Nearby residents agree with Tankleff trial ruling

BY MATTHEW This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

December 22, 2007

Echoing a unanimous appellate court ruling, a half-dozen people approached Friday in Belle Terre and Port Jefferson said they too were convinced that Martin Tankleff, at the very least, deserved a new trial.

Many wondered why the court system took so long in the face of what they said was overwhelming evidence that casts doubt on whether Tankleff killed his parents.

"It's about time," said Heather Bennett, adding that before his arrest the young man often baked cookies at her house with her daughter, Tankleff's high school classmate. "I was here. I didn't think Marty could have done it. He wasn't that kind of kid."

Bennett, who lives several waterfront houses down from the crime scene on Seaside Drive in Belle Terre, said she was glued to news reports during the sensational trial more than 15 years ago. Now that she's retired, Bennett said, she hopes to be able to attend in person Tankleff's new trial.

Others in the community said the actions of the elder Tankleff's business partner, Jerry Steuerman, should be scrutinized. Tankleff blamed Steuerman for the murders, but Tankleff confessed and immediately recanted. Steuerman has denied any involvement.

"I feel in my heart that this 17-year-old kid could not murder his parents," said Angela Viscardi-Glover, a 38-year-old chemist from Port Jefferson.

Harriet Lasser, 76, also of Port Jefferson, was critical of the way Suffolk police interrogated Tankleff, adding that she was deeply suspicious of the victim's business partner, noting how Steuerman fled in the aftermath of the murders. Steuerman has said he left the area because of stress and family reasons.

"He disappeared for a while," Lasser said. "Duh."