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Former-LI couple face bigotry, bias, assault charges in Conn. beating, authorities say

Philip Sarner, left, and Emily Orbay, formerly of

Philip Sarner, left, and Emily Orbay, formerly of Nassau County, are wanted by Connecticut authorities on assault and "bigotry and bias" charges in connection with the alleged beating of a Black female hotel worker in Mystic, Connecticut, on June 26. Credit: The law office of attorney M. John Strafaci

Authorities in Connecticut announced Friday they had filed new arrest warrants against a man and a woman — formerly of Nassau County — in the beating of a Black woman at her hotel job to include “bigotry and bias" charges.

Stonington police in Connecticut have identified the suspects as Philip Sarner, 39, and Emily Orbay, 28, who are boyfriend and girlfriend. Investigators said they believed the pair may have absconded to Long Island following the assault in late June.

Sarner and Orbay “do not have permanent addresses, but are known to be primarily in Nassau County, N.Y. Authorities in New York are actively checking known addresses and associates of both suspects in an attempt to locate them,” Stonington police said in a statement.

The love interests also face assault charges. They are accused of beating a hotel worker in the late morning of June 26. At least some of the attack was captured on surveillance video at the Quality Inn in Mystic, Connecticut, where the victim was working as a clerk.

Police have not identified the victim, but her lawyer, M. John Strafaci, identified her as Crystal Caldwell, 59, of Groton, Connecticut.

“They were using racial slurs while they were beating her,” he said. “To just brutally assault a 59-year-old woman because of the color of her skin, people like that don’t belong in the civilized society. … She has been having nightmares and flashbacks and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Caldwell was assaulted on two separate occasions only minutes apart, Strafaci and police said.

The second attack, which occurred while police were en route to the hotel, was captured on video and showed Sarner closed-fist punch Caldwell in the head. The couple then grab Caldwell near an ice machine, and Sarner forcefully slams her to the ground before kicking and punching her several times.

The couple used a racial slur during the assault, and Strafaci said after the first attack, Orbay repeated the slur. 

Caldwell was concussed, her right eye was injured, and she may also have reinjured a surgically repaired knee, Strafaci said.

 When police arrived at the hotel, Sarner and Orbay requested medical attention. Police have said Stonington officers were not allowed to go see the couple at the hospital because of concerns over coronavirus. Police had planned to arrest them June 26, shortly after responding to the attacks, authorities said. But later that day, investigators learned they were no longer at the hospital and their vehicle was no longer at the hotel. 

Surveillance video shows Sarner and Orbay returning to the hotel in a Lyft shortly before 2:30 p.m. the day of the alleged assault. They then rushed to their vehicle and drove away, officials said.

The attack was preceded by Sarner angrily calling Caldwell to complain about not having hot water in his room, Strafaci said.

Capt. Todd Olson, a spokesman for the Stonington police department, said Friday investigators have been in touch with Nassau County police and other agencies in New York about the whereabouts of the couple.

The charges against Sarner and Orbay are serious enough to merit extradition upon their arrest, Olson said. Investigators also have reached out to the FBI’s Civil Rights Division for assistance, officials said.

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