Gurney's Inn
January 17, 2007

Homeless Man Dies Outside in Riverhead

He died homeless in the woods.

At the First Universalist Church of Southold, a volunteer for Maureen's Haven, an organization geared toward sheltering and feeding the homeless in area churches, said that last week a former guest of the program had frozen to death in the Riverhead woods.

According to Lieutenant Bob Peeker of the Riverhead Town Police Department, the body of Rito Carillo, 44, was found in a wooded setting between Osbourne Avenue and Lincoln Street last Thursday.

The cause of death is believed to be natural. Peeker said there were a number of factors that could have come into play, including the night's drop in temperature and the possible abuse of alcohol. "He could have fallen and hit his head," said Peeker. "We can't rule out anything."

Peeker said the area is frequented by local indigents who often sleep or congregate in the wooded area.

Carillo, born in Texas, had a long list of arrests for alcohol-related offenses, and although he had been a guest of Maureen's Haven in past years, he hadn't been seen frequenting the program this season.

The homeless community was saddened by the news that one of their own was lost. "I heard the unfortunate news, but I was not familiar with Rito," said Maureen's Haven Coordinator Denis Yuen. "I was informed that a few of our guests were very upset this week because one of the friends had died in the cold."

Yuen said Carrillo's death might have been prevented. "Anytime a life is lost, it is unfortunate, especially because it could have easily been avoided."

Maureen's Haven, he reminded, is a program designed to provide hot meals, shelter and transportation for overnight guests. "Obviously, the deceased was familiar with the Maureen's Haven program," he said. "Tragedy could have been avoided if he would have taken advantage of our voluntary services."

Yuen said he did not know why Carrillo was not participating this winter.

But despite Carrillo's absence, Yuen said Maureen's Haven's nightly attendance has seen a spike since the program began for the season on November 1, despite the mild temperatures. Nightly attendance this month has been 23 guests. "We have also seen a dramatic increase in the number of women participating in Maureen's Haven."

Last week's grisly discovery marked the third time a body has been found in the North Fork woods in the past three months.

In October, two bodies were found: On October 22, an individual walking in the woods at Inlet Pond County Park alerted the Southold Town Police Department to the badly decomposed body of a man on the property. There was no initial suspicion of foul play.

On October 4, the Riverhead Town Police received a call that the body of Jamie Figueroa, 35, had been found in a wooded area on Union Avenue. A subsequent autopsy determined that Figueroa died from blunt force trauma.

Last year, an investigation by The Independent revealed a growing number of homeless individuals living in the North Fork woods.

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