A North Amityville man was convicted Thursday of murder for setting up his girlfriend so she could be shot to death by his friend in the Halloween products warehouse where the couple lived and worked.
A Suffolk County Court jury found Joseph DeFelice, 34, guilty of second-degree murder, second-degree criminal facilitation and first-degree hindering prosecution. He faces up to life in prison when Judge John Toomey Jr. sentences him on Nov. 13.
Relatives of the victim, Mandy Jo Jenkins, 30, gasped in relief as they heard the verdict. Jenkins' sister-in-law, Marie Castiglione, flashed jurors a thumbs-up sign.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said DeFelice's friend, David Newbeck, 36, of Massapequa, shot Jenkins four times in the head and once in the chest as she slept on Aug. 23, 2010, after DeFelice provided a key to the warehouse apartment and took his Rottweiler outside. Newbeck will be tried next year.
"One down, one to go," said Jenkins' sister, Crystal Buturla.
In a statement to police, DeFelice said Newbeck wanted Jenkins dead because she refused to withdraw an identity theft charge against Newbeck's girlfriend, Jennifer Russini.
DeFelice's attorney, Richard Stafford of Bohemia, said after the verdict, "From the beginning, he said he didn't have anything to do with it."
But Suffolk homicide Det. Thomas Walsh testified that DeFelice told him he had reasons for going along with Newbeck.
"He said he didn't really want to stop Dave," Walsh testified during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla. "He said he felt he owed Dave, and that he had known him forever."
Problems between Newbeck and Jenkins started the previous June when Jenkins filed identity theft charges against Newbeck's girlfriend, Walsh said DeFelice told him.
Russini had taken $28,000 from Newbeck, too, and now she needed to scam other people so he could get repaid, DeFelice explained, according to Walsh.
DeFelice eventually told police what happened -- including how he hid evidence -- after giving several different versions of events. Detectives corroborated his story with surveillance videos at the warehouse and the discovery of Jenkins' body several weeks later.
Buturla said DeFelice could have stopped the killing from happening if he had called police beforehand or decided to help Jenkins instead of setting her up.
"It just never had to happen," she said after the verdict. "I'm happy, yeah, but not elated."
Jurors deliberated for parts of two days and indicated it wasn't difficult to find DeFelice guilty.
"The evidence was all there," one juror said.Biancavilla said Newbeck's trial will be different. Unlike DeFelice, Newbeck gave no statement to police, so the case will be more circumstantial, he said.