A Child’s Remains Are Found in a Backyard on Long Island

A routine visit by child welfare authorities on Long Island led to a multicounty search for a boy who was mysteriously absent, an Amber Alert for one of the boy’s half-brothers and the discovery of a small body in a shallow grave in the backyard of the family’s home, the police said Saturday.

The chain of events began Wednesday, Major Patrick Regan of the New York State Police said. Representatives of Suffolk County Child Protective Services visited the home of Robert Rodriguez and Heather Kowalczik in Farmingdale to check on their 6-year-old son, Alex, who is autistic.

At some point, Major Regan said, Ms. Kowalczik mentioned that she had three children, Alex; Robbie, 9; and Justin, 3. However, Major Regan said, the child welfare agents could account for only two boys, Alex and Robbie.

Ms. Kowalczik told the investigators that Justin was with relatives in Orange County, where the family used to live, Major Regan said. The Suffolk child welfare authorities then contacted their counterparts in Middletown, N.Y. An agent in Middletown called the State Police there, who contacted troopers on Long Island, Major Regan said.

When the State Police spoke with Ms. Kowalczik, she made statements that prompted them to begin digging in the backyard of the two-story cream-color house on Hallock Road.

Then on Friday, the police became alarmed when Robbie did not show up for school. They issued an Amber Alert and eventually found the child with his father, Mr. Rodriguez.

After digging near a corrugated metal fence at the edge of the yard, the authorities found the remains, buried in a grave no more than 3 feet deep. The police said they believed that the body had been there since July 2010.
The police also said they believed that the body was Justin’s, and were investigating the case as a homicide. The medical examiner’s office was to determine the cause of death.

On Saturday neighbors gathered near the house, where a statue of the Virgin Mary stood in the front yard, which was cordoned off by yellow police tape.

One of the neighbors, Michele Peavey, 49, said that Ms. Kowalczik came to her house crying on Friday morning. Ms. Peavey’s husband, Jimmy, 53, said that Ms. Kowalczik seemed unusually burdened and that he thought that she was on the verge of confiding something, but then left.

“She said, ‘See you later,’ but she never came back to our house,” he said.

Ms. Peavey said that Alex had been in a hospital for a few weeks. The Peaveys said they had never seen a third child.

“There was never a baby here,” Louie Lancia, who owns the house, said. “All of the outside of my house, I have a landscaper come every week. How could they not see anything?”

Mr. Lancia said he saw Mr. Rodriguez once a month when either he or his wife came to the house to collect the rent, $1,300 a month.

The State Police said Mr. Rodriguez was a salesman at P.C. Richard in Greenvale. Ms. Kowalczik worked at a pizzeria in Farmingdale, neighbors said.

On Friday night, Major Regan said, Mr. Rodriguez was brought to a State Police station in Farmingdale for questioning. He was accompanied by a lawyer, Major Regan added, and declined to answer questions. Investigators planned to speak further with Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Kowalczik.

“We believe that both of them have a lot of information,” he said.


This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 7, 2012

An earlier version of this article and a photo caption stated that the police found the remains of a small body on Saturday. It is not clear when they were found.

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Detective Thought Man He Fatally Shot Had Gun, Lawyer Says

Detective Hassan Hamdy made the split-second decision to fire a single fatal shot at an unarmed motorist during an early morning traffic stop on a highway in Queens because he thought the driver was reaching for a gun, according to the detective’s lawyer.

The driver, Noel Polanco, 22, did not comply with Detective Hamdy’s orders to put his hands up, instead reaching “down in a quick motion, down on the floor of the car,” said the lawyer representing the detective, Philip Karasyk.

Detective Hamdy twice yelled “Police!” and was wearing a heavy vest with the word “police” written across it, Mr. Karasyk said. “At that point my guy fires, thinking he has a gun,” Mr. Karasyk said in an interview Saturday night. “If this guy had kept his hands up or on the wheel, we wouldn’t be here. Had not for this person reaching down, lunging for the floor and not complying with orders to show his hands, we wouldn’t be here. All he had to do was show the officer his hands and this tragedy would not have occurred.”

No weapon was found in the car. A small power drill was found on the floor of the driver’s side, the police said.

A front-seat passenger in Mr. Polanco’s car, however, has disputed Mr. Karasyk’s account, told to him by the detective. The passenger, Diane Deferrari, told investigators that Mr. Polanco had no time to comply with orders to put his hands up. He still had his hands on the steering wheel when he was shot in the abdomen area, said Ms. Deferrari, who characterized the shooting as police road rage.

On Saturday morning, Mr. Polanco’s mother, Cecilia Reyes, made a tearful plea for a full and thorough inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the shooting of her son.

“I’m not going to give up until I get justice,” Ms. Reyes told a crowd of a few hundred at the offices of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in Harlem. “I want justice. I want no cover-up; I want answers,” she said as Mr. Sharpton stood alongside her.

Mr. Polanco was driving on the Grand Central Parkway just after 5 a.m. on Thursday when he was pulled over by uniformed members of the Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit, who were riding in unmarked vans. They said that he had twice cut them off.

Mr. Karasyk said officers activated lights and sirens and yelled at Mr. Polanco to pull over, but he sped up and continued driving, which escalated the officers’ level of alertness.

“He was a danger to other motorists on the road,” Mr. Karasyk said. “A reasonable person doesn’t refuse to pull over in response to a police vehicle flashing lights and sirens. They actually had to box him in and pull him over.”

The officers were on their way to execute a warrant in Brooklyn. Ms. Deferrari said the officers rushed toward the car “like an army.” A second passenger, an off-duty police officer named Vanessa Rodriguez, was asleep in the back seat, police said.

On Friday evening, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly visited Ms. Reyes at her Corona home to express condolences.

Mr. Sharpton said on Saturday morning that he and others supported her call for a full investigation and an explanation of what happened. “This is about what is right and what is fair,” he said. “For unarmed innocent people to be killed is wrong, and it has got to stop.”

Wearing a black T-shirt bearing a likeness of Mr. Polanco, Ms. Reyes paused several times to wipe her eyes, while telling the crowd that her son, an Army reservist, had wanted to become a police officer. “We want to believe in the law,” she said. “We don’t want to have to be afraid of the law.”

Toxicology tests, administered after the shooting, showed no drugs or alcohol in Detective Hamdy’s system, the police said.

“He is a squared-away guy,” Mr. Karasyk said. “He doesn’t drink. He takes no drugs. He is on no medications whatsoever.”

Chistopher Maag contributed reporting.

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Body of Child Found in Yard of Long Island Home

A routine visit by child welfare authorities on Long Island touched off a multi-county search for a boy who was mysteriously absent, an amber alert for one of the boy’s brothers and finally to the discovery early Saturday of a small body in a shallow grave in the backyard of the family’s home, the police said.

The chain of events that led eventually to the remains began on Wednesday, according to Major Patrick Regan of the state police. Representatives of Suffolk County Child Protective Services visited the home of Robert Rodriguez and Heather Kowalczik in Farmingdale to look into the welfare of their 6-year-old son Alex, who is autistic.

At some point, Major Regan said, Ms. Kowalczik mentioned that she had three children, Alex, Robbie, who is 9, and Justin, who is 3. However, Major Regan said, the child welfare authorities could account for only two of the boys, Alex and Robbie.

Ms. Kowalczik told the investigators that Justin was with relatives in Orange County, where the family used to live, Major Regan said. The Suffolk child welfare authorities then contacted their counterparts in Middletown, N.Y. An agent in Middletown then called the state police there, who in turn contacted troopers on Long Island, Major Regan said.

The state police asked Ms. Kowalczik to speak with them and she made statements that prompted them to begin digging in the backyard of the two-story cream colored house on Hallock Road.

Then on Friday, the police became alarmed when Robbie did not show up for school. They circulated an amber alert and eventually found the child with his father, Mr. Rodriguez, who had left the home.

On Saturday, near a corrugated metal fence at the edge of the yard, the authorities found the remains, buried in a grave no more than 3 feet deep. The police believe that the body had been there since July 2010.

The police also said they believed that the body was Justin’s, and were investigating the case as a homicide. The medical examiner’s office was to determine the cause of death.

On Saturday neighbors gathered near the house, where a statue of the Virgin Mary stood in a front yard cordoned off by yellow police tape.

One of them, Michele Peavey, 49, said that Ms. Kowalczik came over to her house crying on Friday morning. Her husband, Jimmy Peavey, 53, said that Ms. Kowalczik seemed unusually burdened and that he thought that she was on the verge of confiding something, but then left.

“She said ‘see you later’ but she never came back to our house,” he said.

Ms. Peavey said that Alex has been in a hospital for a few weeks. The Peaveys said they had never seen a third child.

“There was never a baby here,” said Louie Lancia, who owns the house. “All of the outside of my house, I have a landscaper come every week. How could they not see anything?”

Mr. Lancia said he saw Mr. Rodriguez once a month when either he or his wife came to the house to collect the rent, $1,300 a month.

The state police said that Mr. Rodriquez was a salesman for a PC Richard store in Greenvale. Ms. Kowalczik worked at a pizzeria in Farmingdale, neighbors said.

On Friday night, Major Regan said, Mr. Rodriguez was brought to a state police station in Farmingdale for questioning. He was accompanied by a lawyer, Major Regan added and declined to answer questions. Investigators planned to speak further with Mr. Rodriguez and Ms. Kowalczik.

“We believe that both of them have a lot of information,” he said on Saturday. “We’re treating this as a suspicious death.”

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Mother of Man Killed by Police: ‘I Want No Cover-Up; I Want Answers’

Detective Hassan Hamdy made the split-second decision to fire a single fatal shot at an unarmed motorist during an early morning traffic stop on a highway in Queens because he thought the driver was reaching for a gun, according to the detective’s lawyer.

The driver, Noel Polanco, 22, did not comply with Detective Hamdy’s orders to put his hands up, instead reaching “down in a quick motion, down on the floor of the car,” said lawyer Philip Karasyk, representing the detective.

Detective Hamdy twice yelled “Police!” and was wearing a heavy vest with the word “police” written across it, Mr. Karasyk said. “At that point my guy fires, thinking he has a gun,” Mr. Karasyk said in an interview Saturday night. “If this guy had kept his hands up or on the wheel, we wouldn’t be here. Had not for this person reaching down, lunging for the floor and not complying with orders to show his hands, we wouldn’t be here. All he had to do was show the officer his hands and this tragedy would not have occurred.”

No weapon was found in the car. A small power drill was found on the floor of the driver’s side, police said.

A front-seat passenger in Mr. Polanco’s car, however, has refuted Mr. Karasyk’s account, told to him by the detective. The passenger, Diane Deferrari, told investigators that Mr. Polanco had no time to comply with orders to put his hands up. He still had his hands on the steering wheel when he was shot in the abdomen area, according to Ms. Deferrari, who characterized the shooting as police road rage.

On Saturday morning, Mr. Polanco’s mother, Cecilia Reyes, made a tearful plea for a full and thorough inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the shooting of her son.
“I’m not going to give up until I get justice,” Ms. Reyes told a crowd of a few hundred at the offices of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in Harlem. “I want justice. I want no cover up; I want answers,” she said as Mr. Sharpton stood alongside her.

Mr. Polanco was driving on the Grand Central Parkway just after 5 a.m. on Thursday when he was pulled over by uniformed members of the Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit, who were riding in unmarked vans. They said that he had twice cut them off.

Mr. Karasyk said officers activated lights and sirens and yelled at Mr. Polanco to pull over, but he sped up and continued driving, which escalated the officers’ level of alertness.

“He was a danger to other motorists on the road,” Mr. Karasyk said. “A reasonable person doesn’t refuse to pull over in response to a police vehicle flashing lights and sirens. They actually had to box him in and pull him over.”

The officers were on their way to execute a warrant in Brooklyn. Ms. Deferrari said the officers rushed toward the car “like an army.” A second passenger, an off-duty police officer named Vanessa Rodriguez, was asleep in the back seat, police said.

On Friday evening, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly visited Ms. Reyes at her Corona home to express condolences.

Mr. Sharpton said on Saturday morning that he and others supported her call for a full investigation and an explanation of what happened. “This is about what is right and what is fair,” he said. “For unarmed innocent people to be killed is wrong, and it has got to stop.”

Wearing a black T-shirt bearing a likeness of Mr. Polanco, Ms. Reyes paused several times to wipe her eyes, while telling the crowd that her son, an Army reservist, had wanted to become a police officer. “We want to believe in the law,” she said. “We don’t want to have to be afraid of the law.”

Toxicology tests, administered after the shooting, showed no drugs or alcohol in Detective Hamdy’s system, police said.

“He is a squared-away guy. He doesn’t drink. He takes no drugs. He is on no medications whatsoever,” Mr. Karasyk said.

Chistopher Maag contributed reporting.

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