Steven Strub, 39, of Islip Terrace, faces life in prison...

Steven Strub, 39, of Islip Terrace, faces life in prison without parole after a Suffolk grand jury indicted him on an upgraded charge of first-degree murder in the strangulation of his wife in May. Credit: James Carbone

An Islip Terrace laborer faces a possible life sentence without parole after he was indicted on an upgraded charge of first-degree murder in the strangulation of his wife in May.

Steven Strub, 39, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Riverhead to the charge of killing his wife, Rachelle Weeks-Strub, 40, in the course of an attempted rape. State Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen ordered Strub held on bail of $750,000 cash or $1.5 million bond.

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Creighton said the couple was estranged and living apart, and that Strub used a “ruse” to talk his way into Weeks-Strub’s Centereach apartment on May 29. Then he strangled her, dragged her to another room and had sex with her while she was helpless and dying, Creighton said.

Strub had initially been charged with only second-degree murder. Creighton said DNA evidence and Strub’s own videotaped confession to police establish his guilt.

The day after the killing, Creighton said, Strub checked himself into a 60-day drug rehab program, and then followed that up with another 30 days in rehab. She said detectives arrested Strub last month as soon as he finished those programs.

Defense attorney Christopher Cassar of Huntington said his client is innocent, the couple wasn’t estranged and that any confession Strub made to police after his arrest last month was the result of being worn down “physically and emotionally.”

Cassar said the couple remained very much in love, but were living apart so they could both tackle their addictions to opioids. They had been married for just a couple of years, but had been together for about 15 years, Cassar said.

Weeks-Strub’s Facebook page contains several references to her struggle with addiction, as well as photos of the 1-year-old boy the couple had.

“Stephen did not commit this murder,” Cassar said, adding that he believed Weeks-Strub had been threatened recently by her drug dealer.

Cassar said in court that there was no DNA evidence linking his client to the crime, but Creighton said that was untrue.

Creighton said Strub killed his wife for a simple reason that had nothing to do with their drug problems.

“She was moving on with her life, and obviously without him,” Creighton said. “It was over before this. He just wouldn’t accept it.”

Latest videos