One of the two men charged with killing three people and setting fire to a house certainly is guilty, a defense attorney argued Tuesday in Suffolk County Court, but he contended that it wasn't his client.
Daniel Russo of Westhampton Beach, the attorney for Thomas Singletary, told a jury in his closing statement that only co-defendant Hasan Vaughan had the motive and the rage to torture and kill three people on Aug. 11, 2009, in Central Islip.
Louis Calixto Jr., 19; his friend Mykier Daniels, 28; and her sister Katrice Daniels, 31 -- Vaughan's girlfriend -- were found dead in the house. They had nonfatal knife and gunshot wounds, suggestive of torture. Calixto was stabbed more than a dozen times. Katrice Daniels was shot to death. Mykier Daniels was stabbed in the neck and strangled with a clothes iron's electrical cord.
"This wasn't just murder," Russo said. "It was torture. Which leads me to believe . . . that it was personal."
Singletary knew none of the victims. Vaughan, on the other hand, knew all of them participated in stealing his laptop and jewelry from his apartment, Russo noted.
"This was his personal vendetta," Russo said of Vaughan. "People don't torture over someone else's laptop computer."
Vaughan's attorney, William Keahon of Hauppauge, will give a closing argument to a separate jury Wednesday. Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla will make his case to both juries on Thursday.
Russo told jurors they didn't need to convict someone for there to be justice. "Blame will be assessed. Justice will be served" by Vaughan's jury, he said.
Russo said there is no evidence Singletary had the same state of mind as Vaughan did. Evidence connecting Singletary to Vaughan is slight, he said, and shows that only Vaughan had a propensity to break the law.
Russo also criticized the evidence collection in the case, saying it was so sloppy it could have missed evidence of another person in the house. Russo held up a white sneaker found in the room with the victims that had Calixto's blood on the outside. He said forensic scientists should have tested the inside to see if the killer's DNA was there.
"Can you imagine what this animal was doing with this sneaker?" Russo said. "The animal that did this to Louis Calixto came out of his shoes to commit this horrible act."
Russo noted that Vaughan showed up at a Brooklyn hospital that day covered in burns with only socks on his feet.
Singletary's blood and charred skin was found near the side entrance to the house. But Russo said that doesn't mean he was in another part of the house "killing and burning people. I ask you to reject it."