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EMT testifies about grandmother's severe beating in Centereach slay case

Opening statements began Dec. 3, 2014, in the

Opening statements began Dec. 3, 2014, in the bench trial of Robert Waters, 24, of Centereach, who is charged in the June 2011 death of Florence Troiani, his fiancee's grandmother. He is charged with second-degree murder. Photo Credit: Suffolk County Sheriff

The emergency medical technician who arrived to help a Centereach grandmother who had been severely beaten was taken aback by her injuries, he testified Wednesday at the trial of the man charged with killing her.

"It was brutal, from my standpoint," said Brian Cotiaux of the Centereach Fire Department, a veteran of the Marines who served in Iraq. "It was very bloody and violent."

Florence Troiani, 90, was in full cardiac arrest when he arrived the evening of June 21, 2011, Cotiaux said. She had an inch-wide gash from her forehead to the back of her head, he said. There was a "fist-sized" depression in her skull and a broken jaw. It was clear she had multiple broken ribs, and he said when he attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation he found no resistance when he pressed on her sternum.

Cotiaux testified at the trial of Robert Waters, 24, the fiance of Troiani's granddaughter, with whom he lived along with Florence Troiani. He is charged with second-degree murder. His defense doesn't contest that he killed her, but will argue instead to state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho that he did so in the midst of a seizure brought on by withdrawal from Xanax, an anti-anxiety medicine. Defense attorney Anthony La Pinta wants Camacho, who is trying the case without a jury, to find his client not guilty by reason of mental defect.

"This syndrome is characteristic of random, uncontrollable, intense rage," La Pinta said. "The only real issue for Judge Camacho to decide is not whether Mr. Waters will be jailed, but whether he will be jailed in a prison or a maximum security psychiatric hospital."

Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock said there was no seizure, only rage. He said the attack happened after Waters and his fiancee, Denise Troiani, argued and she left to walk her dogs.

"When she returned, she found the defendant in a rage, smashing up the house," Kurtzrock said.

Dr. Adam Wurstle, who treated Waters at the Stony Brook University Hospital emergency room, testified that Waters told him he was watching "White Collar" on television and got into an argument with Florence Troiani. Wurstle said Waters remembered shoving her and throwing her walker against a door or a wall, but then blacked out.

During questioning by Kurtzrock, Wurstle said Waters had none of the typical symptoms of someone who had recently had a seizure. And he said that while people having a seizure may flail violently, they are not capable of willful actions.

Wurstle conceded during questioning by La Pinta that different people show different seizure symptoms, and that abruptly going off Xanax can cause withdrawal symptoms. However, he said, he had not heard of violent actions being a withdrawal symptom.


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