Three Wyandanch residents have been charged with kidnapping and assault in a case that may be connected to an unsolved triple homicide that took place early last month.
Apparently intent on vigilante justice, Dominic Peterson, 26, Jahlil Cowan, 22, and Kasandra Toliver, 26, are accused of chasing a car with a man and a woman inside, and kidnapping and beating the woman.
Suffolk prosecutors did not identify the people the defendants were allegedly chasing.StoryResidents on shooting: Snitches get stitchesVideoAnti-gang forum held in wake of triple homicideStoryPolice investigate possible gang link in triple homicide
But Peterson's attorney, John Schick of the Legal Aid Society, said in court Thursday that the man in the car was Justin Rivera, who Peterson believes was the shooter in the June 3 killings of William Madrey, 25, of Wyandanch; Stephanie Almedina Rivera, 23, of Bay Shore; and Ciara Smith, 23, of Deer Park.
Peterson was Madrey's housemate and partner in a music label. Schick said the shooting victims were killed as they sat in Peterson's Chevrolet Trailblazer.
Schick told state Supreme Court Justice William Condon the kidnapping case will fall apart because the female victim has fled the state and won't return and because Justin Rivera likely has no interest in cooperating with prosecutors.
"I doubt that person will ever come to court," Schick said, as he asked Condon to set "reasonable" bail for his client.
Condon set bail for Peterson and Cowan at $1 million cash or $2 million bond. Toliver's bail was set at $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond. The three pleaded not guilty after their arrests on June 30.
Less than three weeks after the shooting, on June 19, Assistant District Attorney Lawrence Opisso said Peterson, Cowan and Toliver were in a Chevrolet Suburban when they chased and shot at a Nissan Versa.
Eventually, they trapped the Nissan on a dead-end street, Opisso said. The man got away, but Peterson and Cowan grabbed the woman.
Opisso said they took her to Manhattan, pistol-whipped her and broke her nose. After about 11 hours, they returned to the Wyandanch area and let her go, he said.
Cellphone location data corroborates her version of events, Opisso said.
"Mr. Opisso makes a very impressive presentation," Schick said, but because the woman and Rivera are unlikely to cooperate, he said the case is weak.
Suffolk homicide detectives and the district attorney's office declined to comment on Schick's comments, nor would they say whether Rivera is a suspect in the killings. Police have suggested a gang dispute was behind the shootings. No arrests have been made.
Cowan's attorney, Michael Ross, declined to comment on the case.
Toliver's attorney, Richard Kaufman of Port Jefferson, said his client was dating Peterson and knows nothing about who killed Madrey, Almedina Rivera and Smith.
"Anything that she knows has come from him [Peterson]," he said.