Two guys with pickaxes whacked the life out of glowing, holiday decorations in the yard of a Lake Grove home and were identified Thursday after video of their hatchet job was aired by news outlets, the homeowner said.
Danielle Vasile said the ax wielders are brothers who live nearby and were on a drunken spree about 5:20 a.m. Wednesday when they hacked at a wicker deer, a prized, $1,000 live palm tree and 8-foot, furry inflated teddy bear on the front porch.
They were scared off when the family’s sheepdog Stella barked nonstop, Vasile said, and as she and boyfriend Pawel Bartoszek later watched the surveillance footage, their 2-year-old son screamed.
“This guy hurt my bear,” Vasile said Jagger Bartoszek cried out. “I felt so bad for him.”
The hatchet job scared the couple, mystified about why they were targeted.
Then on Thursday, Vasilie said, a friend of the two brothers’ family saw the footage and pressed the family to come forward.
“It’s not an excuse but they were drinking, heavily,” Vasile said she was told.
Suffolk police had started an investigation but now consider the case closed.
Vasile said the father visited her to apologize, offered to make full restitution and have his sons, both in their 20s, apologize to her face to face, Vasile said.
She said she decided to take only $2,000 and the father wrote a check.
“Since they’re neighbors and I have to live in the community with these people, we just decided we’ll let them pay restitution and not press charges,” Vasile said.
Because Stella is the “hero” of the day, Vasile said, the money will go toward two Long Island nonprofits that rescue animals, the Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue in Port Jefferson Station, where the family adopted Stella, and the Guardians of Rescue in Smithtown.
“We said we don’t want anybody’s money, but something has to be done,” the homeowner said.
Vasile, an office manager, and Bartoszek, a contractor, said they had decked their home and lawn with about $10,000 worth of holiday lights, a 20-foot-tall soldier and nutcrackers.
Neighbors, friends and passers-by stop and pose for pictures there, the third Christmas the couple has put on a holiday light show.
“It’s just something that makes us feel good,” Vasile said. “People love it. It makes us want to do better the next year.”
The couple had initially believed the destruction was premeditated because Bartoszek usually leaves for work at the same time and the vandals struck about 20 minutes later.
“Who walks around the neighborhood with axes at 5:30 in the morning?” Bartoszek said. “We have no enemies. We get along with everybody. But there’s always those people who are just haters.”