Prosecutor: Revenge was motive for Central Islip triple killings

Investigators comb a Central Islip house where three Investigators comb a Central Islip house where three bodies were found by crew responding to a fire. (Aug. 11, 2009) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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It's easy to figure out who was behind the torture and murder of three people in Central Islip once one considers what the victims had done together a few days before, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday in Suffolk County Court.

The victims -- Katrice Daniels, 31; her sister, Mykier Daniels, 28; and her friend, Louis Calixto Jr., 19 -- had helped each other and a fourth person burglarize the apartment of Katrice Daniels' boyfriend, Hasan Vaughan, days before they were killed, Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said.

"Everybody except Elliott Estrada [the fourth person] is dead, who was involved in the burglary of Hasan Vaughan's apartment," Biancavilla said. "That very same morning, he [Vaughan] shows up at a hospital 48 miles away with burns over 60 percent of his body and won't tell anyone his name."

Vaughan and Thomas Singletary, both 36 and of Central Islip, are charged with first-degree murder and arson for killing the three and then setting the house on fire on Aug. 11, 2009. Two juries will begin deliberating Friday after Judge James Hudson instructs them on the law.

In his closing argument Thursday, Biancavilla used horrific crime-scene photos to remind jurors of the brutality of the killings. The Daniels sisters were shot in the arms and legs to torture them and Calixto was cut and stabbed more than a dozen times, Biancavilla said.

"This is payback," he said, pointing to a photo of Calixto's body. "This is sport for them. Hasan Vaughan -- he had a motive. Thomas Singletary -- he did it just for fun."

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Biancavilla said there could have been more bodies. The killers left Mykier Daniels' young children in the house when they torched it.

Biancavilla, noting that both Vaughan and Singletary sought treatment for burns that day and left DNA evidence at the house, said it was clear they were burned in the fire they set.

He was dismissive of defense arguments during the previous two days. Singletary, for example, told doctors at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital that he was injured in a motorcycle crash.

"Unless he had his motorcycle accident in the east room of 47 Hickory Street, he's done," Biancavilla said, referring to the crime scene. Biancavilla brushed aside defense arguments that evidence collection and handling was shoddy and may have overlooked DNA from someone else.

"You didn't hear that anything was stored improperly," he said. "If anything was truly done wrong, you would have heard someone say that."

That prompted Vaughan's attorney, William Keahon of Hauppauge, to ask for a mistrial. He said Biancavilla was improperly shifting the burden of proof to the defense. Hudson denied the request.

"If you trust the physical evidence, they're done," Biancavilla said. "They've got a one-way ticket to Attica as long as you trust the evidence."

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