Two men were convicted Tuesday by separate juries of torturing and killing three people in Central Islip and torching the house with one of the victim's two children inside.
"Lord, I'm happy," Sandra Daniels, mother of two of the victims, said afterward. "I pray in the name of Jesus that they see our children's faces every day they're in prison."
Suffolk County Court Judge James Hudson first heard one jury convict Thomas Singletary, 36, of three counts of second-degree murder, two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment and one count of second-degree arson. The jury acquitted him of first-degree murder. Moments later, court clerk Kristine Rasanen asked a second jury for its verdict on Hasan Vaughan, 36. He was convicted of all charges, including first-degree murder.
The juries believed the prosecution's case that Vaughan was enraged that his girlfriend, Katrice Daniels, 31; her sister, Mykier Daniels, 28; and her friend, Louis Calixto Jr., 19, had helped steal his laptop, and recruited Singletary to get revenge.
The two men beat, shot, stabbed and strangled the victims before splashing gasoline throughout the house and setting it on fire, leaving Mykier Daniels' young children behind. The youngsters escaped unharmed. The two men were burned in the fire and left DNA behind as they ran from the house.
Sandra Daniels is raising her daughter's children. "I let them know these monsters will never come out," she said. "That's what they call them, monsters."
Her partner, Charles Holder, wept tears of relief as he heard the verdicts. "They were like my daughters," he said of the Daniels sisters. "If you live by the sword, you die by the sword."
Calixto's mother, Yolanda Dejesus, said the tension of the verdict, in a trial that began four months ago with jury selection, was intense. "It was like being at the edge of a cliff," she said. "And then, a breath of fresh air."
After the verdict, members of both juries compared notes in the courthouse foyer after having been apart for months. For about two hours, they hugged one another and the victims' parents and chatted with Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla and Vaughan's lawyer, William Keahon of Hauppauge. "You should be proud of your verdict," Biancavilla told jurors. "These were two very bad guys."
Cheryl Hughes of Ridge, one of Vaughan's jurors, said it took time to figure out whether gaps in the story amounted to reasonable doubt. "The puzzle had to fit," she said. "It wasn't easy. My heart's with the babies [Mykier Daniels' children], and I hope they have a good life."
Singletary's attorney, Daniel Russo of Westhampton Beach, said he respected the verdict and that his client was disappointed. Keahon said, "I've had similar cases and gotten them reversed" on appeal.
Hudson will sentence the defendants June 19. Vaughan faces a maximum of life in prison without parole. Singletary faces 102 1/3 years to life.
Dejesus said Vaughan could have avoided it all by coming to her about his stolen property. "We would have paid him back for that laptop," she said.