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Cops: Hotel murder suspect, on parole until ’18, has extensive record

Vincent J. Dalton, 51, center, is escorted by

Vincent J. Dalton, 51, center, is escorted by detectives, from Nassau police headquarters in Mineola on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016. Dalton, who is on parole until July 2018, was arrested Tuesday and charged with murder in the killing of Erik O'Connell, whose body was found Saturday in a motel room. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A parolee and career criminal “hog-tied” and fatally beat a 37-year-old man whom he may have only known for less than a day before the killing in a Hickville hotel room, authorities said Wednesday.

Vincent J. Dalton — on parole until July 2018 for an attempted burglary — was arrested Tuesday on a charge of second-degree murder in the slaying of Erik O’Connell whose body was found Saturday in a room at the Econo Lodge, police said Wednesday.

Nassau Det. Capt. John Azzata, commanding officer of the department’s homicide squad, said the two men had apparently just met, then hung out a bar and both “willingly went” to the Econo Lodge together.

“We don’t have a motive at this point,” Azzata said. “We do know, or we believe, that the two individuals were only acquaintances. They could have known each other for less than 24 hours.”

Dalton, 51, has been arrested 14 times previously — 10 of those instances were felony arrests, including a first-degree burglary charge, in which he was armed with a gun, Azzata said. Dalton’s parole was connected to second-degree attempted burglary conviction in Suffolk County, according to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

O’Connell, who police said previously lived in East Meadow, was struck “numerous times about the head with an unknown object” and died from blunt force trauma, according to court papers. O’Connell was found face down on the floor in a “hog-tied position,” the papers said.

Police would not elaborate about where O’Connell was living at the time of his death.

O’Connell’s family could not be reached Wednesday, but according to his Facebook page, he graduated from East Hampton High School in 1997 and studied marketing at Hofstra University, graduating in 2002.

At Dalton’s arraignment in First District Court in Hempstead, his court-appointed attorney, Eugene McElroy, said his client is homeless and told police he was off his psychiatric medication.

“He told them he could possibly kill himself,” McElroy, of Mineola, said after the arraignment. “He needs immediate medical attention because he didn’t have his meds.”

Dalton was ordered held without bail, and Nassau District Court Judge David McAndrews ordered the jail to provide Dalton with medical attention, as requested by his defense attorney.

At the Ridge address that police gave for Dalton, a padlock was secured over the front gate. Neighbors declined to comment.

Azzata said a member of the Duffy Avenue Econo Lodge’s cleaning staff knocked on the door of Room 118 about 1 p.m. Saturday and no one answered. She knocked several more times before entering the room with her key and saw a large amount of blood and a body.

She alerted the manager and he came to the room and also saw the body and called 911, he said. O’Connell was pronounced dead at the scene about 1:30 p.m., Azzata said.

Azzata said hotel guests who had been interviewed didn’t hear any screams coming from the room, but detectives are still seeking to talk to other people who were staying at the hotel at the time.

“I must say that the detectives got great cooperation from the business community in that area and that’s how we were able to identify the subject,” Azzata said.

An Econo Lodge employee screamed at reporters to leave the property when approached Wednesday. Tiffany O’Rourke, a bartender at the Headliner Bar and Grill in Hicksville, said she met O’Connell, who was by himself, at the bar Wednesday night. She said he was new to the bar and described him as “a nice guy.”

She wasn’t working Friday night, but another bartender told her O’Connell was back and hanging out with another man.

“They were walking off and that’s the last they saw of him,” said O’Rourke.

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