Tankleff: Find my parents' real killer


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12:18 AM EST, January 3, 2008

Law enforcement authorities have an obligation now to investigate and bring to justice the real killers of his parents, freed prisoner Martin Tankleff said Thursday in his first news conference since his release.

Reflecting on the nearly two decades of his struggle to establish his innocence in the brutal murders of his parents, Tankleff said he plans to finish college and go to law school to help wrongly convicted prisoners.

"I knew I wasn't the only innocent man in jail," Tankleff, 36, said in the news conference at a Garden City law office. He thanked the lawyers and investigators who worked on his case, resulting in an appellate court's overturning his conviction, and the decision by the Suffolk County district attorney's office not to pursue another trial. "It's just been a long, long fight," Tankleff said. "I never gave up. They never gave up."

Tankleff declined to say whether he would bring a wrongful conviction lawsuit against authorities. And he sidestepped the question of whether he would seek some of the multi-million dollar inheritance that he would have gotten from his parents if he had not been convicted of their deaths.

Asked to specify who he thought killed his parents, Tankleff at first avoided the question, saying, "The facts speak for themselves."

Then, pressed for specifics, he mentioned the names of several suspects whose names were unearthed by private investigators as possible suspects in the murders.

Tankleff pointed to the men his lawyers have held up as alternative suspects -- his father's former business partner, Jerard Steuerman, and two men who, Tanklieff's lawyers say, committed the murders on Steuerman's behalf, Joseph Creedon and Peter Kent.

The charges will be formally dismissed at a Jan. 18 court conference, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said. On that day, Spota said he will take a step he has resisted -- he will ask Gov. Eliot Spitzer to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Tankleff's allegation that hired hitmen carried out the slayings.

Spota cast doubt on that theory, saying it is "just not supported by the credible evidence."

Suffolk police and prosecutors immediately suspected Tankleff of the Sept. 7, 1988, killings of his parents, Seymour, 62, and Arlene, 54, at the family's Belle Terre home. Tricked into believing his father had accused him, Tankleff gave a rambling confession he later refused to sign, and recanted.