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Widow wants new probe in Det. Sgt. Reecks' death

Det. Sgt. Robert R. Reecks shown at a

Det. Sgt. Robert R. Reecks shown at a press conference at Suffolk County police headquarters. (July 7, 2003) Credit: Newsday/Jim Peppler

The widow of a Suffolk police hate-crimes unit supervisor wants a new investigation into her husband's death a year ago -- a fiery single-car crash that has been ruled a suicide.

Det. Sgt. Robert Reecks' sedan slammed head-on into a concrete bridge abutment off Sunrise Highway on Aug. 6, 2011.

The Suffolk medical examiner's report written Sept. 27 by Deputy Examiner Hajar Sims-Childs concludes the detective died of "blunt impact injuries of head, torso and extremities -- suicide."

But Rita Reecks says the investigation leading to that conclusion was cursory.

Reecks, 63, of Riverhead, said she was never interviewed by investigators, and neither was her husband's private physician.

"They completely ignore me like I don't exist," she said last week. "I want my husband's name cleared. I want his reputation back."

Reecks, 57, was off-duty, driving an unmarked department-issued car about 5:30 a.m. when he suddenly veered off the highway. According to one witness, Reecks was traveling at a high rate of speed and had switched on his emergency lights before he crashed.

A toxicology report found no evidence of drugs or alcohol in his system. Police said were no signs of braking at the scene.

In a statement included in the medical examiner's report, a friend of Reecks' told police the detective said he'd "drive into a bridge abutment" if he could no longer care for himself. The friend stressed that the comment was made as long as a decade ago, when Reecks was caring for his ill parents.

Rita Reecks said she's not aware of a suicide note left behind by her husband. They had been married 25 years, but separated shortly before the fatal crash.

In a four-page letter to County Executive Steve Bellone, she asks for a new investigation into the cause of her husband's death.

"There is little or no other evidence of suicidal intent in the crash," she wrote in the letter dated July 25.

Bellone's office would neither confirm nor deny receiving the letter.

Police defended the death investigation in a statement last week.

"The Suffolk County Police Department conducted a thorough and complete investigation into the motor vehicle crash involving Detective/Sergeant Robert Reecks and the case is closed," the department said.

Reecks, a 30-year police veteran, served as commanding officer of the bias-crimes unit during major investigations -- including the beating of day laborers in Farmingville and the stabbing death of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero.

In January 2011, Reecks was replaced as head of the unit but continued as second-in-command.

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