Teenager arraigned for ‘horrific and brutal crime’ in murder of Timothy Hill Ranch resident

Suffolk County homicide detectives on Friday announced the arrest of a 19-year-old Centereach man in the murder of a teen who had gone missing in 2019 from the Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch in Riverhead.

John Mann Jr. was 16 years old at the time he allegedly killed Henry Hernandez, who was also 16. Mr. Mann was arraigned Monday on a murder charge before Supreme Court Justice Karen Wilutis in Riverhead. He entered a not guilty plea.

“This was a horrific and brutal crime committed for no rational reason but what is just as disturbing is that the defendant was 16 years old when he allegedly committed this callous act,” District Attorney Raymond Tierney said in a statement announcing the indictment against Mr. Mann. “We will make sure that the victim gets justice and that this defendant gets to account for his alleged actions.”

Henry was living at the ranch when he was reported missing in June 2019, Riverhead Town police said later that summer. Police at the time did not indicate any foul play was suspected. Police issued a second notice seeking information on Henry’s whereabouts in August 2019.

Investigators determined that the two teenagers had been hospitalized together in Brunswick Hospital Center in Amityville in March 2019. When Henry was released, he allegedly went to the defendant’s home on Jay Road in Centereach and stole the defendant’s father’s truck. At some point around June 2, 2019, the defendant lured Henry to a location nicknamed “Sand Pit.” The suspect then duct taped Henry and struck him repeatedly with a blunt object, according to the district attorney.

The defendant placed the body in a hole and covered it with debris.

The remains at some point were relocated and placed in a plastic tub on the defendant’s next door neighbor’s property. Those skeletal remains were recovered March 15, 2020. The remains were wrapped in two separate plastic bags and a further examination revealed the hands and feet were bound with duct tape, as were the head and mouth, the DA said.

Investigators used DNA tests to link the skeletal remains to Henry. Suffolk police said he had previously lived in Hempstead.

Mr. Mann is due back in court July 13.