The crime scene at the back of a Central Islip house was uncommonly gory when it was discovered more than three years ago and the trial about to begin in the case will reflect that, a Suffolk prosecutor warned potential jurors.
Jury selection for Hasan Vaughan and Thomas Singletary, both 36 and from Central Islip, has taken a month so far. They are charged with first-degree murder, accused of torturing and killing three people in August 2009 and then burning down the house with two small children still inside. The children escaped and are expected to testify. The defendants could face life without parole if convicted.
"The evidence in this case is going to be gruesome," Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla told potential jurors. "There's no sugarcoating it. Three people were shot. They were stabbed. They were strangled. And then they were lit on fire."
Vaughan and Singletary, friends with extensive criminal records, went to the house on Hickory Street after Vaughan's money, heroin and laptop computer were stolen from his apartment, according to court papers.
Vaughan's girlfriend, Katrice Daniels, 31, lived at the house. Also there were her sister, Mykier Daniels, 28, and her boyfriend, Louis Calixto Jr., 19. Vaughan believed -- correctly, Biancavilla said -- that they were involved in the theft.
Mykier Daniels' children, ages 2 and 6, were in the living room during the ordeal.
"There was evidence that she was begging for her children's lives during this," Biancavilla said.
Nevertheless, he said the two men splashed gasoline in the house, set it on fire and fled. Both defendants suffered burns, and their DNA was recovered from the crime scene.
One of the things on the stolen laptop was a novel Vaughan wrote that described drug deals and retaliatory murders, Vaughan's attorney, William Keahon of Hauppauge, said in court. It's not clear whether the novel will be evidence at the trial.
The attorneys for both men have suggested the other guy could have done it.
Shortly before jury selection began, Keahon warned court officers not to have Singletary sit next to him at the defense table. "I'm going to be attacking him," he said.
Until Hudson agreed to give both defendants separate juries, Keahon promised that he would act as an extra prosecutor for Singletary.
"Mr. Vaughan is not guilty of any of these charges, and I intend to prove it," Keahon said in an interview. "I intend to prove it in the courtroom, and not in the newspaper."
Singletary's attorney, Daniel Russo of Westhampton, said that unlike Vaughan, his client "has absolutely no motive to commit these crimes."
Singletary was on the verge of cleaning up his life and even reported for substance abuse rehabilitation the day after the slayings, Russo said.