Just as the house next door burst into flames, a Central Islip man testified, he saw a man hurry out of the home, head toward a car and take off.
"I asked him, 'What's going on? What's going on?' " Augustine Murillo testified in Spanish through an interpreter Thursday. "He didn't answer."
Seconds later, as Murillo got his family out of his own house, he saw two children in the side door of the burning house and helped them escape just before dawn on Aug. 11, 2009.
Later, firefighters and police found three charred bodies inside. They were Katrice Daniels, 31; her sister, Mykier Daniels, 28; and her boyfriend, Louis Calixto Jr., 19.
Murillo testified at the Riverhead trial of Katrice Daniels' boyfriend, Hasan Vaughan, and Thomas Singletary, both 36, of Central Islip. They are charged with first-degree murder and arson.
Like another neighbor who testified Wednesday, Murillo said he heard screams and gunshots during the night, but didn't call police about it. During cross-examination by Vaughan's attorney, William Keahon, Murillo said his wife called police earlier that night about loud rap music coming from the house.
"So you call police about loud music playing, but not about a woman screaming and four to six shots fired?" Keahon asked. Suffolk County Court Judge James Hudson sustained an objection and Murillo did not answer.
Murillo also avoided answering numerous questions from Keahon about details in which his testimony Thursday differed from a statement he gave to police the day of the crime.
Those details included whether the man walked or ran from the house as he said it exploded; whether he saw the man or heard the explosion first; whether he could identify the type of car the man drove away in; and whether he left his car lights on overnight.
Hudson grew so frustrated with Murillo's inability to answer Keahon's questions clearly that he said he was going to advise him he faced contempt of court charges.
But Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla blamed Keahon for the problem. "I don't give a three-hour lecture on what I want to elicit" from witnesses, he said. "Mr. Keahon should ask more succinct questions."
He then urged Keahon to just put Murillo's statement to police into evidence. That prompted Keahon to accuse Biancavilla of coaching Murillo to be difficult in order to get the statement into evidence.
In the end, both sides agreed to tell the jury that Murillo gave different details to police than in court.