Woman sentenced to 25 years to life for 2020 murder of Aquebogue man

Standing before Suffolk County Supreme Court Judge Timothy Mazzei, Donatila O’Mahony described Lee Pedersen as “one of the best friends I ever had.” Minutes later, she was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for shooting him dead nearly three years ago.

Ms. O’Mahony of Central Islip was sentenced in Riverhead Thursday on three charges related to the March 2020 killing of Mr. Pedersen, who split time between Aquebogue and Lynbrook.

On the count of second-degree murder, Judge Mazzei imposed the maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

“This was a cold-blooded killing fueled by greed, treachery, and the complete disregard for Lee Pedersen’s life, all in order to steal the victim’s home,” District Attorney Raymond Tierney said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “The only new home this defendant will be living in as a result of her actions, is prison.”

Lee Pedersen of Aquebogue hard at work in his garage, where he worked with antique gas engines. (Courtesy Photo)

Although Ms. O’Mahony admitted to filing a forged copy of Mr. Pedersen’s will in a bid to assume control of his estate, including his Lynbrook and Aquebogue residences, she continued to deny murdering Mr. Pedersen to the judge on Thursday. Instead, she pinned the blame on George Woodworth, a 76-year-old New Jersey man who, under sworn testimony at her trial, admitted to purchasing two handguns for the defendant to use in the shooting and letting her borrow his car on the night of the murder.

Ms. O’Mahony was sentenced to 28-months to seven years in prison on both the forgery and attempted grand larceny convictions, to be served concurrently with the murder sentence.

Although Mr. Woodworth smashed the handgun used in the shooting and disposed of its remnants along with clothing in various New Jersey dumpsters, detectives recovered a plastic bag of unused ammunition in a bedroom closet at his home. Forensic scientists swabbed the bag at the Suffolk County Crime Lab and revealed the presence of both Ms. O’Mahony’s and Mr. Pedersen’s DNA.

Mr. Woodworth pleaded guilty to the charge of second-degree criminal facilitation. He is slated for sentencing April 10. His attorney, Gerard Di Chiara of Garden City, declined to comment when reached via telephone Thursday afternoon.

Following Ms. O’Mahony’s sentencing, defense attorney Ira Weissman said “we were obviously disappointed with the verdict and the sentence today and we plan to appeal.”

Manipulation was a critical factor in the lead up to Mr. Pedersen’s murder, Assistant District Attorney Frank Schroeder told the judge. He painted Ms. O’Mahony as someone who “used her body to manipulate men for money and things.” In addition to the handguns and his car, Mr. Woodworth testified to giving Ms. O’Mahony $75,000.

In her final remarks, Ms. O’Mahony denied having a sexual relationship with Mr. Pederson. She said the 69-year-old entered her life following the loss of her husband, father, and brother.

“I did not kill Lee, nor did I want him dead,” she said.

She described the slain man as “a fixer and a protector” who showed kindness to both her and her young daughter, who was present in the courtroom Thursday. Addressing the young girl, she said “I love you so much … Mommy’s not going to stop fighting.”

In issuing the sentences, Judge Mazzei said Ms. O’Mahony’s “heartfelt speech” was to no avail.

“You successfully manipulated a lot of men since you came to the United States of America,” Judge Mazzei said to Ms. O’Mahony. “But you will not manipulate this man.”

“I still don’t understand how someone could do that to another person, for a house, for two houses,” he added. “I can’t imagine a more evil plot.”

Riverhead Town police officers conducting a wellness check found Mr. Pedersen dead in his Aquebogue home March 8, 2020, one day after his 69th birthday. Suffolk County homicide detectives conducted a nine-month investigation, during which they recovered surveillance footage and cellphone records and gathered testimony. They then arrested Ms. O’Mahony at John F. Kennedy Airport on Dec. 28, 2020, where they found her with her daughter and a pair of one-way tickets to El Salvador, where she is a citizen.

Ms. O’Mahony was found guilty by a jury of seven women and five men in January.

Those who knew Mr. Pedersen remember him as a friendly neighbor. They recalled how he donated blood, frequently leant his tools and his time and shoveled driveways every winter.

Grief stricken, Jean Bedeian, a friend of Mr. Pedersen’s, remembered him as an “outstanding person” before the judge Thursday morning.

“Justice has been served,” Ms. Bedeian said. “And we can begin to have closure.”