The red SUV pulled into the long driveway on Middle Island Avenue in Medford. Little Nicky was ready to go.
Freshly showered, Nicholas Hausch had just eaten dinner when his buddy Jordan Dasch arrived around 7:30 p.m.
The 17-year-olds, both seniors at Patchogue-Medford High School, had no plans, no particular destination, no idea that the night would end so differently than the other nights they spent roaming from deserted parking lots to empty parks, searching for something to do.
Four and a half hours later, Marcelo Lucero, a 38-year-old Ecuadorean immigrant, was beaten, stabbed and left for dead; Hausch, Dasch and five of their schoolmates faced detectives asking about the fatal attack; and a national debate on hate and immigration was being reignited, casting a shadow on their school and the increasingly diverse community of Patchogue.
All seven have been charged with gang assault; one is charged with manslaughter as a hate crime. All have pleaded not guilty and lawyers for some of them have said their clients left before any attack. A Suffolk grand jury has handed up indictments in the case that will be unsealed on Tuesday.
The following account of the evening is based on what is alleged in court records, and interviews with witnesses, attorneys and police.
Bought beer at gas station
At about 7:30 p.m. a week ago Saturday, Dasch, a pizza delivery driver with the night off, and Hausch set off from their Medford homes with a few stops to make, a few people to pick up. They bought beer at a gas station on Route 112 and later hung out with a dozen or so others in a train station parking lot.
Among them was Jeffrey Conroy, a 17-year-old senior well known at Patchogue-Medford High School and in the Long Island athletic scene for his prowess in wrestling, football and lacrosse. According to the criminal complaint, he brought a knife with him that night.
Christopher Overton, 16, was new to the group. Some said they had never met him before. He was suspended from Bellport High School last year for his role in an East Patchogue home invasion that left a man dead. He pleaded guilty to burglary in the May 2007 incident. Patchogue-Medford school officials said last week that Overton should not have been allowed to enroll at their 3,000-student high school.
The group, which included at least two girls, hung out at the parking lot only 10 or 15 minutes before all 10 squeezed into Dasch's 1996 GMC and headed to Twelve Pines Park on Southaven Avenue in Medford. They joined several others there, horsing around on an old jungle gym, the girls jumping on the guys' backs.
They headed over to the basketball courts. But there was no basketball game. The ball they brought was deflated.
Some of the teens drank beer and text-messaged with friends and parents, breaking off into smaller groups to talk. One of the girls in the group and Conroy kept mostly to themselves, talking intently about an earlier promise to keep each other out of trouble. Another girl said she talked with Kevin Shea, 17, and Hausch.
One of the girls would later tell Newsday that one of the defendants made a comment about a Hispanic man in the park. Another one of the girls said he later suggested, "Let's go fight Mexicans."
Allegedly sought a Hispanic
By 11:30 p.m., the group was ready to disband. The seven boys piled into Dasch's SUV. The two girls said they went home and thought the boys planned to do the same.
But they weren't ready to go home, prosecutors said.
They wanted to go find a Hispanic, any Hispanic, to beat up in a violent nighttime activity they called "beaner jumping," according to prosecutors and the complaints.
The group of Medford and East Patchogue teens drove around in Medford and Patchogue Village for a short time before heading to downtown Patchogue. Along with Dasch, Hausch, Overton, Shea and Conroy was Jose Pacheco, 17, who is half-black and half-Puerto Rican and appeared to be the only nonwhite in the group, and Anthony Hartford, 17, a night school student.
Dasch parked in a public lot near the intersection of Main Street and South Ocean Avenue in Patchogue and the group set off through the working-class neighborhood south of Main Street on foot. At about the same time, a half mile away, Lucero, who worked in a dry cleaning business in Riverhead, was standing outside of a friend's Bay Avenue home, two doors down from his own $500-a-month apartment.
"I'm outside, Jose Morales!" he said in a voice-mail message, in his usual joking tone. "I'm outside." Morales was asleep and didn't answer.
Allegedly began with taunts
At about 11:45 p.m., the teenagers were within sight of the Patchogue Long Island Rail Road station, on a street lined with darkened homes and streetlights. Approaching the intersection of Railroad Avenue and Sephton Street, they saw two men. Two Hispanic men.
Lucero, a bulky man and a regular at the Eastern Athletic Club in Blue Point and a Patchogue shop where he paid 27 cents a minute to call his family in Ecuador, and an unidentified friend were walking to Elder Fernandez's house to watch a movie.
Hurling ethnic taunts, prosecutors said, the group closed in on the pair. Lucero tore off his belt and swung it at the teenagers. Shea struck the flailing Lucero hard, cutting his face. "I punched him, I got him good," Shea said, according to the complaint. "I saw blood coming down." Shea's boss at the Oakwood Farm horse stable, Manny Termini, would later say he was shocked at the allegations, describing Shea as responsible, afraid to walk in the dark, and timid around blood.
One of the defendants later told police Shea also shouted for the group to encircle the pair.
Shea's attorney, Steven Politi, of Central Islip, declined to respond to the punch allegation and said his client was not involved in the stabbing.
At some point, Lucero's friend broke free from the circle and ran away. Conroy, the largest of the group, swung at Lucero with a knife, stabbing him in the chest, prosecutors said.
Just before 11:55 p.m., a Fifth Precinct patrol officer spotted the seven teens walking in two groups near each other, headed north toward Main Street and the parked vehicle. Nearly simultaneously, a 911 alert of a stabbing a few blocks away reached police, who were quickly at the scene.
Within a few minutes, a second police officer stopped the group on South Ocean Avenue. The teens did not run or resist; a knife was found on Conroy, who later told detectives, "I stabbed him once in the shoulder I think."
Fernandez, who had been waiting for Lucero to come over, instead found him collapsed on the pavement of an alley a few dozen yards from the scene of the fight, his body covered in blood.
Staff writer Jennifer Sinco Kelleher contributed to this story.