Laura DeLuca was 9 years old the day her 13-year-old friend from across the street, Kelly Ann Tinyes, was murdered inside a neighbor's house on Horton Road in Valley Stream.
Twenty years later, she remains traumatized by the killing and can't erase from her mind the image of Kelly being carried out the front door of the house in a body bag.
"Every time that door opens, you can't help but think of Kelly's body coming out," said DeLuca. "Every time I pass by that house, it's like it happened yesterday," she added, tears running down her face.
The news last week that the Golub family - whose then-21-year-old son, Robert, was convicted of murdering Kelly - finally moved out, changes little for many of the residents of Horton Road. The slaying and its aftermath in some ways came to define life on their block. Neighbors stopped talking. Kids stopped playing with each other. People drove through and gawked.
"We're glad they left. They should have left 20 years ago," said Victoria Tinyes, Kelly's mother, who still lives five doors away from the house where her daughter was killed.
Salvatore Marinello, Robert Golub's defense attorney, said he did not know why the family finally moved or where they went. He said he advised the Golub family to move out long ago to ease tensions but that John Golub refused. "He always viewed the fact that if he left the neighborhood, it was an abandonment of his belief in his son's innocence," Marinello said.
"The DA and police department's investigation has resulted in the uncovering of several new pieces of information," said Eric Phillips, Rice's spokesman.
"The case remains highly active and we urge the public to come forward with what they know. We are confident there's someone out there who knows exactly what happened. We need to speak with that person."
When she reopened the case, Rice said there is no doubt that Robert Golub is guilty. But she said she is looking into whether he had an accomplice.
The murder of Kelly Ann on March 3, 1989 gripped and unsettled Long Island like few other killings, in part because of its brutality. Kelly's killer bashed in her head, strangled and sexually mutilated her. Her naked body was placed in a sleeping bag and hidden in a closet beneath basement stairs. She was found by police the next day.
The murder all but ignited the neighborhood. Residents surrounded the Golubs' house two weeks later, livid that no arrests had been made and that the Golubs had returned to their house. When Robert came out and walked to a local supermarket, Kelly's father, Richard Tinyes and other neighbors followed him, chanting "devil."
'We had him surrounded'
Tinyes recalled last week that the only thing that stopped him from strangling Golub as he confronted him at the King Kullen was a sense that Kelly would not have approved - and that he still had a wife and a son to care for. "Kelly pulled me back," he said. "It was chaos . . . We had him surrounded."
Police arrived and whisked Golub away to safety.
When he was convicted a year later, movie-like pandemonium erupted in the courtroom. The judge who later sentenced him to the maximum 25 years to life said the acts he committed "are by far the most atrocious" he had seen in his judicial career. At the sentencing, Golub finally broke his silence to say that he didn't do it.
Even afterward, animosities simmered for years. The Tinyeses and the Golubs clashed frequently, resulting in accusations of harassment and acrimonious courtroom appearances on those allegations.
Madelin Dezego, who has lived across the street from the Tinyeses since 1971, said sometimes the atmosphere got so tense people didn't want to leave their homes. "It was horrendous. We were almost afraid to walk out the door," she said.
And some people, including the Tinyeses, still seethe because they believe justice has not been fully served. To this day, the Tinyeses suggest that Golub's younger brother, John J., 14 years old at the time, may have taken part in the killing. He also was in the house that day, for at least part of the time.
John J. Golub's attorney, John Lewis of Farmingdale, said the case has been thoroughly investigated by Nassau police and two district attorneys - Denis Dillon and now Rice - and that his client has never been implicated. "There has been no credible evidence that John was involved in it," said Lewis, who added that Golub wants to get on with his life.
Peaceful only on the surface
On the surface, Horton Road looks like a lane out of a "Mary Poppins" world of suburban innocence, as Laura DeLuca puts it. About 150 yards long, it is lined by one-story Cape Cods on one end, and two-story Tudors on the other. The Tinyeses live in a Cape. Five houses down, the Golubs lived in a Tudor.
The houses are close, often separated by just a driveway, and the manicured lawns run into each other, unfenced. Twenty years ago, the block was teeming with more than two dozen children riding bicycles and playing baseball, residents recalled. Horton Road seemed like one big, happy playground.
It all shattered the afternoon of March 3 when Kelly Ann went missing, and the next afternoon when her body was removed from the Golubs' house. "This block will never be the same and we will never be the same," said DeLuca, who keeps a photograph of Kelly on her bedroom mirror.
Her mother, Pamela DeLuca, said the murder has shaped her three children's lives. "It could have been my daughter that could've been called down there that day" to the Golub home, she said.
Dezego, 63, said Robert Golub's mother, Elizabeth, had been her best friend on the block. After the murder, Dezego didn't speak to her for years.
A month ago, "I decided I'm going to say hello," Dezego said.
The two spoke for about 10 minutes. She says they never mentioned the murder.
Richard Tinyes, who has lived in his house since 1963 when he was a boy, said he considers Dezego's chat a betrayal. Now, he ignores Dezego. "She doesn't exist," Tinyes said.