The family of a man bludgeoned and stabbed to death by the side of Heckscher State Parkway 31 years ago was grateful Friday that there was finally a murder conviction in the case.
"God bless America that there is justice," said the victim's widow, Khaldeh Darwish, after Raed Innab, 49, was found guilty of second-degree murder. "I'm proud to be in this country."
Darwish Ali Darwish's slaying was the culmination of a decades-long feud between two Palestinian families, stretching back to before both families settled in Brooklyn.
Darwish was killed just weeks after he finished eight years in prison for fatally shooting Innab's uncle in 1976.
"I never forgot my husband," said Khaldeh Darwish, although she said she never expected his killers to be caught after so many years had passed. "In my mind, it was closed."
She applauded New York State Police investigators for never giving up.
Sana Darwish, a toddler when her father was killed, said, "We did not expect this to happen in our lifetime."
In closing arguments Thursday in Central Islip, attorneys focused on the only piece of evidence connecting Innab to Darwish's body -- DNA from a small bloodstain on the victim's sock.
Defense attorney Craig McElwee said that was a remnant of a confrontation earlier that day in a deli owned by the Innabs, in which he said his client cut his hand on a slicer before pushing an unruly Darwish out of the store.
But Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said Innab's hand slipped on a fillet knife as he stabbed Darwish again and again. The jury deliberated for about 10 hours over two days. Biancavilla said the verdict was satisfying.
"This was good," he said. "The biggest challenge was being able to orchestrate all the witnesses."
Eyewitnesses and now-retired investigators from the 1980s testified -- and they may be called upon again, if police can bring a case against a second unidentified man seen taking part in the August 1984 attack in East Islip. Biancavilla said evidence analysis continues to get more sophisticated.
"This case is not closed," he said.
State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho will sentence Innab on Nov. 12. The maximum he faces is 25 years to life in prison.