A Suffolk County prosecutor said a Huntington Station man went up behind high school senior Maggie Rosales while she was wearing earphones, attacked her and eventually slashed her throat.
Charged in what assistant district attorney Raphael Pearl called a "vicious murder" is Adam Saalfield, 21, whose family lives just houses away from the victim's home.
Saalfield pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Thursday to second-degree murder in the Oct. 12 stabbing of Rosales and was ordered held without bail. John LoTurco, Saalfield's attorney, said outside court there was "no relationship at all" between his client and Rosales.
Rosales, 18, walked along a Huntington Station street on a Sunday night wearing ear buds when she was attacked stealthily from behind, Assistant District Attorney Raphael Pearl said. As she and her attacker struggled, falling behind a parked car, Rosales, a senior at Walt Whitman High School, was stabbed to death, he said. Saalfield severed "several arteries and veins in her neck" and stabbed her twice, he said.
Suffolk police initially said only that Rosales was stabbed in the torso.
Pearl said DNA recovered from a blood trail at Rosales' crime scene matched DNA taken from an unrelated arrest of Saalfield nearly a week after Rosales was killed. It's not clear how the DNA from that arrest was obtained.
When arrested Oct. 18 on charges he had hypodermic needles, records show Saalfield told police, "My friend used those needles for heroin a while ago. He left them in my car and I never got rid of them."
Saalfield, a 2011 graduate of Harborfields High School, was arrested Wednesday in Rosales' death.
Cesar Rosales, the victim's father, called Saalfield an "animal" -- and said after the arraignment he had no idea who the accused killer was. "If he lived in the neighborhood," Rosales said, "I never saw him."
Rosales said he had seen Saalfield's family because they lived a block down from his home on Leyden Street, but he did not know them.
Neighbors of Saalfield's called him a quiet man and a loner who lived with his mother and was rarely seen in the neighborhood. Another neighbor said the family moved to the area about four years ago. The neighbors asked to not be identified.
Saalfield worked two years as a dietary aide at Carillon Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Huntington, not far from his home.No one answered the door to his home Thursday afternoon.
Former Harborfields High School wrestling teammate Austin Roldan, 20, was "shocked" at the news that Saalfield had been charged in Rosales' slaying. Roldan, now a college student in Pennsylvania, had not kept up with Saalfield, who graduated a year ahead of him, but said he was a good teammate who listened to the coaches.
"He was a pretty normal guy. He didn't do anything crazy," Roldan said. " . . . He didn't seem a violent guy. I am shocked at this news."
When asked about a possible motive, District Attorney Thomas Spota's office declined to comment.
Rosales was found about 11:25 p.m. and was pronounced dead at the scene on Lynch Street, officials said. Neighbors reported they witnessed a trail of blood leading from Varney Avenue toward Lynch Street.
In court, relatives shouted, "He's a murderer! He's an animal," after Pearl described the slaying. First District Court Judge G. Ann Spelman in Central Islip urged relatives to calm down. More than a dozen of Rosales' family members attended; many left in tears.
Eyes red, Rosales, thanked the community, friends and colleagues for their support.
"I want to thank the police involved," he said. "It's a tough moment, but thank God they got this animal."
The arrest came nine days after a community outcry at Town Hall when residents blasted officials for the recent violence in Huntington Station. Rosales' killing served as a tipping point. It was the fourth homicide in the community in about a year that police had considered unsolved. Now there are three.
With Joie Tyrrell, Andrew Smith and John Valenti