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Cops: Farmingdale family tied up in violent Halloween home invasion

Exterior of 35 Beach St in Farmingdale, Nov.

Exterior of 35 Beach St in Farmingdale, Nov. 1, 2014, where a violent home invasion took place Friday evening. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

          An Editor’s Note published July 12, 2017, about Kevin Deutsch’s reporting appears at the end of this story.

A Farmingdale woman opened her front door Friday night expecting trick-or-treaters but was instead confronted by a gang of armed intruders who robbed the home, pistol-whipped her husband and tied up the family, all with the couple's 2-year-old son in the home, Nassau County police said.

The violent home invasion began, police said Saturday, when the 34-year-old woman opened the door of her Beach Street home at 8:45 p.m. and was confronted by three masked persons who forced their way in. Two of the intruders were armed with handguns, detectives said.

The intruders demanded the homeowner sit down, but the woman's 48-year-old husband refused to comply and was repeatedly pistol-whipped in the head, detectives said.

Both adult victims were then bound at the hands and feet with duct tape, police said. The boy was not tied up, authorities said. Two more intruders then joined the group and all five began to ransack the home, police said.

With the intruders still in the home, the mother freed herself, grabbed her son and ran next door to call 911, police said.

The five home invaders, described as four men and a woman, then fled in an unknown direction, and it was not immediately known what was stolen, police said.

The husband, who suffered cuts to the head, was taken to a hospital for treatment.

Beach Street has about eight well-manicured, single-family homes. The street abuts a wooded area and is near the entrance for the Bethpage State Parkway.

A neighbor said the woman, who had blood on her face and a child in her arms, ran next door for help.

"The lady was very hysterical. She said 'Oh my God, someone came into my house and they're beating my husband up,' " said the neighbor, who declined to give her name.

The neighbors said they let the woman in and called police.

The neighbor said the immediate community is safe but needs a street light. "The street is very dark at night," she said.Another neighbor, Dara Holtzman, 20, who lives a few houses down from the victims, said they are "really nice, good people."

"They would probably open their door to anyone on Halloween, because this is a quiet street," Holtzman said. You trust people ... especially trick-or-treaters. You don't expect people to rob you."

Holtzman said she saw nothing out of the ordinary until police started to arrive.

"If you think about it, it was the best night to do a crime like that because it's the one night you open your door to strangers without worrying about it," she said. "It's supposed to be fun."

Another neighborhood resident, Paul Miller, 64, said he is concerned for his safety and the safety of other residents.

"To do that to a family is just disgraceful," he said. "They opened their homes to people, and this is what they got in return. Something horrible."

"God forbid they decided to come back, or they happen to live nearby," he said. "We don't know anything about who did this."

The five intruders were described as:

A man, about 5-foot-8, 200 pounds and wearing a white mask and dark clothes.

A man, about 5-foot-9, 180 pounds and wearing a werewolf mask, black clothes and armed with a handgun.

A female, about 5-foot-8 with a thin build, an Afro hairstyle and wearing goggles.

A man, about 5-foot-9, 200 pounds and armed with a handgun.

A man wearing a wool hat and a mask.

Editor’s note: Newsday undertook an extensive, four-month review of reporting by Kevin Deutsch, who covered law enforcement from April 2012 to September 2016.

The review of the former Newsday reporter’s work began after The Baltimore Sun this year reported that law enforcement and other officials questioned the veracity of Deutsch’s nonfiction book “Pill City” about Baltimore’s drug trade. In addition, questions arose about individuals named in Newsday stories by Deutsch. Book publisher St. Martin’s Press and Deutsch have said they stand behind the book.

We are dedicated to accurate, factual reporting, to the highest journalistic standards and to maintaining our credibility with Newsday readers. We also are committed to being accountable to our readers. Newsday undertook the detailed review in that spirit and because of the concerns that were raised.

In late February, as our review was under way, The New York Times reported in an editor’s note that The Times “had been unable to locate or confirm the existence of two people who were named and quoted” in a Dec. 29, 2016, freelance article written by Deutsch. Deutsch “maintains that the interviews and the descriptions are accurate,” The Times wrote.

Newsday reviewed 600 stories with reporting by Deutsch. We contacted officials in the police departments regularly involved in Deutsch’s coverage. They said they had not had problems with his work. We then focused our research and reporting on individuals who, as described in the stories, would not be considered officials, or well-known, public figures.

The review found 77 stories with 109 individuals from Deutsch’s reporting whom Newsday could not locate. The main points of the stories were not affected. While two stories about the Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen were based on sources Newsday could not locate, other media reported the main points of those stories but with attribution from different sources. In this story, Newsday could not locate: Dara Holtzman and Paul Miller. Newsday is attaching an editor’s note to each story online that contains individuals we cannot locate.

Here’s how Newsday conducted the review:

Researchers and reporters searched local and national public records, sites providing nationwide people searches, databases of business, real estate and conviction records, social media sites including Facebook, LinkedIn and Ancestry.com and nationwide news archives. They searched potential alternate spellings and other name variations. Their reporting followed potential leads they found through research, within stories and in information shared by Deutsch during the review.

Finding people after publication, in some cases years later, can be difficult because of changes in residence, circumstance and contact information. Some may not have given their real names.

On the law enforcement beat, reporters may encounter people who lead lives that are not reflected in public records or other sources of information that would help locate them. It is possible that some on our list were difficult to find or reluctant to respond to our review because they are undocumented immigrants, those battling or recovering from addiction or people involved in or around illegal activity.

Some on our list were described discussing crimes in their neighborhoods, and others as relatives, friends or neighbors of victims or as individuals living near or knowing those accused of crimes.

Others we have not been able to locate, though, are described as bystanders, neighbors, spectators, relatives of drug victims, witnesses to news events or related in some way to people in the news. Still others are described in stories as people actively engaged in public issues, such as activists, protesters and marchers. Many individuals on the list are described as local.

Deutsch said in email exchanges with Newsday that “I have no doubt about the veracity of the claims of the sources I quoted.” He also said, “Not a single public official, source, or other interviewee has raised any issues with even one of these stories.”

“It's impossible for any reporter to know whether the name given to him by interviewees on the street--or those reached briefly by phone or email-- is that person's full and legal name, rather than an alias or variation of their real name (maiden names and certain common nicknames/abbreviations for first names are often published by newspapers, including Newsday.). But every one of the names on Newsday’s list was the name given to me by that interview subject, verbatim.”

During the four months of our review, Newsday shared questions and updates with Deutsch as we progressed in the search for individuals we could not locate. We requested notes and contact information. Deutsch sent us notes he said represented all individuals we were unable to locate and responded over the course of the review by email, sharing information he said was from his recollection and notes.

Reporters followed up on all information shared by Deutsch. He did not provide contact information for those on our list. Newsday reporters and editors sought unsuccessfully several times to meet with Deutsch to discuss his reporting and to review his notes together to ensure we were not missing contact information or other details that might help locate individuals. Deutsch maintained that the notes he shared “serve as evidence of interviews” with each source.

Deutsch said he kept contact information in a Rolodex he left behind at Newsday’s main office and in a company-issued cellphone he returned within a week after resigning on Sept. 6, 2016. Editorial staff did not find a Rolodex or other notes at our office, but found notes left at Newsday’s desk at a courthouse pressroom where he worked. We shared them with Deutsch and he confirmed they were his. As per company policy, the contents of the cellphone had been deleted immediately after Deutsch returned it to Newsday.

Maintaining the trust of our readers is essential to our mission. If we are able subsequently to locate any individuals, we will update our stories.

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