Two men ambushed a defenseless Levittown grandmother, slashing her to death and attacking and robbing her grandson of money and drugs in a revenge-fueled plot, police said Thursday.
Authorities said the suspects — Benjamin Lopez, 23, of Levittown, and Deangelo Gill, 19, of Uniondale — knew that Laraine Pizzichemi, 73, might be home when they walked to her house Wednesday afternoon with the intention of robbing her grandson.
“This poor woman didn’t have a chance to defend herself,” acting police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said Thursday at a news conference in Mineola. “She didn’t have a chance to say anything. She was attacked in her home by these two individuals and brutally assaulted and choked out.”
Police said Pizzichemi’s first name is spelled Lorraine. On property and other records it’s Laraine.
Her 24-year-old grandson, whose indentity police withheld, remained hospitalized Thursday in serious condition.
Police said Lopez, who lived a few blocks from the crime scene, had a history of dealing marijuana with Pizzichemi’s grandson. Authorities said Lopez sought revenge because some dealings “went bad.”
Police said Lopez and Gill ran out the back of the house after the attack, hopped over fences, and fled. Less than an hour later, officers took both men into custody about three blocks away at Lopez’s house. They were arraigned Thursday in First District Court in Hempstead on one count each of second-degree murder.
At their arraignments before Judge Scott Siller, Nassau prosecutor Daryl Levy said Gill told police of his “cooperation in this event.” Levy did not offer additional details regarding Gill’s alleged statement to police.
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Lopez’s attorney, Douglas Soffey of Garden City, and the Legal Aid Society, which represented Gill, entered not guilty pleas on behalf of their clients.
“He denies these allegations,” an attorney with the Legal Aid Society told the judge, referring to Gill.
In an interview outside the courtroom, Soffey said his client knows Pizzichemi’s grandson and had been over to her house before.
“They’ve been neighbors for years,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense that he would harm them.”
Soffey said Lopez, who does not work, lived with his mother.
“He claims he did not do anything wrong,” Soffey said.
Siller, citing the serious nature of the charges, ordered Lopez and Gill held without bail. The defendants are scheduled to return to court on Monday.
A man and a woman, who identified themselves in court as Gill’s brother and sister, declined to speak to reporters Thursday as they left the courtroom.
“We don’t want to talk to you,” the woman said.
Pizzichemi’s family was unavailable for comment.
Police said Lopez and Gill waited outside Pizzichemi’s house and when they saw that her grandson had left, both entered the back of the home and hid in a bedroom.
“When the grandmother went to her bedroom, they viciously attacked her,” said Nassau Det. Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick, homicide unit commander. “During this attack, they slashed her multiple times.”
Lopez and Gill were ransacking the house when Pizzichemi’s grandson came home and walked in on them, police said.
“They then attacked him in the house, also cutting him and beating him,” Fitzpatrick said. “They forced him to show them into a safe, where they obtained a quantity of marijuana and currency.”
At some point during the beating, Pizzichemi’s grandson managed to call 911. A 21-year-old woman who lives at the residence came home in the midst of the attack and also called 911, police said. A law enforcement source said the woman is the male victim’s sister.
“She was not injured,” Fitzpatrick said.
Officers responded to a 911 call placed at about 1:50 p.m. reporting an assault in progress at the North Newbridge Road home, police said.
When officers arrived, they found Pizzichemi with “multiple” cuts, and her grandson with “severe lacerations” on his forearms. Pizzichemi was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police recovered a large knife, which they believed was used to kill Pizzichemi, several cutting instruments and what police believed was a handgun.
Lopez has never been convicted of a crime, prosecutors said. Gill had two outstanding warrants, prosecutors said. One was an assault warrant in Suffolk County. Prosecutors did not provide details on the other warrant.