Geremias Caceres had planned to perform his own song this Friday night, one he specially composed to celebrate the 26th anniversary of his church, the Genesis Assembly of God in Westbury.
But the Huntington Station man was shot to death Sunday night in an apparent robbery attempt, police said, as he walked home from a nearby deli with his 16-year-old son. The youth was not injured.
Suffolk police Tuesday made an arrest in the case, charging another Huntington Station man, Gni Brown, 18, of 47A Ninth Ave., with second-degree murder. Two other men are believed to be involved, police said.
Brown's attorney, Steven Wilutis of Miller Place, said his client had no criminal history and had attended a vocational school in Dix Hills, but is unemployed. "I'm just waiting on discovery from the district attorney before I comment further on this case," he said.
Brown pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in First District Court in Central Islip Tuesday and was held without bail. The case is to be presented to a Suffolk grand jury this week.
Caceres, 38, who worked as a landscaper, was a devout churchgoer and a good family man, said his pastor, Fernando Gomez. "He played bass and guitar in the church music group," Gomez said. "He was one of the leaders in the ministry of our church and a church deacon."
Gomez said Caceres, a native of El Salvador, had a wife and another son, 7. He called the murder "unsettling" for the family. "They are in a lot of pain," he said.
Police said Brown was one of three men who approached Caceres and his son at 10th Avenue and 15th Street at 9:53 p.m. The trio then fled on foot. Det. Lt. Gerard Pelkofsky of the homicide squad said they did not get anything in the robbery attempt.
The church will have a memorial service Wednesday night at 7:30 for Caceres, Gomez said. And on Friday, it will mark its anniversary as planned. But a normally joyful occasion will be shrouded in sorrow, minus a special voice. "He will not be here to play his song," Gomez said, "and this is very sad." With Sophia Chang
and Andrew Strickler