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Mom tells of prank calls in daughter's death

Concetta Napoli and Thomas Fusco, parents of victim

Concetta Napoli and Thomas Fusco, parents of victim Theresa Fusco, leave federal court in Central Islip after Napoli began testifying in the civil lawsuit trial related to the three men convicted in the killing of their daughter. (Sept. 25, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

A 70-year-old Lynbrook woman recalled the prank telephone calls she received after her daughter was raped and strangled in 1984, during testimony Tuesday at the trial of three men seeking $190 million for being wrongly convicted of the crime.

The testimony of Concetta Napoli dealt mainly with verifying what she told police during the investigation, but she briefly mentioned -- with no show of emotion -- that pranksters had made "really sick" telephone calls to her home while her 16-year-old daughter, Theresa Fusco, was still considered a missing person.

The callers sounded like young people and gave useless tips about clothing that was found, or someone seeing something being thrown into Hempstead Lake, she said.

"I got one sick call: 'Help me, mommy. Help me, mommy. I'm suffocating,' " Napoli said during her testimony before Judge Joanna Seybert in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.

Napoli, whose married name was Fusco, entered the courtroom with the assistance of a four-wheeled walker.

She said she last saw her daughter on Nov. 10, 1984, when the girl left for her part-time job at a Lynbrook roller rink. Napoli said she assumed her daughter had slept at her best friend's house nearby and she did not call police until the next day. Police launched a search, but Fusco's body was not found until Dec. 5.

Napoli finished her direct testimony in the early afternoon and was scheduled to return for more cross-examination Thursday when the trial resumes.

Attorneys for John Kogut, John Restivo and Dennis Halstead claim police coerced a confession from Kogut and used that to help convict the men of murder. They were released from prison in 2003 after DNA testing showed semen found in Fusco's body did not match any of the three men.

Nassau prosecutors retried Kogut in 2005, but he was acquitted at a nonjury trial.

The three men filed a wrongful imprisonment suit the next year seeking $190 million in damages from Nassau County and the police officials who oversaw the case.

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