A Huntington Station man has been charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of a 23-year-old woman whose body was found in the Froehlich Farm Nature Preserve more than two years ago, authorities said Wednesday.
Homicide Squad detectives arrested Fernando Romualdo, 28, at the Mohawk Correctional Facility in upstate Rome in the killing of Sarah Strobel of Huntington Station, Suffolk police said.
Strobel’s October 2013 slaying was the first of a series of killings that rattled the community and prompted residents to press elected officials and police to step up patrols and crack down on crime.
Police, who declined to answer questions about the arrest Wednesday, have not revealed how Strobel was killed. Suffolk District Attorney Tom Spota’s office could not be reached for comment.
Romualdo, who was serving time for an unrelated rape at Mohawk, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday before Suffolk County Court Judge Barbara Kahn.
He is being held without bail at the county jail in Riverhead and is due back in court July 11, court records show. His attorney could not be reached for comment.
Romualdo was indicted June 3 in the slaying of Strobel on Oct. 3, 2013, records show.
Strobel’s body was discovered shortly before 9 a.m. by a person walking on a nature trail in the 300-acre preserve, located near West Rogues Path and Oakwood Road, police said.
Her death was the first of four slayings of area residents in 2013 and 2014, including Luis Ramos-Rodriguez, 38; Daniel Carbajal, 25; and Maggie Rosales, 18.
There have now been arrests in two of those cases.
“I commend the Suffolk County Police Department for continuing to press ahead in their investigation and for bringing it to a conclusion with this arrest,” said Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone.
“Sarah Strobel’s murder deeply affected the Huntington Station community, but if there is any solace in her tragic death, it is that she helped crystallize the community into banding together and working with the Town on measures to improve the quality of life in the Station,” he said. “Those improvements will be her lasting legacy.”
“This is very good for the community that this individual was arrested,” said James McGoldrick, a resident who became active in the campaign to make his neighborhood safer. “It puts the community at ease. Commissioner [Timothy] Sini is doing an outstanding job for the residents of Huntington Station. I’m really grateful for the Suffolk County Police Department for their diligence in solving this case. It’s one off the list.”
Rosales’ slaying on Oct. 12, 2014, was a last straw for many residents. It sparked a grass-roots campaign marked by vigils, marches and demonstrations that crime-weary residents took right up to Huntington Town Hall.
In a meeting that October, a capacity crowd shouted angrily at County Executive Steve Bellone and then-Police Chief James Burke for what they claimed was a lackluster effort to solve the crimes.
Days later, police arrested Adam Saalfield, the neighbor of Rosales. Saalfield, who faces a second-degree murder charge, is accused of slashing Rosales in the neck as she walked on Depot Road.