A retired NYPD transit officer who a prosecutor said admitted to killing his wife in the couple's Lake Grove home by clubbing her with a baseball bat, then strangling her, was arraigned Wednesday in Riverhead on a murder charge handed up by a Suffolk grand jury.
Paul Leitgeb, 49, was indicted on one count of second-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty.
Nearly a month after police arrested Leitgeb, and accused him of killing his wife, Tricia Odierna, 42, the mother of their 7-year-old twins, the circumstances that lead to her violent death remain largely a mystery.
At Wednesday's brief court proceeding, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock did not say what drove Leitgeb to strike his wife in the head then strangle her with his hands until she died, though Kurtzrock said Leitgeb gave police a full confession.
"I don't want get into too many details of the confession right now," Kurtzrock said in an interview outside the courtroom. "That's all going to come out during the course of this case."
Previously, Kurtzrock said Leitgeb had a "bunch of reasons" to kill his wife, a real estate lawyer, including financial troubles.
On the afternoon of Oct. 1, Suffolk police were summoned to Win Place, a two-story home where Leitgeb and Odierna raised their twins and her nephews, ages 7, 13, and 16. The couple had taken the boys in after Odierna's sister died, said Leitgeb's attorney, William Keahon of Hauppauge. The boys' father is in jail. Leitgeb has a 21-year-old daughter who does not live with him.
It's not known if any of the children were home when police found Odierna's body in the couple's bed, said Kurtzrock, who declined to identify the person who called 911 from the home.
Neighbors, Kurtzrock said, did not hear arguments the day Odierna was found dead.
"Nobody heard anything," Kurtzrock said.
Authorities said Leitgeb fled after his wife's body was found. Her death was caused by blunt force trauma to the head and neck compression, Kurtzrock said.
Police tracked Leitgeb and found him on Oct. 7, a few miles off the Appalachian Trail in Pawling in Dutchess County. After a standoff with police, Leitgeb was found armed with a box cutter, which police said he used to cut his neck and wrist. He has since recovered from his injuries.
After Leitgeb's attorney was unable to persuade Suffolk County Court Judge John J. Toomey, Jr. to release Leitgeb on bail Wednesday. Leitgeb was taken back to Suffolk jail to await his trial.