A convicted Suffolk rapist was found guilty Monday of killing a woman in 2013, the first of several Huntington Station homicides that rattled the community and led to stepped-up patrols.
Fernando Romualdo, 29, of Huntington Station, faces sentencing Aug. 1 in the second-degree murder of Sarah Strobel, 23, whose body was discovered Oct. 3 at the Froehlich Farm Nature Preserve in Huntington Station. A Suffolk jury convicted him in a trial that began June 5.
Romualdo, a cocaine addict at the time, denies killing her and does not remember her, although he did go to a certain Huntington spot where Strobel had occasionally stayed, said his attorney, Craig McElwee of Hauppauge.
He was in an upstate prison for raping a juvenile female when he was charged last June with killing Strobel, who was also a Huntington Station resident and a 2008 graduate of Whitman High School.
DNA on the victim’s body matched the defendant’s DNA, which was in a database due to his felony rape conviction.
“He does not specifically recall Ms Stroebel and has no specific recollection of engaging in sexual intercourse with her,” McElwee said in a statement. “He does however know that he never physically attacked anyone and never killed anyone.
“While we understand the jurors decision, we feel the verdict was based, in part, on sympathy and passion and not solely on the weight of the evidence.”
Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said his office will press for the maximum sentence.
“The victim was strangled and there were signs on her body of bruising and significant trauma,” Spota said in a statement. “Today’s guilty verdict means this violent sexual predator will be behind bars for decades, and the sentence we will recommend will be the longest incarceration allowed under the law - 25 years to life in state prison.”
Strobel’s death was the first of four slayings of area residents in 2013 and 2014, including Luis Ramos-Rodriguez, 38; Daniel Carbajal, 25; and Maggie Rosales, 18.
Those homicides galvanized the community, which pressed elected and police officials for more protection and a crackdown on drugs, gang and other violence.
Romulado had been sentenced to three years in October 2015 for second-degree rape.