A Suffolk County judge ordered a Medford man accused of fatally stabbing his fiancee held without bail during an arraignment in First District Court in Central Islip Tuesday.
Suffolk County prosecutors say Robert Heise, 42, stabbed Donna Ruisi, 50, multiple times in the face, neck and torso during a dispute at their home on Pinegrove Avenue Monday evening.
Heise pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from a separate incident that allegedly occurred at the Pinegrove Avenue home on Dec. 31.
“At this point, this is just an allegation, and the one thing he did tell me is that he is not guilty in this,” said Heise’s attorney, Glenn Obedin of Central Islip.
Judge Gaetan Lozito ordered Heise remanded on the murder charge and held on $1,000 cash bail or $2,500 bond on the misdemeanor assault charge. The judge ordered Heise to return to court Monday.
Heise does not have any previous criminal convictions, but he was arrested Jan. 1 in connection with an alleged assault that took place a day earlier. According to court papers, Heise punched another man in the head during a dispute, causing pain and swelling to his eye and a partial brain bleed that required immediate medical attention.
Members of Ruisi’s family, who attended Tuesday’s hearing, said the victim and Heise were engaged and had an on-again, off-again relationship. Ruisi’s niece Jennifer Agulla said relatives believed Heise was unstable and potentially violent.
“This was a tragic and disgusting way to end a life,” Agulla said. “We knew he was a dangerous man.”
Ruisi was taken to Long Island Community Hospital in East Patchogue late Monday, where she was pronounced dead, Suffolk police said.
Ruisi had worked as a home health aide who cared for the elderly, and one former employer said clients called her fun and friendly.
“She was very likable and very outgoing,” said Jennifer Benjamin, the owner of Family First Home Companions in Islandia. “She was well liked by clients. They enjoyed her company. They said she made them laugh.”
Suffolk police described the home where the fatal stabbing allegedly took place as a boardinghouse but a spokesman for the Town of Brookhaven said it was more likely a private home whose owner rented out spare rooms. The spokesman, Jack Krieger, said the town would schedule an inspection once police complete their investigation. The owner of the home, listed in records as Scott Carnel, could not be reached for comment.
With Chau Lam
CORRECTION: A spokesman for the Town of Brookhaven said the town would schedule an inspection of the home. An earlier version of this story misstated the agency.