Memories of daughter's death still vivid

Connie Napoli stands next to a photo of Connie Napoli stands next to a photo of her daughter, Theresa Fusco, who was murdered in 1984. (Dec. 3, 2010) Photo Credit: Danny Ghitis

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After all these years, Connie Napoli still feels the searing pain of losing her daughter.

"It doesn't get better. It does not go away," Napoli, 68, said in a recent interview at her Lynbrook home. "The memories are just as vivid now as they were back then."

"Back then" was Nov. 10, 1984, the last day Napoli saw her 16-year-old daughter, Theresa Fusco, as she walked out of their Lynbrook home at 5:30 p.m., on her way to her hostessing job at Hot Skates, the local roller rink. She wore a pink blouse, a unicorn pendant and one half of a broken heart necklace, her mother said.

Witnesses saw Fusco leave the rink around 9:34 p.m. Her body was discovered on Dec. 5, 1984, half-buried by leaves and wooden pallets north of the train tracks near Rocklyn Avenue and Park Drive. She'd been raped and strangled.

In March 1985, Nassau police questioned three men: John Restivo, 27, Dennis Halstead, 32, both of Lynbrook, and John Kogut, 22, of Island Park. After an 18-hour interrogation, Kogut told police the three had picked up Fusco while she was walking along Merrick Road that night in Restivo's van, and asked her to party with them, according to later court testimony.

When she refused, according to Kogut's confession, Kogut told police that he restrained her while Halstead and Restivo raped her. Kogut said he then strangled her with a rope when she threatened to go to police, according to his confession. The three men were each charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree rape.

In May 1986, Kogut was convicted of first-degree rape and second-degree murder. In a separate trial, Halstead and Restivo were convicted of the same charges the following December.

The convictions of all three men were vacated in 2005 in a Nassau County Court when DNA showed that the semen found on Fusco did not match any of the three men's DNA. Restivo and Halstead were not retried by the Nassau County District Attorney's office. Based largely on Kogut's confession, then-District Attorney Denis Dillon retried him in 2005. Kogut was found not guilty by Acting Supreme Court Justice Victor Ort in December of that year.

After release, Halstead, Restivo and Kogut moved away from Long Island. None of the men could be reached for comment. In December 2006, the three filed a $190-million civil lawsuit in federal court against the Nassau County police department for wrongful arrest. The lawsuit is pending.

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