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wnbc.com, Associated Press
Attorneys: Son Not Guilty In 1988 Murder Of Parents
Lawyers File Motion In LI Court To Vacate Conviction
POSTED: 5:45 p.m. EDT October 2, 2003
UPDATED: 10:09 p.m. EDT October 2, 2003
GARDEN CITY, N.Y. -- Thirteen years after his conviction for murdering his parents, Martin Tankleff's family and his lawyers still believe in his innocence. On Thursday, they were in court to convince the rest of the world.
Attorneys for Tankleff, 32, filed a motion in Suffolk County Court to vacate his conviction in the double homicide, claiming new evidence -- including testimony from the alleged getaway driver -- demonstrated two other men were guilty.
"All through this, he's lived with the feeling that he'd one day be exonerated," said Norman Tankleff, whose brother, Seymour Tankleff, was killed in the 1988 attack. "This, we hope, is the opportunity."
About 20 Tankleff relatives joined him to express their continued support and their hopes that the man they all know as Marty will finally be exonerated in the brutal killings, which shocked the upscale town of Belle Terre.
"There was never any question in our minds," said Martin Tankleff's cousin Ron Falbee.
Tankleff, who was 17 at the time of the slayings, is serving a sentence of 50 years to life.
Arlene Tankleff was bludgeoned to death in her bedroom; her husband, Seymour Tankleff, was viciously stabbed and left to die in his study. Martin Tankleff, getting up for his first day of classes as a high school senior, discovered the bodies and called 911, the court papers said.
Tankleff was taken to the police station and questioned by detectives. He confessed to the crimes under interrogation by the police and was convicted in a high-profile 1990 trial.
But the new filing alleged that Tankleff was lied to and browbeaten by the detectives, who never properly read the teen his Miranda rights. Police falsely told Tankleff that his father had awakened from a coma and named him as the killer, the filing said.
At that point Tankleff wondered aloud if he might have killed his parents while "blacked out."
"It's starting to come to me," he said.
Tankleff later retracted the statement, but it remained the most damning evidence against him.
The papers also said that investigators ignored a lack of physical evidence against the youth and failed to investigate Seymour Tankleff's estranged business partner: The two men were the only people awake in the house after a late-night poker game.
More importantly, the filing said, a new witness located by retired New York police Detective Jay Salpeter acknowledged driving two men to the Tankleff house on the night of the slayings.
Glenn Harris said that he also drove the men away from the home after they had spent about 20 minutes inside and that he later saw one of the pair burn his clothes, according to the filing. Harris is jailed on an unrelated burglary charge.
Another witness said one of those two men, Joseph Creedon, confessed to her that he was one of two men involved in the attack, the court papers said. Tankleff's attorneys said they were unsure where Creedon was living.
The court papers detailed the business dispute between the elder Tankleff and partner Jerry Steuerman. One week after the attacks, Steuerman withdrew money from a joint bank account with Tankleff, shaved his beard, adopted an alias and fled to California, the court papers alleged.
The teenage Tankleff identified Steuerman as a possible suspect, although police ignored his tip, the filing said. Steuerman, testifying at the teen's trial, denied any role in the slayings.
Tankleff has already lost numerous appeals, a point noted by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota.
"Since the defendant's conviction by a Suffolk County jury on June 28, 1990, he has filed approximately 20 applications for relief to state and federal courts, both trial and appellate," Spota said in a three-paragraph statement. "Each application has been denied."
Spota said his office will conduct "a fair and comprehensive investigation of the claims made by Mr. Tankleff's attorneys and then determine the next course of action."
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