New charges brought against Commack murder suspect
The Nesconset man accused in the for-hire murder of his business partner tried to keep an accomplice in his case from testifying against him by arranging to kidnap her daughter, according to an indictment unsealed yesterday in Riverhead.
Suffolk prosecutors had already charged Ronald Thornton, 37, with hiring a stripper and others to kill his friend and business partner, James DiMartino, 44. DiMartino was fatally shot outside a Commack restaurant Oct. 20.
After the stripper, Monique Randall, 20, began cooperating with police, Thornton tried to silence her by arranging to have her school-age daughter kidnapped, the indictment said.
Thornton's contact in jail turned out to be an undercover police investigator who'd recorded his every word, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said outside court. When the undercover officer told Thornton the girl had been snatched coming off a school bus, he exclaimed, "Oh man, I love you guys!" Spota said.
Randall pleaded guilty Nov. 24 in exchange for a sentence of 15 years to life, the minimum for second-degree murder. Her lawyer, Anthony La Pinta of Hauppauge, did not return a call for comment yesterday.
Thornton, in exchange for what he called "the baby-sitting job," offered would-be kidnappers the deed to a house he owned in Deer Park, Spota said.
It was the same house, Spota added, that Thornton had offered as payment to his defense attorney, Steven Wilutis of Miller Place. Spota said his investigators had also learned the house was in foreclosure.
In court yesterday, Wilutis told Suffolk County Court Judge C. Randall Hinrichs he wished to drop Thornton as a client. Outside court, Wilutis declined to explain why, saying only, "You can draw your own conclusions."
Thornton is scheduled to appear alongside a court-appointed lawyer Thursday to enter a plea on the new charge of second-degree conspiracy. He pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder Dec. 1.
Thornton, a mortgage broker, and DiMartino, a real estate attorney, were friends and neighbors in Nesconset. Their children went to the same school. The pair had even started a business together.
But as DiMartino was defending Thornton on a felony grand larceny charge stemming from a real estate deal, Thornton began orchestrating his lawyer's murder, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors have said Thornton had "financial reasons" for wanting DiMartino dead, but have so far declined to say more.
Weeks after DiMartino was found dead, three people were charged in the killing.
Prosecutors said Thornton approached Randall, whom he'd met at Shady Al's, a club on Jericho Turnpike, and asked for her help hiring DiMartino's killers.
Randall has said in court she enlisted her boyfriend, Donovan Raysor, 20, along with Darnell Festus, 23, an acquaintance from the couple's St. Albans, Queens, neighborhood. Then, prosecutors said, Thornton lured the victim to a meeting with Raysor and Festus, and Festus shot DiMartino in the head. Prosecutors said the fee for the job was $8,000.
Before his refusal to represent Thornton, Wilutis has said his client had every reason to see DiMartino stay alive, because Thornton was secretly cooperating with prosecutors investigating claims that DiMartino had committed mortgage fraud.
In exchange for helping to convict his partner, Thornton hoped to receive a plea deal on a 2007 felony grand larceny charge of his own, Wilutis said. Prosecutors have declined to say whether a deal was in the works.
Raysor's lawyer, Michael Brown of Central Islip, has said Randall approached his client, but when he refused to become involved, Festus agreed to do it instead.
Festus' lawyer, Jason Bassett of Central Islip, has also continued to insist his client was innocent. THE CASE SO FAR OCT. 20
Real estate attorney James Di-Martino of Nesconset is shot dead in a Commack parking lot.
NOV. 15 TO 18
Richard Thornton, Monique Randall, Donovan Raysor and Darnell Festus are arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
Randall pleads guilty to murder, acknowledging it was a murder-for-hire plot, and agrees to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a sentence of 15 years to life in prison. Charges against Festus, Thornton and Raysor are upgraded to first-degree murder.
Thornton attorney Steven Wilutis of Miller Place drops the case after he learns his client is charged with trying to hire someone to kidnap Randall's daughter in response to her providing testimony against him. WHO'S WHO JAMES DIMARTINO, 44
A Nesconset lawyer who was also in business at JMB Funding in Central Islip. He was shot dead on Oct. 20 in a Commack parking lot.
RONALD THORNTON, 37
DiMartino's neighbor and partner at JMB Funding. Police say he lured DiMartino to the parking lot with the promise of a new business opportunity, intending to rob him. Thornton's former attorney said he had good reason to keep DiMartino alive because he had been helping prosecutors investigate DiMartino.
MONIQUE RANDALL, 19
An exotic dancer whom police say Thornton hired because he figured she'd know someone who could pull off a robbery. She has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with police.
DONOVAN RAYSOR, 20
Randall's boyfriend and accomplice, police say.
DARNELL FESTUS, 23
Accused of pulling the trigger during the killing.