A Huntington Station man was convicted Friday of second-degree murder for slashing a neighbor’s throat and leaving her to die in the street in October 2014.
Adam Saalfield, 22, did not react when he heard the verdict. The family of the victim, Maggie Rosales, 18, applauded briefly.
The State Supreme Court jury took an hour and 18 minutes to reach its verdict.
“All of my family is satisfied,” the victim’s father, Cesar Rosales, said afterward.
His daughter’s death that cold night was one of three homicides that riled the Huntington Station community and prompted residents to demand stronger policing in the area. Edgar Rosales of Huntington, the victim’s uncle, said the family is grateful to the community for its support.
In his closing argument in a Riverhead courtroom, Assistant District Attorney Raphael Pearl said the evidence against Saalfield was compelling and overwhelming.
It included a trail of blood that led from Rosales’ body to in front of the Saalfield house, a quarter of a mile away. Some of the bloodstains included DNA from both Rosales and Saalfield.
The evidence also included Rosales’ blood found on Saalfield’s boot, and a surveillance video of the murder showing an attacker who was dressed the same as Saalfield appeared in another video minutes before.
“There is no reasonable and logical explanation for Maggie Rosales’ blood to be on the defendant’s right boot, except one — he’s the killer,” Pearl said.
He noted that Saalfield changed his clothes and shaved his head in the half-hour between the murder and when his mother returned home from a trip upstate with her boyfriend.
Pearl said Saalfield likely got rid of all the clothes he wore during the killing, but forgot about the boots. His mother, Renee Saalfield, testified she straightened up her son’s room every day and probably put them in the back of the closet, where police found them.
“We can probably thank Mrs. Saalfield for giving us that piece of evidence,” Pearl said acidly.
Renee Saalfield left the courtroom after the verdict with a jacket draped over her head while relatives used an umbrella to shield her from a news photographer.
Pearl used the video of the crime to show how he believed the blood got on the boot.
“The defendant is on top of Maggie Rosales, slicing her throat open, and that is when the blood got on his boot,” Pearl said. “That alone is enough to convict.”
But there was much more, he said. The blood trail would be enough on its own, and so would the video of the crime showing the assailant’s resemblance to Saalfield, Pearl said.
Defense attorney Craig McElwee said police focused too quickly on his client and didn’t properly investigate other suspects, such as a former boyfriend who he said was abusive to Rosales.
McElwee said his client had no reason to attack Rosales. Both her father and his mother testified they didn’t know each other. Both Renee Saalfield and her boyfriend testified that nothing seemed amiss about the defendant after the crime.
Pearl said it’s possible Saalfield wanted to drag Rosales to a nearby dark alley. “You can infer it was a sexual attack gone bad,” he said.
McElwee tried to minimize the DNA evidence, suggesting that the real killer’s DNA could be in one of the dozens of bloodstains that weren’t tested. He suggested the victim’s blood ended up Saalfield’s boot while he was walking around the neighborhood the next day.
“I know you want to believe police and prosecutors didn’t get this wrong,” McElwee told jurors. “But you know it happens.”
State Supreme Court Justice John Collins will sentence Saalfield on Sept. 23. He faces a maximum of 25 years to life in prison.
McElwee said his client “maintains his innocence. ”