A Staten Island man arrested in connection with the slaying of three Brooklyn shopkeepers, including one from Great Neck, was arraigned early Thursday morning in Brooklyn on murder charges, prosecutors said.
Salvatore E. Perrone, 64, was charged with one count of first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder. He entered a plea of not guilty in Brooklyn Criminal Court, prosecutors said, and was ordered held without bail. He is due back in court next week when he will have a court-appointed attorney.
The first-degree murder charge is in connection with a so-called pattern offense that covers the three killings. The accused serial killer faces life in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.
The women's clothing salesman from Staten Island had been initially identified by police as the suspected "John Doe Duffel Bag" killer because he was seen on surveillance video carrying a duffel bag.
He is accused in the deaths of three Brooklyn shop owners in recent months, including Rahmatollah Vahidipour, 78, of Great Neck, who was gunned down last Friday.
Perrone was believed to be on the verge of committing a fourth murder when he was arrested, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a news conference Wednesday.
Court papers say the accusations are based on accounts from witnesses, "the official police investigation," and "the defendant's own statements."
They say he used a .22-caliber rifle to kill shopkeepers Mohamed Gebeli, 65, Issac Kadare, 59, and Vahidipour.
All three were of Middle Eastern descent and were shot as they were closing their clothing stores. Police have said they have no explanation of a motive.
The court papers say "a .22 caliber rifle was recovered from the defendant's residence and it has been determined that said weapon was used in each" of the killings.
Kelly said Perrone was planning another killing at the time of his arrest.
"It is reasonable to assume he was going to continue doing this. By arresting him we have saved lives," Kelly said Wednesday.
One law enforcement official said in some of Perrone's statements he appeared incoherent.
Detectives received numerous tips about Perrone's identity and Kelly singled out one caller, who didn't want to be identified, as providing key information that allowed detectives to focus on Perrone.
Kelly also singled out media circulation of Perrone's image, as he walked with a duffle bag, as helping to break the case.