By Kitty Merrill
Private security cameras and forensic analysis of evidence collected at the scene may provide the information East Hampton Town Police need to capture the hit and run driver who killed John Judge, 61, last week.
Investigators and emergency service personnel were called to Main Street, Amagansett at about eight on the evening of October 23. East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione has stopped at Astro Pizza to pick up dinner when he noticed what he said looked like "a pile of leaves wrapped in a blanket," or one of the scarecrows that were decorating Main Street on the eastbound shoulder of the road near a parked car. "Whatever it was," Stanzione said this week, "It was in a place it didn't belong."
The councilman decided to get a closer look and crossed Main Street, which was, he recalled, "ridiculously dark."
At first Stanzione couldn't tell who the victim was. Although he described Judge as a long-term acquaintance he saw 'every day without fail," Stanzione said the victim's shirt was pulled up over his face and his arm was contorted. It looked like he'd been hit on the side and his arm swung up over his face with the impact.
A driver for the Amagansett ambulance, Stanzione rushed across to the pizzeria and told proprietor Tony Lupo to call 911. "The first thing he said was "Is it John?" Stanzione said. Judge, who lived across the street, had just left the shop minutes earlier.
AS the investigation progressed, by Friday, Suffolk County CRIMESTOPPERS offered a $5000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Another resident added a $5000 reward of his own to the kitty.
Concurrently, some hamlet residents complained that lighting along Main Street wasn't bright enough. "The lighting is obviously insufficient," Stanzione said, "But I don't want to give a hit and run guy any excuse."
Detective Lieutenant Chris Anderson declined to detail specifics relating to how the case was being pursued. He affirmed, however, that viewing security tapes and using such physical evidence as small pieces of a car to identify its make and model "are approaches we do use in all investigations of this type." He said that if county crime lab techs are able to discern distinct information about the car, police will get the word out to the public quickly. So far the vehicle has been described as having dark colored metallic, possibly blue, paint.
Although the vehicle has been described as having significant front-end damage, Anderson said other parts of the vehicle might have sustained damage as well. There is a "high probability" there was front-end damage to the vehicle, but there could also be damage to the passenger front quarter panel or a wraparound headlight. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have a huge vehicle database, which Anderson said, "Might come into play."
Anderson said police were uncertain which direction the car was travelling. They believe Judge was hit in the eastbound lane as he crossed the street.
Anyone with information has been asked to call the town police at 631-537-7575 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.