A Coram man accused of strangling his 71-year-old uncle had been embroiled in a dispute with the victim over money from a relative's estate, family members said Saturday.
Jonathan Roman, 42, was arraigned on a second-degree murder charge in First District Court in Hempstead, as the victim's son and other family members wept.
Nassau County prosecutors said Roman "strangled the victim, causing his death" during an argument. Roman tried to conceal the crime by burying the body in a wooded area behind his Grove Avenue home, according to police.
John Frankowski, an accountant from New Hyde Park, had been missing for eight days and was last seen alive on Feb. 27, according to his son, John Frankowski Jr.
Roman was arrested Friday afternoon, and a couple of hours later Nassau police detectives, aided by a Suffolk canine unit, discovered the grave.
Roman, who pleaded not guilty, is being held without bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday.
Authorities did not release further details, citing an ongoing investigation.
Flanked by his sister and fiancee, John Frankowski Jr. said after the arraignment that a dispute had been brewing between his father and Roman over the estate of Frankowski's mother.
The men were involved in an altercation last month that prompted a call to police, Frankowski Jr. said.
He said his father was put in charge of his mother's trust after she died in June 2013 at age 91.
"Apparently my father was not moving quick enough for everyone," said Frankowski Jr., who lives in central Florida. "That is what we believe it to be, and that's all we have right now to go on."
In court, Roman said he's an unemployed electrician living on public assistance. His court-appointed lawyer declined to comment afterward.
One of Roman's Coram neighbors, Meredith Nowak, 43, said Saturday she was stunned to learn of the arrest.
"He was a nice, quiet guy; good to his family," she said. "Never in a million years would I expect him to hurt John. As far as I could tell, they got along fine."
Frankowski Jr. tearfully told reporters that his father was to have been the best man at his wedding in three weeks.
"Now I can't even have the wedding because he's gone," he said.
With Kevin Deutsch