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Long IslandCrime

Murder trial on deadly Baldwin home invasion opens

Owen Ellis leaves the Nassau County Courthouse in

Owen Ellis leaves the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. Opening statements took place Monday in the murder trial of Ellis, accused of the 2010 home invasion slaying of a 50-year-old man in Baldwin. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A former Queens man who used the street name “Psycho” was one of the masked assailants who committed a deadly 2010 home invasion shooting at a marijuana dealer’s Baldwin residence, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.

But the attorney for Owen Ellis, 44, countered before testimony began in his client’s murder trial that Ellis had been on duty at his job at Applebee’s in Brooklyn at the time of the slaying.

Defense lawyer Donald Rollock also attacked the credibility of government witnesses in his opening statement in Nassau County Court. He said prosecutors “cut a deal with criminals” for testimony against Ellis and accused them of abandoning “justice and fairness” in their zeal to convict his client.

Authorities said they arrested Ellis last February outside a home improvement store in Colorado, before extraditing him to New York to face charges that also include attempted murder, robbery, burglary, assault and weapon offenses.

Nassau Assistant District Attorney Patrick Brand said in his opening statement evidence would show Ellis carried out a gunpoint robbery and burglary at a Washington Place home 11 days before his involvement in the Aug. 24, 2010 homicide at the same location that left Donald Thomas dead.

That night, Ellis burst into the home with two other masked men, their “guns blazing,” Brand said. One bullet hit Thomas in the head and another hit his stomach, according to Brand.

Thomas knew the female resident of the house who, the prosecutor said, is a convicted marijuana dealer who mailed pounds of the drug from Arizona. Brand said Thomas would “help her” along with two other men who dealt marijuana.

According to his family, Thomas, 50, of Rosedale, Queens, was a father of four born on the island of Jamaica and a gentle and loving man who was visiting a female friend at the time of the shooting.

Brand told jurors the female drug dealer tried to play dead after bullets began flying in her house on the night of Thomas’ slaying. But Brand said she saw Ellis’ eyes and recognized his voice and dreadlocks after he picked her up by her hair and told her she “should be dead.”

“She knows this defendant has come back to her house,” Brand said. “Psycho has returned.”

The prosecutor said the masked trio fled after one of them shot another man who was in the house in the stomach after he tried to defend himself with a shotgun.

A district attorney’s office spokeswoman said later Monday that authorities haven’t made other arrests in the slaying and the investigation remains open.

Rollock told jurors one of the government’s witnesses was a Bloods gang member who got “a sweetheart deal” from prosecutors in an armed robbery case and was in the United States illegally.

The Mineola defense attorney said the female drug dealer, also in the United States illegally, would testify against Ellis “to save herself so she can stay in this country.”

The opening statements started after Ellis, who isn’t a lawyer but acted as his own legal representative in some earlier court appearances, said he might want to fire Rollock.

But Ellis decided to keep his lawyer after acting State Supreme Court Justice William O’Brien advised him outside the jury’s presence that the appointed attorney was “working his tail off to save you.”

Ellis faces up to 25 years to life behind bars if jurors find him guilty of second-degree murder — the top count against him.

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