A government witness testified Monday that he thought he was helping to dump burglar tools in the Atlantic Ocean off Fire Island, but instead saw a body part in the large bin floating behind his boat.
"I saw what looked like a foot," said Craig Miller, 51, formerly of Smithtown, testifying in a monotone voice. Miller said he had a history of fencing truckloads of stolen goods -- including fur coats, tennis rackets, golf clubs and computers -- for Christian Tarantino, who is being tried on murder charges in federal District Court in Central Islip, and an associate of Tarantino's, Scott Mulligan.
Miller, who now lives in Florida, said that in 1994, Mulligan said he and Tarantino wanted to dispose of their burglary tools at sea and were planning to get out of burglary. They planned to "open a gym" with their proceeds, he said. Mulligan and Miller, located by the FBI years later, are both testifying for the government at the Tarantino trial.
The burglary tools that Tarantino and Mulligan used included saws that could cut through both concrete and steel rebar, and six-foot long pry bars, Miller said
Under questioning by Assistant United States Attorney Sean Flynn, who is prosecuting the Tarantino case along with Assistant United States Attorney James Miskiewicz, Miller said Tarantino and Mulligan had the large bin with them when they showed up at his 35-foot boat docked in Merrick.
Miller said that as he was piloting his boat several miles out into the Atlantic, he heard noises that turned out to be gunshots. Miller turned around and briefly saw the leg in the open bin and Tarantino pointing a gun at the bin. Tarantino told him he had shot the bin to make sure it sank, Miller said. He said he didn't tell either Mulligan or Tarantino what he had seen.
A few days later, there were news reports of a fisherman and the Coast Guard finding a 2-foot-by-3-foot chest with the body of Louis Dorval, 30, of Elmont and East Meadow, some 30 miles off Fire Island, Miller said.
One of Tarantino's defense attorneys, Stephen Rosen, attempted to chip away at Miller's credibility by suggesting it was unlikely that the lid on the bin would have been opened. He said his client's hand was injured at the time and it was unlikely that he could have pointed a gun.
Last year, Tarantino was convicted of murdering Dorval because he thought Dorval would become an informant in the killing of armored-car guard Julius Baumgardt. Tarantino also was convicted of that murder.
Tarantino is being retried because the jury could not reach a verdict on a third murder he was accused of -- that of Vincent Gargiulo, who was allegedly killed because he was trying to extort $500,000 from Tarantino.The jurors have not been told that Tarantino was convicted of the Dorval and Baumgardt murders, but have been allowed to hear events leading up to the Gargiulo killing.