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Cops: Islip teen's death a homicide

After searching a marshy, wooded area in Islip,

After searching a marshy, wooded area in Islip, Suffolk County police discovered the body of an 18-year-old man who had been missing for two days. The victim was identified as Kyle Underhill of Islip. (Nov. 19, 2011) Credit: Ed Betz / Yearbook photo

Suffolk police Sunday confirmed that the death of an Islip teen whose body was found in a marsh near his home was a homicide, as the victim's friends and employers recalled someone unusually hardworking and often misunderstood.

Kyle Underhill, 18, was found dead early Saturday in a remote area behind Commack Road Elementary School. He'd been reported missing by his parents Thursday night.

Neither a cause of death nor a motive was released, with a police spokeswoman saying only that the homicide did not appear to be gang-related.

After graduating from Islip High School in June, Underhill attended Farmingdale State College and worked two jobs -- as a busboy at Tellers Chophouse on Islip's Main Street and behind the counter at Manhattan Sweets Boutique Bakery two blocks away.

Tellers owner Michael Bohlsen described Underhill as bright and gregarious. Cindy and Werner Simon, who run the bakery, called him a "genuine young man."

All cited his work ethic.

"We find it difficult to process the reality of what has happened," Bohlsen said.

Underhill's family could not be reached Sunday at the home neighbors said they moved into two years ago. Remnants of yellow crime scene tape remained in the woods, where the teen's body was found, about a mile away.

In his high school yearbook, Underhill raised eyebrows with a senior quote about some classmates, that read, in part, "I don't think I've ever known so many people I hated so much all at once." It prompted police to acknowledge his "high school background" is part of their investigation.

School district leaders couldn't be reached. But a friend said that quote -- like Underhill himself -- was misunderstood.

"He only put that in there to see if he could get away with it," said Dan Wolff, 18, who graduated with the victim.

Some classmates, seeing Underhill's quiet demeanor and "metal head" look, gave him a hard time, Wolff said. "But once you got to know him," he added, "you saw he was a really funny, really good kid."

Jamie Schineller, 17, said Underhill was intelligent, with an easygoing sense of humor.

"People can be judgmental," the Islip High senior said. "But he had friends. He was just kind of reserved."

His hobbies included drawing, working in the school's tech room and games of Manhunt played outdoors, much like paintball, with airsoft rifles, said Chris Cutrone, who attended school with Underhill.

Underhill was "the most caring person you could ever meet," Cutrone, 20, said. "He was the most innocent, too. Cared for his friends, loved his family. He put his friends first. I just can't see why someone would do that to him. He was just an innocent person."

With Patrick Whittle and Tania Lopez

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