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Reginald Ross found guilty of execution-style murders

Defendant Reginald Ross, right, during the verdict stage

Defendant Reginald Ross, right, during the verdict stage of his double murder trial in Riverhead Criminal Court on Friday, March 13, 2015. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

A Crips gang leader from Yaphank was convicted Friday of killing two men in separate, execution-style murders in 2010.

State Supreme Court Justice William Condon found Reginald Ross, 33, guilty of two counts of second-degree murder, ending a three-month bench trial.

Ross was also convicted of seven counts of lesser weapons and drug charges. He was acquitted of one count of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

He faces 25 years to life in prison on each murder count when he is sentenced on April 24. He was held without bail Friday.

The Riverhead courtroom was packed with relatives and friends of the victims -- Raymond Hirt, 51, and John Williams, 39 -- as well as members of Hirt's construction union.

Ross showed little emotion as Condon announced his verdict.

In court, family members clutched snapshots of Williams over the years -- one showing him as a smiling 4-year-old.

Afterward, the victims' families appeared relieved.

"Justice is served. We can finally take a breath . . . once again," said Williams' brother, Scott, 39.

Hirt's mother, Carol, hugged Assistant District Attorney Eric Aboulafia. "You were terrific," she told him.

"Once he read the first count of guilty, I knew the rest was going to be guilty," said Williams' mother, Pat. "It just was like a burden lifted, because you never know."

Prosecutors said Hirt, a road crew flagman from Mastic Beach, was fatally shot on May 24, 2010, in Ronkonkoma after being stalked by Ross.

Williams was shot outside his Holbrook home on Oct. 14 because Ross wanted to lure one of Williams' friends to the funeral so he could kill him, too, according to prosecutors.

Ross killed Hirt because he believed the man had "disrespected" him by saying there was nothing he could do to make traffic move on Portion Road, authorities said.

The defendant was a high-ranking member of the Crips street gang, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said following his arrest in March 2011.

Ross and Luis Cherry, 25, of Queens, were accused of shooting Williams, and prosecutors said Ross theorized that if he killed Williams, then a friend of Williams who owed Ross drug money would be lured from out of state to the funeral, and he would kill him there.

Cherry pleaded guilty to his role in Williams' murder and is serving 63 years to life in prison for that killing and another murder he was convicted of in Queens.

Cherry told authorities after his 2011 arrest that he helped Ross kill Williams. However, he changed his testimony last month during the trial and said he told his original story because he mistakenly believed Ross had turned him in for the Queens killing.

Ross' attorney, John Scarpa Jr. of Queens, said in his closing argument that his client is a religious man committed to helping others.

Scarpa argued that the prosecution's case against Ross hung on the testimony of Cherry and Allison Luberda, who testified that Ross bragged about the killings.

Luberda was "a drug-addicted, hallucinating liar," and Cherry was a "homicidal little jerk," Scarpa argued.

But Aboulafia said after the verdict: "The judge saw this defendant for what he was -- not a man of God, but a cold-blooded killer that was the farthest thing from God."

With William Murphy

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