The man accused of killing Rebecca Koster was so determined to hide the Copiague woman's identity that he mutilated and burned her body, and traveled by ferry to dispose of it in a Connecticut field, prosecutors said Tuesday.
At the arraignment of Koster's accused killer, her family gasped as Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson detailed the condition of Koster's body when it was found Dec. 4 in North Stonington. The defendant, Evans Ganthier, 30, of Central Islip, did not speak during the Central Islip hearing and his attorney maintained his innocence.
In an attempt to keep police from identifying her, the killer removed her fingers and toes, along with a large tattoo on her back, Albertson said. Koster's hair and portions of her ear and nose were also removed, the prosecutor said.
Sharing a courtroom bench with Koster's brother and friends, her mother, Barbara Ross of Copiague, rocked back and forth and sobbed. Afterward, her stepfather, Larry Ross, 36, said he was stunned. "In our world, this is sick, inhumane," he said.
Ganthier pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. He was held without bail. "My client maintains his innocence," said his attorney, George Duncan of Hauppauge.
Police say Ganthier did not confess to the crime. But according to the criminal complaint, Ganthier told a detective "I had the knife in my hand; I made a mistake; I can't take it back."
Officials said little about an alleged motive, except that Ganthier met Koster, 24, a home health aide, at a Holbrook bar the night she went missing, and that Ganthier spoke to her "in an aggressive manner."
Police say they left separately. Friends dropped her off at her Copiague home at 3:30 a.m. But, after two early morning phone calls to Koster that police say can be linked to Ganthier, the two met up again.
She was discovered missing in the morning. Her family later received text messages from her cell phone, saying she was being held by her boyfriend and that he'd threatened to kill her. Police believe they were actually sent by Ganthier after her death. The boyfriend was not involved in her death, police say. "The 'why' is still unknown at this time," said Det. Lt. Gerard Pelkofsky. She died from a stab wound to the stomach in an unspecified place in Suffolk County.
Police and prosecutors said they have several pieces of evidence linking Ganthier to the crime. Surveillance video showed him getting on the Port Jefferson Ferry to Connecticut in his mother's sport utility vehicle on the day Koster went missing, officials allege, and he later checked into a motel near where her body was found in North Stonington, wrapped in a blanket with a plastic bag over her head. His fingerprint was on tape holding the bag, officials said.
Ganthier is a 2007 graduate of Dowling College, where he got a bachelor's degree in psychology. An online profile says he attended St. Anthony's High School in South Huntington, although that could not be confirmed Tuesday. Police said he was unemployed. A business named Secrets Adult Entertainment Services is listed in his name at his Miller Avenue address. A family member declined to comment.
A woman answering at a second business listed in Ganthier's name, Happy Time Entertainment, in Centereach, said it was a defunct kids' party business. "I don't speak to him, I haven't spoken to him in a long time," said the woman, who declined to give her name.
Koster's childhood friend, Joseph Farriella, 30, said neither he nor her friends knew Ganthier, who has two pending criminal cases on Long Island.