New York Times
Published: December 20, 2005
Youth Says Father Admitted Killing L.I. Couple in 1988

RIVERHEAD, N.Y., Dec. 19 - A young man testified in court here on Monday that his father admitted killing a Long Island couple in 1988 and then bribing a police detective with $100,000 to avoid prosecution.

The testimony was a major development in an appeal brought by Martin H. Tankleff, who in 1990 was convicted of murdering the couple, Seymour and Arlene Tankleff, his parents. Mr. Tankleff claims that the real culprits were his father's embittered business partner and a team of three former convicts.

The young man, Joseph Guarascio, 17, is the son of Joseph Creedon, one of the former convicts. Based on an earlier affidavit filed in the case, the young man had been expected to implicate his father, quoting his description of the killings and naming three accomplices.

But the claim of bribing the lead detective in the case, K. James McCready of the Suffolk police, was a new twist.

Mr. Guarascio testified about his father in Suffolk County Court, saying, "He told me that him and McCready were friends, and he had paid him $100,000 to keep his name out of it."

Mr. McCready, now retired, has denied wrongdoing. In a telephone interview Monday night, he scoffed at the charge. "I've been asking everyone, where's my $100,000?" he said. Referring to Mr. Creedon, he said: "I never even met that man, and I've never taken a bribe in my life. That's the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard."

Mr. McCready arrested Mr. Tankleff, now 34, on the day of the attacks, based on a confession that he disavowed and never signed. Mr. Tankleff's relatives criticized the detective for not investigating Jerard Steuerman, who was Seymour Tankleff's partner in a chain of bagel stores.

The partners argued over control of their stores and demands that Mr. Steuerman repay the elder Tankleff $500,000.

The night of the attacks, Mr. Steuerman was in the Tankleffs' waterfront home in Belle Terre, on the North Shore, for a late poker game. According to Mr. Guarascio, Mr. Creedon said Mr. Steuerman waited until the other players left, then signaled Mr. Creedon and another ex-convict, Peter Kent, who were waiting outside, to enter and kill the Tankleffs, while their getaway driver waited. A third former convict, Glenn Harris, has admitted being the getaway driver.

The Tankleffs were discovered the next morning, bludgeoned and slashed. Mrs. Tankleff was dead; Mr. Tankleff died later in the hospital.

Mr. Kent and Mr. Steuerman denied in court that they were involved. In testimony during Mr. Tankleff's appeal, Mr. Creedon denied guilt, but five other witnesses said he told them that he was involved at the scene.

Mr. Creedon's lawyer, Anthony LaPinta, has suggested in an interview that Mr. Guarascio was being manipulated by his mother, Theresa Covias, who separated from Mr. Creedon many years ago. Mr. Guarascio had not seen his father for nearly a decade, until 2004, when the son says his father confessed.

On Monday, the Suffolk prosecutor opposing Mr. Tankleff's appeal, Leonard Lato, asked Mr. Guarascio, "Are you trying to get your father?"

"No," the young man replied.

Mr. Lato also asked whether "Marty Tankleff was buying and you were selling" his story. Judge Stephen Braslow ordered the question stricken from the record.

Later, in a hallway news conference, Mr. Guarascio denied being rewarded for his testimony. He said he was motivated by justice and expressed sympathy for Mr. Tankleff, who was arrested at 17, "the same age I am." He added, "I'm doing the right thing."

Mr. Guarascio acknowledged having been in a program for troubled juveniles and said he was looking forward to his high school graduation in May.

After his parents separated when he was a youngster, Mr. Guarascio was estranged from his father until 2004, when they reunited in two visits. Though he was eager to meet his father, Mr. Guarascio said he became terrified as his father showed him guns, handcuffs, shackles and a safe full of cash and jewelry and described the murders.

He testified that his father told him that "the only thing that kept him from killing my mom and my stepdad was it would traumatize me." Then Mr. Guarascio's voice quavered as he said: "I was frightened, very frightened. I still am."

After testifying, he went to a side room, where members of the Tankleff family hugged and kissed him and his mother. "Thank you, and Merry Christmas," said a cousin of Martin Tankleff, Ronald Falbee.

The lawyers will file additional briefs, and Judge Braslow has reserved decision.