Clarence Newcomb was a bright and caring young man, friends said, but in the days before he allegedly killed his 82-year-old grandmother, neighbors say, his behavior changed.
Newcomb would sit for hours alone in the dark, they said. He would complain about buzzing sounds and took down the family's smoke detectors to silence the noise.
And two hours before his arrest at 4:30 a.m. Friday in the killing of Kathleen Newcomb, he showed up at the home of his neighbor, June Lanzer, carrying a baseball bat and talking about needing to "save" Lanzer's grandson Mark. "I was scared of him," said June Lanzer, who had known Kathleen Newcomb for 76 years. Clarence Newcomb, she said, has a black belt in karate.
Suffolk police have charged Newcomb, 25, of Berg Avenue in Kings Park, with first-degree manslaughter. Authorities said he killed his grandmother after an argument about which television show they would watch. No weapon was used in the killing, police said.
Newcomb, an unemployed graduate of Farmingdale State College, was held Saturday at Stony Brook University Hospital for what authorities described as "evaluation." He missed Saturday's scheduled arraignment date and is expected to be arraigned Sunday at First District Court in Central Islip.
Sal LaRosa, 25, of West Babylon, has known Newcomb for 12 years and said his friend was compassionate and nonviolent.
"It's not him," said LaRosa, at the courthouse to support Newcomb. "He's not a monster."
Newcomb's family, reached in Albany, declined to comment Saturday.
Kathleen Newcomb was a retired nursing supervisor at Kings Park State Hospital's School of Nursing and at the old Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Brentwood. A widow for more than 20 years, she had raised her grandson since he was a child, and the two lived alone, police said.
Clarence's father, Mark, lives in Ft. Lauderdale and has not spoken to his son in years, Lanzer said. His mother is a member of the Ute Native American tribe and lives in Utah, she said. The couple never married.Lanzer said Newcomb was intensely protective of his grandmother, but his mood had recently changed. "He would complain about migraines," she said. "And he started to talk oddly, way out of the norm."
Police confirmed that Clarence Newcomb was treated for migraines in the days before the killing.
June Lanzer's granddaughter Candice, 21, said the suspect began to complain about buzzing sounds and even used his grandmother's earplugs to block them out.
The behavior, she said, culminated when Newcomb showed up at the Lanzer house at 2:30 a.m. on Friday, speaking about living friends and family members as if they were dead.
June Lanzer said she invited Newcomb to spend the night, but he responded with a stare. When Lanzer locked the front door, Newcomb sat on the porch for more than an hour with his head in his hands, she said.
It's unclear whether the victim was alive at the time of the incident, said Suffolk homicide Det. Sgt. John Best.