charges in June, according to a county jail clerk — was charged with felony robbery and held in county jail without bail.
“He’s come up in prior investigations,” Chief Hegermiller said.
“It is somebody that we’ve been looking at for some time,” Supervisor Sean Walter said in an interview Thursday.
Chief Hegermiller said the second man being charged in Monday’s robbery — Bobby Riddick — is also being investigated to see if he’s connected with the other assaults. The police chief said Mr. Riddick had not been discussed as a possible suspect prior to his arrest Monday.
Eight other assaults or robberies, mostly occurring around Railroad Avenue, have occurred in Riverhead so far this year. In most cases, Hispanic males walking alone at night have been targeted.
Following one such assault last Sunday night, Supervisor Sean Walter and Police Chief David Hegermiller announced plans for a joint task force with local and state police to try to better combat the string of largely unsolved crimes. Mr. Walter said today that progress on those plans has started to take shape.
“We’ve worked for several days with Southampton and state police on intelligence gathering missions,” Mr. Walter announced at a Town Board work session Thursday. “This is not a town that sticks its head in the sand.”
Online court records show that Mr. Belcher, the “person of interest,” pleaded guilty in relation to an incident from late March in Mattituck.
Southold Town police said at the time that Mr. Belcher, along with another man, had been knocking on doors in a residential neighborhood near Pacific Avenue asking for money. Mr. Belcher allegedly entered one of the homes and took a bag of Snickers from the house after he was confronted by a woman there, police said.
He was later caught in a car with a loaded weapon, police said.Mr. Belcher had also reportedly been caught with heroin just days before the incident.
Mr. Belcher had been arrested several times prior to the robbery, including resisting arrest earlier this month and giving a false name to police to avoid getting arrested on an active warrant in 2011.
Mr. Belcher is due back in Riverhead court on the latest robbery charge on Friday.
“Hopefully he’s going away for some time,” Chief Hegermiller said.