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11/08/13 10:00am
11/08/2013 10:00 AM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Several Suffolk County jail inmates are renovating Brendan House in Riverhead. The group first started working on the Sound Avenue project Wednesday afternoon.

Up until last March, Michael McNemar had a computer business and did various construction projects on the side. That experience may have seemed like a distant memory when Mr. McNemar, 42, landed in jail.

But thanks to a partnership between the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department and New Beginnings — a Medford nonprofit group — Mr. McNemar and other inmates with skilled labor backgrounds have been given the chance to assist with helping to build a home for the disabled.

On Wednesday, Mr. McNemar was one of the inmates working on a construction project at Brendan House in Riverhead, which is owned by New Beginnings. Several inmates were using their construction and carpentry skills to build a frame for an extension to the house.

“We’re good people at heart,” Mr. McNemar said. “Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. We’re able to take this and turn it around for a very good thing.”

With saws and tape measures in hand, Mr. McNemar and Tyler Schiffelbian, 29, said they were happy to volunteer because they believe it gives them an opportunity to turn their negative situation into a positive experience.

“We’re all skilled labours and we’re putting that to good use for the community,” Mr. McNemar said.

Mr. Schiffelbian said he’s volunteering because he believes it’s an opportunity to repay his debt to society while supporting a noble cause, a situation he finds is better than sitting in a jail cell.

“In my personal life, I don’t enjoy work this much,” he said as he placed a slab of wood on a work bench. “Everybody here has something to put into it. I learn something new every day.”

New Beginnings president Allyson Scerri said she’s grateful the county inmates will be helping out on a weekly basis. She said there are two paid staff workers overseeing the project. The rest are volunteers.

“It feels like a lot of pressure has been lifted,” she said. “Having all of this manpower helps.”

Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said the inmates volunteering in the program are skilled laborers. Under his tenure since 2006, Mr. DeMarco said he’s expanded the program because he believes it’s a “win-win” for inmates to work on vocational skills while helping nonprofit causes.

In February, he attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Right Path Home, a new program that provides housing for men ages 17-21 who are released from the Suffolk County Department of Corrections. Inmates also helped build the facility.

As for the Brendan House project, Ms. Scerri said her group is still seeking additional support for 25 windows, siding and roofing. She’s also planning a holiday-themed fundraiser Dec. 5 at Martha Clara in Riverhead to help raise funds for the project.

Ideally, Ms. Scerri said she hopes the house is move-in ready by March, which is also brain injury awareness month.

Michael Hubbard, a 17-year-old who suffered third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body in 2011 after being burned by a gel candle that exploded in his backyard, is one of 10 people that plan to move into Brendan House. The local community has been rallying support for him and his family since the accident.

His mother, Nancy Reyer, organized the area’s first-ever human bowling ball event sponsored by Skydive Long Island and All-Star bowling to benefits Brendan House. Ms. Reyer said she plans to skydive for the first time on Michael’s 18th birthday, Aug. 16, to raise additional funds.

Mr. McNemar said he’s glad to be a part of the project because he finds the end result will be very rewarding.

“We’ll be able to drive by this place a few months from now and, knowing that we worked on it, feel good that we were able to help out for a good cause,” he said.

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03/10/13 10:00am
03/10/2013 10:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Efren Ramirez was struck and killed near this section of Flanders Road by a drunk driver last year.

A Suffolk County corrections sergeant who struck and killed a Flanders man while driving drunk last year will not face jail time after pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated in Suffolk County court.

Christopher Dean, 41, of Riverhead pleaded guilty in December to a misdemeanor DWI charge. He was sentenced to three years’ probation and had his driver’s license revoked for six months, according to online court records.

Mr. Dean will also be required to have an interlock device installed in his car as part of his sentence and will undergo alcohol and drug counseling, officials said.

Mr. Dean, a 15-year veteran with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and a sergeant at the Riverside jail, was driving his girlfriend’s 2002 Mercedes-Benz west on Flanders Road about 12:30 a.m. on June 26 when he hit Efren Ramirez of Flanders, who was walking on the westbound side of the roadway.

Southampton Town police who responded to the scene found Mr. Ramirez lying dead in the road near the Old Quogue Road intersection, police said at the time. The officers reported that Mr. Dean’s eyes were “bloodshot and glassy” and his breath smelled of an alcoholic beverage, according to a criminal complaint against Mr. Dean.

Police also said that Mr. Dean was “unsteady afoot” and “performed poorly on field sobriety tests.”

But an accident investigation revealed that the victim had been highly intoxicated at the time of the crash and was walking in the roadway when Mr. Dean struck him, said Suffolk County District Attorney spokesman Bob Clifford.    A police investigation also found that Mr. Dean had been traveling “at or below the speed limit” when the crash occurred and was not driving erratically.

“Although the driver, Dean, was intoxicated there was no evidence that he was driving his vehicle in a manner that would allow an upgrade in the charges,” Mr. Clifford said. “You’d have to establish recklessness [to file more serious charges].”

The victim worked at a local McDonald’s restaurant and is survived by his wife and 3-year-old son, as well as the couple’s two other young children, who are living back in Guatemala.

Mr. Dean was suspended without pay for 100 days after his arrest, said Suffolk County undersheriff John Meyerricks.

“My initial response was to seek termination if felony charges were filed,” Mr. Meyerricks said, calling the crash a “tragic, tragic event.” When the charges were not upgraded to felonies, Mr. Dean’s suspension was upheld and he was reinstated as a corrections officer after the suspension was served.

Mr. Dean will also undergo drug and alcohol testing through the sheriff’s department as part of his disciplinary proceedings, Mr. Meyerricks said.

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01/23/13 1:20pm
01/23/2013 1:20 PM


Parents and guardians of children under 18 can receive two free drug test kits to privately monitor their kids behavior from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department as part of the “Test, Don’t Guess” program.

The kits can be picked up at Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco’s offices in Riverhead and Yaphank.

“This is an important program that provides parents with the privacy that other options simply do not offer,” said Legislator Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), who chairs the Public Safety Committee. “If you are concerned about your child and are suspicious they may be using drugs, I urge you to take advantage of this free kit. We have a major drug epidemic on Long Island and this can assist in addressing the situation before it is too late.”

For more information, residents can call the sheriff’s office at 852-3436 or Legislator Browning’s office at 852-1300.

11/11/12 4:00pm
11/11/2012 4:00 PM

Descendants of Henry H. Preston, a Shelter Island wounded in the Civil War who became the county’s first salaried sheriff in 1903, inspect the newly dedicated monument to him in front of police headquarters after Sunday’s dedication ceremony.

A memorial to Henry H. Preston, a Shelter Islander who was wounded in combat in Civil War, served in many town officers and was elected the first salaried sheriff in Suffolk County in 1903, was dedicated on the green in front of Shelter Island’s police headquarters Sunday afternoon by County Sheriff Vincent F. DeMarco.

The memorial was made from a foundation stone of the old county jail on Griffing Avenue in Riverhead, where Mr. Preston presided. It was torn down years ago. The Sheriff’s Office provided the stone and transported it to the Island to a site that was prepared by inmates from the County Jail.

Preston’s great-great-grandson Arthur Bloom led the family effort to see his ancestor memorialized.

“Like thousands of his fellow soldiers, he was injured during the Civil War and suffered from pain throughout his life,” Mr. DeMarco said. “His service and devotion to his country, in itself, makes him a hero.”

Despite pain and disabilities that resulted from his wound, Preston was appointed Shelter Island’s town constable in 1870. He went on to serve as tax assessor, justice of the peace and town clerk over the course of a career in town service that spanned 29 years from 1870 to 1899.

PB PHOTO | Suffolk County Sherrif Vincent F. DeMarco dedicates a monument in Shelter Island’s Center to his predecessor Henry H. Preston.

In 1903, he became the first salaried sheriff in Suffolk County. Among other achievements, he went on to establish the county’s Probation Department and to serve as a judge of the Court of Sessions.

The ceremony included a color guard from the Sheriff”s Office. Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty offered remarks and Dr. Peter DeSanctis offered the prayer of dedication.

04/13/11 3:44pm
04/13/2011 3:44 PM

A teenage inmate at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside who was being held on burglary charges tried to escape the facility Tuesday, but instead he got caught in several layers of razor wire, according to the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.

Jose Nunez-Garcia, 16, of East Northport scaled an inner fence at the jail’s exercise yard and ran along a narrow passage during his escape attempt. He then cut himself trying to flee through a maze of razor wire.

He was caught within seven minutes and was charged with first-degree attempted escape.

“The swift response of our highly trained officers, coupled with security measures at our facilities, reinforce the foolishness of such an attempt,” said Sheriff Vincent DeMarco.

Mr. Nunez-Garcia was originally arrested March 20 after a string of commercial burglaries in the Northport area over the course of two months. He was caught hiding in a building at Village Physical Therapy in Northport Village. Police said he was involved in at least four burglaries including one at the Bank of America branch in East Northport.