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Guilty plea in Merrick killing of high school teaching assistant

Ryan Lindquist is escorted out of Nassau Police

Ryan Lindquist is escorted out of Nassau Police Headquarters in Mineola in June 2019. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Massapequa man admitted Wednesday that he killed a high school teaching assistant in a 2019 attack in Merrick in which authorities said he stabbed the victim more than 150 times after meeting him on a dating app.

Ryan Lindquist, 23, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Nassau County Court after acknowledging he intentionally killed Evan Grabelsky by stabbing him to death. It happened in the victim's home on June 1, 2019.

Grabelsky, 32, had worked with special education students at Great Neck North High School and during summertime was the director of Camp Iconic in North Bellmore, according to his family.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Helene Gugerty said she planned to sentence Lindquist next month to 20 years to life in prison under a plea bargain the prosecution and defense negotiated.

The victim's mother, Lori Grabelsky, 66, said later Wednesday her son had been a "gentle soul" and was someone "who always lived his life with kindness and decency," while describing the months since his killing as "torture" for the family.

"We're happy he's going to prison for a very long time because that's what he deserves to do," she said of Lindquist.

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement that Lindquist "showed no remorse as he mercilessly stabbed Evan Grabelsky more than 150 times." She also extended condolences to the family of Grabelsky, who she said "dedicated his life to helping autistic children."

Lindquist's attorney, Edward Sapone, said after court that "upon careful review of the voluminous evidence," his client "chose to waive his defense of extreme emotional disturbance, spare two heartbroken families a public trial and accept responsibility."

Police said at the time of Lindquist’s arrest that he and Grabelsky met on a dating app two years earlier and had been in a relationship for about a year.

But Grabelsky's mother said Wednesday that while the two men met on a dating app, they "were never in a romantic relationship." The Merrick woman said her son, who was gay, texted with Lindquist but only met him in person twice — including the night of his murder.

Police have said Grabelsky’s parents returned to their Elliot Street home from a party before finding his body at 11:44 p.m.

Authorities said the attack started in a bedroom, went through a den and continued upstairs as Grabelsky apparently tried to escape. They said the victim’s injuries included defensive wounds on his hands and arms.

Police said they identified Lindquist, whom they arrested about two weeks later, as a person of interest shortly after the homicide using video surveillance from the neighborhood and evidence at the scene.

The defendant had several cuts on both hands at the time of his arrest, according to police, who believe the lacerations happened when he slipped on the knife during the killing.

Authorities haven’t commented on any potential motive behind the attack, with police saying previously that the two men met at Grabelsky’s house before "something happened" and Lindquist lashed out violently.

He had no previous criminal record and worked in a costume store, according to Sapone.

A grand jury indicted Lindquist on the murder charge and a misdemeanor weapon offense in August 2019 and he has been held at Nassau's jail since his arrest.

Grabelsky began working in the Great Neck school district in 2015 and officials there previously said the school community was "devastated" to hear of his death.

Grabelsky's mother said he was working on a second master's degree so he could be a special-education teacher. Besides his professional work, Grabelsky had inspired others in a weight-loss journey he documented on social media. He also discussed his 105-pound loss for a 2012 Newsday feature.

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