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Defendant in Aquebogue murder trial warned after outburst in court

The murder trial of a woman accused of killing an Aquebogue man in his home in 2020 was briefly disrupted after an outburst from the defendant in court Tuesday.

Shortly after a Southampton woman took the stand to testify about comments Donatila O’Mahony reportedly made while the two of them were inmates at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside, she was asked by prosecutors to list names of friends Ms. O’Mahony had mentioned.

As she began to speak a second name, Ms. O’Mahony began shouting, frantically pleading “Please don’t … You can lie about me all you want — just don’t bring him into this.”

Jurors were escorted out of the courtroom as the proceedings came to a halt and Ms. O’Mahony, sobbing, was chided by Judge Timothy Mazzei for causing a scene. “You have a right to be present,” Judge Mazzei said of the court proceedings. “However, that right doesn’t allow you to make outbursts,” he added, warning that she could be removed from the courtroom if it continued.

Ms. O’Mahony, who is also identified in court records as Donatila Alvarez, is charged with second-degree murder, second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and second-degree attempted grand larceny for the 2020 death of Lee Pedersen, who was found dead in his home on March 9, 2020 from a single gunshot wound to his head. She is also accused of filing a forged copy of Mr. Pedersen’s will in order to assume control of his estate after he died.

The former inmate, Theresa Sasala, testified Tuesday that while housed together at the jail, Ms. O’Mahony — also referred to by a nickname, “Gabby” in jail — made statements suggesting that she had help from “goons” in the MS-13 street gang in the killing and that she disassembled cameras on Mr. Pedersen’s Aquebogue property.

“There was really no sympathy, no nothing,” Ms. Sasala told the court, detailing how she ultimately decided to report the comments made to security guards at the jail.

“She said she has co-defendants but they don’t roll over on each other,” Ms. Sasala alleged. “It kind of scared me a little bit.”

On another occasion, Ms. Sasala testified that she asked Ms. O’Mahony how she slept and she replied that she didn’t sleep well and what she did “haunts” her.

Growing concerned that detectives were listening in on her phone conversations, Ms. O’Mahony asked Ms. Sasala — and other inmates — to use their PIN numbers to place phone calls, Ms. Sasala said. 

Under cross examination, defense attorney Ira Weismann honed in on Ms. Sasala’s lengthy criminal record, which dates back to 2006 and includes a slew of drug charges, false personation, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, resisting arrest, petit larceny, DWI and multiple stints behind bars.

Mr. Weissman attempted to discredit testimony elicited from Ms. Sasala, claiming she only did so to win a lenient sentence. In exchange for her testimony, prosecutors have recommended Ms. Sasala not serve any additional jail time beyond the 107 days she’s served of her most recent 180-day sentence.

“I don’t see it that way,” she replied when Mr. Weissman insinuated that was her motive.

Ms. Sasala was one of six witnesses to take the stand on the fourth day of the trial, including two longtime friends, a neighbor, attorney and forensic document examiner employed by the Suffolk County Crime Lab who testified that Mr. Pedersen’s signature was forged on the fraudulent will.

Jean Bedeian, a Franklin Square woman whose sister, Eileen, was a longtime girlfriend of Mr. Pedersen’s before she died in 2017, recalled “panicking” when Mr. Pedersen did not show up for a joint birthday celebration for himself and Ms. Bedeian’s son in Levittown on March 9, 2020 and ultimately learning about his death.

She also testified that in the months after he died, she received several phone calls from Ms. O’Mahony inquiring about his will and whether it had been retrieved from his home yet. “I was extremely, extremely upset by this phone call,” Ms. Bedeian said.

Another friend of Mr. Pedersen’s, Jeffrey Holz of Rochelle Park, N.J., testified that he “thought [it] was kind of odd,” when he first met Ms. O’Mahony and while making small talk about her enrollment in nursing courses she told him she “didn’t come to this country to be poor.”

A month after Mr. Pedersen was killed, Mr. Holz recorded a phone call he received from the defendant and the message was played back in court.

Over the course of the call, which went on for several minutes, Ms. O’Mahony is adamant that there is a newer iteration of Mr. Pedersen’s will that bequeaths his Aquebogue home to her daughter.

“Should I let it go?” she asks Mr. Holz at one point, citing legal challenges with members of Mr. Pedersen’s family. 

“It may be the only thing to do for now,” Mr. Holz told her during the call.