FROM THE ARCHIVES, 1986: Pair convicted in rape-murder

advertisement | advertise on newsday

This article was originally published on December 4, 1986

A Nassau County jury yesterday convicted John Restivo and Dennis Halstead of the rape and murder of 16-year-old Theresa Fusco, bringing to an end an arduous seven-week trial and two years of court battles over one of Nassau County's more celebrated murder cases.

The verdict came at 5:05 p.m. after 13 1/2 hours of deliberations that included five requests for testimony to be read back. As jury foreman Thomas Osborne announced the decision in a firm voice, the defendants bowed their heads and said nothing. The Fusco family embraced and wept; members of the Restivo family gasped and moaned.

Fourteen court officers lined the courtroom as the verdict came in, watchful for any incidents triggered by the emotion-charged atmosphere that has prevailed throughout the trial . Afterward, Nassau Det. Joseph Volpe, in charge of the case, quickly spirited Fusco family members away, for fear of hallway confrontations with members of the Restivo family. Except for a few epithets expressed to Assistant District Attorney Fred Klein by Restivo family members, there were no problems.

"This is a tremendous weight off Connie and myself," said Theresa Fusco's father, Tom, who attended each day of the trial along with his ex-wife, Concetta. "We have felt this burden for two years, starting with the time when she was missing and everyone said she was a runaway. I am now going to finally be able to lay my daughter to rest. "

The verdict represents the third conviction in connection with the death of Theresa Fusco , who was killed Nov. 10, 1984, and whose body was found Dec. 5, 1984, in a wooded area of Lynbrook. Assistant District Attorney Fred Klein contended that Restivo, 27, Halstead, 32, and a third man convicted earlier this year, John Kogut, 22, raped the Lynbrook teenager in Restivo's van before Kogut strangled her and the three buried her.

Restivo and Halstead were yesterday convicted of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree rape. They face a maximum of life in prison and will be sentenced Jan. 16 before Nassau County Judge John O'Shaughnessy. Attorneys for both said the case would be appealed.

The case was considered far more difficult to prosecute than Kogut's because the evidence was mostly circumstantial and there were no confessions. Kogut gave a videotaped confession; he later recanted it.

"The case wasn't as strong as John Kogut's but we had a good jury and they saw the evidence very clearly," said Klein. "It was a tough trial and a long fight and I can't say enough about the work of the Nassau County police. "

Volpe said, "I'm just pleased it's over after two years, for Tom, Connie and for Theresa. "

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Both defense lawyers had put on extensive cases and offered alibis. Joseph Famighetti, who represented Halstead, said, "He proclaimed his innocence from the day he became a suspect. There will definitely be an appeal and there are some significant questions to be decided. "

Theodore Robinson, who represented Restivo, said, "It was well-tried but not justly tried. It's not the prosecution's job just to obtain conviction, they have to find justice and that isn't what went on here. "

Members of the jury said afterward that the case was difficult to decide, especially in Halstead's case. "There was no concrete evidence," said Osborne. "And nobody had their minds set when they went in there. We sat down and debated."

He said that the jury was particularly influenced by Michael Cockerel, a defense witness who unexpectedly aided the prosecution by testifying about admissions Restivo had made to him.

The best of Newsday every day in your inbox. Get the Newsday Now newsletter!

Comments

Newsday.com now uses Facebook for our comment boards. Please read our guidelines and connect your Facebook account to comment.

You also may be interested in: