Belle Terre
Judge orders hearing in Tankleff murder case
Could lead to a new trial or freedom

May 19, 2004, 8:13 PM EDT

It's official: Martin Tankleff will return from an upstate prison for a hearing that will examine whether his conviction for murdering his parents in 1988 should be set aside.

Suffolk County Court Judge Stephen Braslow ordered the hearing, which will probably occur sometime this summer, a week after the Suffolk district attorney's office withdrew its opposition. The hearing could lead to a new trial or even freedom for Tankleff.

The grisly slaying of Seymour and Arlene Tankleff in their Belle Terre home was one of Long Island's most infamous murders. Police say Martin Tankleff, then 17, did it because of numerous slights, including his complaint that he had to drive a "crummy old Lincoln."

But Tankleff has always maintained his innocence and has accused his father's former business partner, Jerry Steuerman, of ordering the killings. Steuerman, who was in debt to Seymour Tankleff, faked his own death and fled to California under an assumed name after the murders. Police never considered him a suspect, and he denied any involvement in the murders.

In legal papers, Tankleff's attorney, Bruce Barket of Garden City, said he has evidence that other people committed the murder at Steuerman's behest.

The district attorney's office has said it is premature to talk about whether it would oppose a new trial. The hearing should take place first, a spokesman said.

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