November 03, 2010

Halloween Horror In Hampton Bays

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A Halloween party at a Hampton Bays nightclub turned deadly on Friday when masked revelry and a dispute over a costume contest led to murder, leaving one innocent bystander, a beloved figure in the community, dead.

Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad detectives are investigating a shooting at the Dream Night Club, located at 17 Canal Road in Hampton Bays. According to reports, the incident occurred at approximately 3:47 AM, leaving 64-year-old Riverhead resident and part-time bouncer and bodyguard Carlo Petrusa dead and a second victim, Shawn Badgett, 35, of Middle Island, injured.

Police responded to multiple calls reporting a large fight that allegedly broke out at the club. According to Southampton Town Police, who responded along with state police, tempers flared between two Halloween costume party contestants, one of whom was dressed as a cave woman.

The altercation allegedly heated up inside the club and continued outside. One subject, who participated in the fight but wasn't a contestant, allegedly ran into the parking lot, retrieved a handgun, and approached the entrance, firing the weapon.

The shooter and the contestants originally involved in the brawl fled the scene before police arrived. The gunman was identified as wearing a ghoulish costume from the film Dead Presidents.

Petrusa, of 525 Riverleigh Avenue in Riverhead, who has worked as a bodyguard for celebs including Lizzie Grubman, was transported by Hampton Bays Ambulance to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Center in East Patchogue and treated for critical injuries. He was pronounced dead later in the day. Although he worked at the club as a bouncer, he was there as a civilian on the fateful night.

Badgett was transported by friends to Stony Brook University Medical Center for treatment of his injuries and was later released. Badgett, the party promoter for the event, was also one of the suspected drug dealers busted in a huge heroin sweep earlier this year. In May, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota announced the arrest of 20 involved in a $3 million heroin ring responsible for selling the deadly drug on the East End and elsewhere. In Badgett's Coram home, detectives said they found thousands of dollars in cash and multiple wax paper bags of heroin.

Dream Night Club is owned by Frank and Maria Vlahadamis. This is not the first time deadly fights have occurred at a Vlahadamis family business -- Riverhead resident Calvin Butts was fatally stabbed on Memorial Day, 2009, at the Hampton Bays Diner, which they also own. The incident happened outside the diner -- those involved were not patrons, the owners maintain. The town and the Vlahadamis family have sparred over the late night use of the diner , which includes loud music and crowds. The Vlahadamis family initiated legal proceedings against the town, saying they had been unfairly targeted because many of the late night patrons were Latinos.

Petrusa's death was personal to the Vlahadamis clan – he was considered family. On Sunday, Maria Vlahadamis, numb with grief, discussed the family member called "Uncle Carl."

Vlahadamis knew Petrusa for 23 years; her children adored him and her husband and he shared a close bond. "He was a fixture in this diner. That first booth over there was his seat."

Petrusa, she said, "was always there for you."

Her husband, said Vlahadamis, had spent the past months renovating Petrusa's new home in Riverhead – a home she helped him to decorate.

Having worked as a court officer for over 20 years, Petrusa was well-loved and admired, she said. "He knew everyone – and everyone knew him."

Speaking of Friday night's events, Vlahadamis is tearful. "It was totally senseless. These people have no souls. How could you pull out a gun and shoot somebody in the back?"

Losing the man they loved so suddenly has made the experience even more traumatic.

Vlahadamis first heard of the shooting when her husband called. Although Petrusa "was alert to the very end," he died in the hospital.

But Vlahadamis didn't know at first that he was gone -- she thought he was in recovery. "They didn't want to tell me anything on the phone."

Despite a valiant five hour attempt to save him, there was too much damage to his arteries and blood loss was too extensive. "There was nothing they could do."

Both Vlahadamis and her son broke down. "My son started screaming. It was horrible. He was here one minute and gone the next."

Vlahadamis had a collection of stuffed animals that he would give to children who might not be lucky when playing "the claw" game at the diner.

"He never missed one of my children's birthdays or a holiday," she said.

Petrusa died only days after his own birthday. And life without him, she said, will never be the same. "We were his family."

Diner waitresses such as Diandra, who was very close to Petrusa, were bereft. Diandra was at the club the night Petrusa died, and held his hand until the ambulance came. "He was wonderful, and I loved him," she said, crying.

Vlahadamis said they had to tear Diandra away from Petrusa to put him in the ambulance.

Despite naysayers who questioned why the club was open Friday night, Vlahadamis set the record straight, explaining the plan was to close, but friends clamored to gather there that night "in his memory."

Vlahadamis said Petrusa loved his new home and was looking for ward to enjoying it: "He said, 'This will be my last place before I die.' But he didn't expect to die tomorrow."

Others were shocked to hear of Petrusa's death. "He was a good guy," said Southampton Town Police Lieutenant Robert Iberger, adding Petrusa was an expert as spotting fake IDs. "He was a very good friend to the Southampton Town Police Department, and to law enforcement in general."

A posting on Dream's Facebook page announced Friday's gathering. "We are celebrating the life of our beloved uncle Carl tonight @ Dream. We love you and will miss you forever."

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