Robert Lanieri, Long Island Aquarium exec, found dead

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A longtime executive at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead was found dead in his home in Jamesport Thursday afternoon, Riverhead Town police said.

Robert Lanieri, 60, called "a visionary and a leader" in a statement released Friday by the aquarium, had served as director of food services since the facility opened in 2000 and was the former president of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the chamber's board of directors at the time of his death.

Lanieri was the victim of an apparent suicide, police said, and the Suffolk medical examiner is investigating.

"It is with heavy hearts and great sorrow that we received the news of Robert Lanieri's death yesterday," the aquarium said in the statement. "A visionary and leader, Lanieri was respected by a great many people."

Lanieri just last month had announced his pending retirement from the facility, scheduled to begin later this summer, the statement said.

His death is the second untimely death of an aquarium executive within the past 18 months.

Aquarium co-founder James J. Bissett III, 48, was found dead in his car in Mattituck on Dec. 14, 2011. Police said at the time only that foul play was not suspected.

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