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Long IslandCrime

Guilty plea in shooting death of Hempstead man, records show

James Marckesano pleaded guilty Tuesday, April 26, 2017,

James Marckesano pleaded guilty Tuesday, April 26, 2017, to manslaughter in the July 4, 2015, shooting death of Victor Benitez, of Hempstead. Marckesano is escorted from Nassau County police headquarters in Mineola on Dec. 9, 2015, after his arrest in Texas. Credit: Newsday Photo

A Hempstead man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the shooting death of a father of two outside a village deli in the summer of 2015.

James Marckesano, 26, admitted Tuesday to killing Victor Benitez, 28, of Hempstead, in the early morning of July 4 in front of a Clinton Street deli, court records show.

Police arrested Marckesano in November 2015 in Houston before his extradition to Nassau County and his indictment on a second-degree murder charge and two weapon offenses.

State Supreme Court Justice Robert McDonald agreed Tuesday after accepting Marckesano’s guilty plea to sentence him to 16 years in prison at a June 6 court appearance, files show.

A spokesman for District Attorney Madeline Singas declined to comment Wednesday on the plea. Marckesano’s Rockville Centre attorney, Michael DerGarabedian, said his client is hoping Benitez’s family will forgive him and is “looking forward to addressing them at the sentencing.”

Police have said Benitez suffered a gunshot wound to his chest after he left the Clinton Deli and Grocery at about 4:40 a.m. on the morning of his slaying. Deli surveillance video — one of two videos in the case — showed the victim outside talking to another man before he clutched his chest and collapsed into the deli’s doorway.

Benitez’s family said he was devoted to his son, then 9, and daughter, then 5, and that he had no enemies. His sister has said he was at the deli to get food on his way to one of his jobs. Benitez was a bouncer at a bar and a field supervisor for a security company.

Court records show a friend of the victim told police that day that he and Marckesano exchanged words after he leaned on a nearby car and Marckesano “got in his face” and said he knew him.

Marckesano then walked to a vehicle and came back toward the friend with a hand in his waistband before the friend, feeling threatened, sprayed Marckesano with pepper spray and began running toward the deli, according to police testimony at a court hearing.

The friend also told authorities he heard a gunshot as he fled, and added later on July 6 that he recognized Marckesano from a decade earlier when he and Marckesano had been members of rival gangs, court records show. Upon speaking to a prosecutor on July 7, the friend also said he’d seen Marckesano raise his hand and fire what looked like a gun.

Police later got Crime Stoppers tips that Marckesano — whose attorney said isn’t a gang member — was the shooter.

The prosecution’s evidence in the case included a written statement from someone who identified himself as the driver of a car Marckesano left the scene in after, the driver said, Marckesano got into an argument and fired a gun, the court file shows.


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