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September 02, 2009

Murder in Speonk Shocks Residents



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On a sunny morning this week, Nidzyn Avenue in Speonk appeared as it usually does: An immaculate street comprised of well-maintained homes, only steps away from tony Remsenburg, where mothers wheel their infants in strollers, joggers and bikers wave in greeting, and the laughter of children playing outside mingles with the sounds of birds singing.

One house, located at 3 Nidzyn Avenue, blends in with the bucolic landscape, with children's bicycles dotting the yard outside.

There is nothing to indicate that only days earlier, it was the site of a grisly discovery.

The Suffolk County Police Department is investigating the murder of Wisner Alvarado, 26, who was found dead Thursday in the side yard of the house he lived in -- an apartment house with several families living there.

Early morning serenity was shattered when Southampton Town Police were called at 7:50 AM, after Alvarado was found. Sources said he had been badly beaten.

In Speonk and the surrounding communities, residents were shocked by the news.

"Did you hear about the murder?" The question reverberated in the post office, at the deli, at dinner parties and in all the other hotspots of Small Town USA as rumors swirled about an event that shook a community to its core. "These kinds of things just don't happen here," said one horrified resident.

Although police are still investigating, stories are spreading about how Alvarado, who was born in Guatemala, was murdered. While it's been speculated that an argument led to his death, some have questioned whether the crime may have been gang related. There has also been talk that the murder was the result of a fight over money between Alvarado and an acquaintance.

"We keep all our options open," said Detective Sergeant Tom Gronnerman of the SCPD. Gang activity, he said, "hasn't been ruled out."

Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, said despite rumors, he has heard nothing to indicate the crime might have had gang origins. If gang activity does emerge as a cause of the murder, it will be the second time in recent months that it has been linked to an East End crime – earlier this summer, a 15 year-old Greenport resident was found murdered after what was rumored to be an alleged gang incident in Southold.

Despite the nature of the crime, residents in the area remain calm – and express sympathy for their neighbor.

An elderly resident, who lives on the ground floor of the house where Alvarado lived – the house has been divided into a number of apartments which years ago housed Air Base employees – said he was not at home when the body was discovered.

The subsequent investigation, which kept the street closed from early morning until well into the night, kept the gentleman "locked out for the whole day" as police combed the crime scene for evidence.

The gentleman, who asked to remain anonymous, said his fellow residents, families of Latinos, "are very nice people. They're church going; they have children. They keep an eye on me, because I'm disabled – they bring me food, and make sure I'm okay. I'm surprised something like this happened. They are really wonderful people."

Three families, he said, live in the house. But despite the violent crime, he is unafraid. "I'm more surprised than scared. This is an isolated incident. It has nothing to do with the rest of the house. These are all wonderful people. There are no problems. It must have been something that got out of hand."

Joan Miezianka, who has lived on Nidzyn for 50 years, expressed sympathy for Alvarado. "It's very unfair that something like this happened to him." Residents of the house, which used to be owned by her grandfather, are "all very good. There are never any parties. They're very quiet." "This is a very nice street. There are lots of kids on the block; they can ride their bicycles. Most of the people here know each other."

Alvarado, who worked as a landscaper for Mike Czaplick & Sons in Westhampton, was remembered by his employer, Andy Czaplick, as a quiet man who worked for him for a number of years. "I can't tell you much about him. He was nice. He kept mostly to himself. He was a good worker."

Sister Margaret Smythe of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate said the victim's brother, Flanders resident, Ovido Alvarado and his two sisters, are left broken-hearted. "It's a terrible tragedy."

Alvarado, she said, left behind a wife and two small children in his native country.

His body will be flown home for burial.

Alvarado's family, said Smythe, "are devastated."

lfinn@indyeastend.com

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