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Oddone to victim's wife: 'I'm sorry'

Stacey Reister leaves the court after hearing a

Stacey Reister leaves the court after hearing a guilty verdict in trail of Anthony Oddone. (Dec. 14, 2009) Photo Credit: Joel Cairo

After a Suffolk jury convicted him Monday of first-degree manslaughter, Anthony Oddone turned to the gallery while court officers handcuffed him, and nodded toward his family.

Then he turned toward Stacey Reister, whose husband, Andrew, died at Oddone's hands last year in a Southampton bar. Oddone nodded to the woman and mouthed the words, "I'm sorry."

>> PHOTOS: See images from the Anthony Oddone case and Andrew Reister's funeral

Stacey Reister nodded back. "You should be," she said softly.

It was an unusual climax to a two-month-long trial that included nine days of jury deliberations in Riverhead that ended at 5:15 p.m. Monday. That's when the jury acquitted Oddone, 27, of second-degree murder but found him guilty of the lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter.

After the verdict was read to a packed but quiet fourth-floor courtroom, Reister said she was surprised by Oddone's gesture. But she said she was sympathetic to his family.

"It's hard for everyone. There's no winners here," she said. "His family was crying. My family's crying."

Asked whether she thought Oddone felt remorse, Reister said, "Yeah, he was crying."

The verdict came after the jury of seven men and five women had one of the longest deliberations in Suffolk County in recent memory.

>> VIDEO: Watch Andrew Reister's widow react to the guilty verdict

One juror, Stephen Garvey of Northport, told reporters the jury agreed in the first few days to acquit Oddone of second-degree murder, the top charge. The juror holding out for a lesser verdict changed her mind Monday, after maintaining her position for three days, Garvey said.

Assistant District Attorney Denise Merrifield said she was "very satisfied" with the verdict.

Prosecutors said Oddone, a golf caddie from Farmingville, choked Andrew Reister, 40, of Hampton Bays, on Aug. 7, 2008, at the Southampton Publick House. Reister, a Suffolk correction officer moonlighting at the bar, died two days later.

During six weeks of testimony, numerous witnesses said Oddone refused when Reister ordered him to stop dancing on tables. Witnesses said the two men struggled and Oddone continued choking Reister after he lost consciousness.

Oddone's attorney, Sarita Kedia of Manhattan, had argued Oddone acted in self-defense. Monday she said only that she would appeal.

Oddone's mother, Laura, walked past reporters without comment. Stacey Reister said she and Laura Oddone shared "a nice long hug" after the verdict.

"She's hurting just as much as all of us," she said.

Reister, who attended every day of the trial along with numerous family members, said she was not disappointed with the verdict. Oddone was ordered held without bail by County Court Judge C. Randall Hinrichs.

"Do I forgive him? That's a big word. I don't know," Reister said.

Merrifield said she would ask Hinrichs to impose the maximum sentence - 25 years in prison - when Oddone is sentenced Feb. 9.

"I feel it's appropriate under the circumstances," she said. "The fact that this was something done with a person's bare hands is pretty gruesome."

Reister said she is looking forward to being with her family full-time again. She has kept a scrapbook of newspaper articles to show her children, David, whose 10th birthday is Wednesday, and Mary Grace, 5, when they are older.

"They know what happened, but they don't know the details," Reister said, adding that Tuesday she will let the kids stay home.

"I get to be Mommy again," she said.

>> PHOTOS: See images from the Anthony Oddone case and Andrew Reister's funeral

>> VIDEO: Watch Andrew Reister's widow react to the guilty verdict

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