Canine team works high-profile crime cases

A file photo of Suffolk County police K-9 A file photo of Suffolk County police K-9 officer John Mallia and his partner, Blue. (Dec. 14, 2010) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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Talk about Blue's Clues.

In a matter of 10 days, a Suffolk police dog named Blue and his handler, Officer John Mallia, successfully discovered abandoned human remains in separate, prominent cases in Suffolk: the four still-unidentified bodies wrapped in burlap and dumped as long as two years ago off Ocean Parkway in Gilgo Beach, and Nicole Tessa, of Patchogue, who was found in the woods near her home.

Whether they're searching for cadavers or hidden criminals, the duo takes their job seriously, always striving to train and bond and hone their craft.

"He doesn't give up and I don't give up, and we keep going," Mallia said of his four-legged partner. "The more intense I am, the more intense he is."

Blue, who was born in 2003 and goes home with Mallia after their shift, isn't the veteran cop's first police dog.

In 2004, Mallia's then-partner, Boomer, suffered six stab wounds - Mallia was also slashed, in the hand - in a case involving a suspect who police wanted for assaulting his girlfriend in Rocky Point. The pooch also bit the suspect. Boomer retired a year later.

The canine unit that supervises Mallia and Blue has 20 police officers and two sergeants who all have dogs, said Mallia's commanding officer, Lt. Brian Coltellino.

Coltellino said the unit always uses purebred male German shepherds imported from places like Hungary, the Czech Republic and the former Yugoslavia. They typically cost about $5,600 for an untrained dog.

"We've had good success with them over the years," Coltellino said of the German shepherds. He added: "We're very picky."

The dogs are taught police work by two full-time trainers, both police officers, Coltellino said.

During a police training course, the dogs are taught to do multiple tasks but are eventually given a specialty such as detecting narcotics, explosives or cadavers, he said.

The dogs hone their craft using actual drugs and explosives, and real blood and tissue.

They are trained to let their handlers know when what they're searching for has been detected.

"They will bark, bite, scratch," Coltellino said. "It's a very animated alert when they find something."

When Blue found the bodies of the four women, for example, he wagged his tail and scratched and tried to get at what he found, Mallia said the day after the discovery.

"I hope I gave closure to four families," Mallia said of the discovery off Ocean Parkway, "and I'm glad to do my job."

Now detectives must find the killers: Both the Ocean Parkway case and the Patchogue case remain unsolved.

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