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Jury convicts Wheatley Heights man in slay

A Wheatley Heights man could spend the rest of his life behind bars after he was convicted in connection with a shooting death two years ago in Wyandanch, a Suffolk prosecutor said Monday.

Rudolph Bisnauth, now 25, and an accomplice took turns shooting into a crowd outside a Wyandanch house on June 1, 2009, Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said. A shot fired by one of the men killed Jeremiah Armstrong, 45, of Wyandanch, Biancavilla said.

Bisnauth was convicted Friday of second-degree murder by a jury that deliberated three hours in Suffolk County Court. Bisnauth faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 3 before State Supreme Court Justice Robert W. Doyle.

The other gunman, Michael McKenzie, now 21, of Wyandanch, pleaded guilty last year to first-degree manslaughter, Biancavilla said. McKenzie and Bisnauth are being held at Suffolk County jail. It is unknown which of the two gunmen fired the fatal shot, Biancavilla said.

The shooting stemmed from a dispute between an acquaintance of Bisnauth and McKenzie and several others, Biancavilla said. Armstrong was not involved in the dispute, the prosecutor said.

Bisnauth and McKenzie had gone to a home on Irving Avenue in Wyandanch in search of another person involved in the dispute, Biancavilla said.

When McKenzie could not fire the pistol, he handed it to Bisnauth, who fixed the weapon and fired several shots into a crowd of 10 people before giving it back to McKenzie, Biancavilla said. McKenzie then fired into the crowd, he said.

Armstrong "was sitting on the front porch, talking to one of his sons about fishing" when he was shot, Biancavilla said. When he pleaded guilty in September, McKenzie agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in exchange for a lighter sentence, 20 years in prison. But he reneged on the deal and did not testify against Bisnauth, Biancavilla said.

McKenzie's attorney, Jason Bassett of Central Islip, said McKenzie had been warned by fellow inmates not to testify against Bisnauth.

"Threats were conveyed to him several times at the jail, both threats against him or against members of his family," Bassett said.

Biancavilla said he will recommend that McKenzie receive the maximum 25 years in prison. He is scheduled for sentencing on Wednesday.

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