Seymour Tankleff Dies of Injuries
By Kinsey Wilson
Staff Writer

October 8, 1988

After lying in a coma for a month, Seymour Tankleff died at Stony Brook's University Hospital Thursday night, succumbing to injuries from a brutal attack in his Belle Terre home in which his son has been charged.

Prosecutors yesterday said they would ask a Suffolk County grand jury to file a second set of murder charges against Tankleff's adopted son, Martin, who was arrested Sept. 7, less than 12 hours after he called police to report an attack on his parents.

The 17-year-old youth has been charged with the murder of his mother, Arlene Tankleff, who was found with her throat slashed on the bedroom floor, and the attempted murder and assault of his father, who was found lying in the family den bleeding profusely from the neck. The attacks occurred after 3 a.m. following a weekly poker game at the home, which was attended by several friends and business associates.

Martin Tankleff has pleaded not guilty and is being held in the Suffolk County Jail in lieu of $500,000 cash bail or $1 million bond.

Martin Tankleff's lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, said he visited the youth early yesterday morning to inform him of his father's death before Tankleff could learn of it through the media. "He was devastated," Gottlieb said.

Family members have been attempting to raise bail for Tankleff, but have had difficulty because they have not had access to the parents' sizable estate, Gottlieb said.

If bail cannot be raised in the next day or two, Gottlieb said he would ask the court to free Tankleff long enough to attend his father's funeral. Tankleff was allowed to attend his mother's funeral Sept. 10 under police guard, a request prosecutors did not oppose.

Funeral arrangements for Seymour Tankleff had not been completed yesterday.

John Williams, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, declined to say yesterday whether prosecutors would oppose an application to attend the funeral, or whether they would seek higher bail if, as expected, the grand jury files additional murder charges.

Gottlieb, however, said he did not believe the upgraded charges should result in a higher bail. "There are the same doubts about the case today as there were before Mr. Tankleff's death," he said. Those doubts, Gottlieb said, have been heightened by the authorities' failure to turn over to the defense the results of forensic tests conducted after the attacks. Gottlieb said prosecutors have repeatedly told him there is a "backlog at the lab" and that test results have not been completed.

He said he mailed a letter to District Attorney Patrick Henry yesterday demanding immediate access to the evidence. "I don't accept the cavalier remark that there is a backlog," Gottlieb said. "I don't care whose fault it is, a backlog is not an excuse for not obtaining forensic reports in a murder case."

Gottlieb said he was concerned that the delay might prevent defense lawyers from performing their own tests on the evidence.

Williams said he did not know whether there had been a delay but said Gottlieb "will get everything he's entitled to," including evidence gathered in the case.

Hospital officials said Tankleff died of cardiac arrest. Deputy Medical Examiner Vernard Adams said the death was a result of the injuries Tankleff received in the Sept. 7 beating. He declined to discuss specific autopsy findings, saying the death was still under criminal investigation. Tankleff died at 9 p.m. Thursday.

Tankleff, 62, founded Tankleff Associates, an insurance agency, about 30 years ago, eventually moving the business from Hempstead to Port Jefferson Station. He sold the agency in 1985, in part due to health problems, but remained active in community and business affairs, serving as Belle Terre's commissioner of the constabulary and investing in a variety of private ventures. In addition to his son, he had a daughter by a previous marriage, Shari Rother.

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