Arraignments bring family ‘sense of relief’


| tcimino@queenscourier.com |


Sketch courtesy of NYPD

Police have released a sketch of a suspect wanted in the attempted sexual assault of a woman in Elmhust.

It will never bring back a beloved son, brother and uncle, but the Antoniello family finally has “a sense of relief” knowing that the men who killed Gerardo nearly two years ago will be brought to justice.

Francis LaCorte, 29, and Vincent Mineo, 29, both of Ozone Park, have been arraigned in connection with three home robberies – one of which resulted in the tragic death of Gerardo “Jerry” as he tried to defend his family and his home.

“According to the charges, the defendants orchestrated, planned and executed three separate home robberies, one of which culminated in the untimely death of a young man who bravely went to his father’s aid during one of the robberies,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “These crimes are one more shocking example of mindless violence that takes innocent lives and recklessly endangers public safety. The charges against the defendants will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

According to Brown, the men are charged in a 22-count indictment — two counts of second-degree murder, three counts of first-degree attempted robbery, two counts of first-degree attempted burglary, three counts of second-degree attempted burglary, two counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of first-degree burglary, two count of second-degree burglary and six counts of fourth-degree conspiracy. If convicted, they each face up to 80 years to life in prison.

Antoniello, 29, was killed on September 9, 2009 trying to protect his family during a push-in robbery at their home on 95th Street and North Conduit Avenue in Ozone Park.

Reportedly, a woman working with the two male suspects had attempted to gain entry into the home by asking for directions, but Gerardo and his mother, Gaetana, 58, refused to open the door.

When Romeo Antoniello arrived at the home, the two masked men tried to rob him of the cash he had allegedly been carrying after closing the family’s pizzeria, Romeo’s on Cross Bay Boulevard, for the night.

After hitting the older, ailing man in the head, the perpetrators then proceeded to push their way into the residence, cops said, where Gerardo, who had just celebrated a birthday in late August, tried to defend his home and family. One round was fired, hitting Gerardo in the head. He was taken to Jamaica Hospital in critical condition, where he died early Thursday morning, September 10.

The DA said that Mineo and LaCorte met between September 5 and September 9, 2009, to discuss and plan the home robbery turned fatal. They identified the Antoniello home and provided certain accomplices with items that would be used during the robbery – including duct tape and a loaded firearm.

“I was shocked,” said Jerry’s older brother, Angelo. “I didn’t know these guys were from the neighborhood.”

Angelo told The Courier that the family is still reeling from the tragedy.

“Even hearing the news [of the arraignment] was rough,” he said. “It’s still very rough on my mom. She wants to know why. She spent Mother’s Day crying.

“My nieces and nephews are keeping his memory alive through good stories, but he’s not going to be here. It’s never going to be the same.”

Angelo expressed deep gratitude to the NYPD for their hard work in solving the case and bringing the family a sense of justice, but he also had a message for the suspects.

“One thing I would love to know is how their parents feel,” he said.

In December of 2009, Jason Burrell, 39, of Brooklyn, and Rashod Cowan, 32, of the Bronx, were arrested and charged with murder in connection with Jerry’s death. Ordered held without bail, their next court date is May 17.

Since the tragedy, the family put their home and business up for sale. The patriarch, Romeo, also passed away.

The DA also noted that Mineo and Lacorte “conspired with others to commit the armed robbery of two other Queens residences, which were not identified in the indictment” between August 6, and September 5, 2009. In both instances the occupants were restrained and robbed of cash and personal property at gunpoint.

Mineo, said the DA, remains incarcerated. His bail was set at $2.5 million (secured bond) or $1 million cash, pending a bail sufficiency hearing. Lacorte was arraigned and ordered held without bail. Both suspects are due back in court on August 26.

Repeated calls to attorneys for both suspects went unanswered as of press time.