Matthew D. Rooney, 22, of East Moriches pleaded not guilty to a single count of second-degree murder and first-degree assault before Judge Ambro on Thursday afternoon and was remanded to the Suffolk County Jail without bail.
He appeared in court with his brother and parents, who all refused to comment to The Press, on the advice of Mr. Rooney’s attorney, Pietrina Reda of Merrick.
Ms. Reda said during the arraignment that her client disputed the allegations against him. She declined to comment further outside the courtroom.
Ms. Newcombe, the lead prosecutor, said that while Mr. Batterson was the one who pulled the trigger, Mr. Rooney was also armed and took part in the robbery, and present at the time of the murder. She said the two were friends, but would not comment further on their relationship.
Both Mr. Batterson and Mr. Rooney admitted to others that they were involved in the incident, Ms. Newcombe said during both of Thursday’s arraignments.
Both defendants face 25 years to life in prison if convicted of the crimes.
A second defendant was expected to be arraigned in the murder case, according to officials.
Judge Ambro was scheduled to arraign Matthew Rooney at 2 p.m. Officials did not disclose his age or address or speak to his role in the home invasion and murder.
Accompanied by an attorney, Mr. Rooney surrendered Thursday morning at the courthouse, at the request of Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.
A 22-year-old East Moriches man pleaded not guilty to felony murder and assault charges on Thursday in a Riverhead courtroom, close to two weeks after he was arrested and charged with shooting a father of four in the face during a botched burglary attempt in Eastport in December.
Paul Batterson Jr. appeared in Suffolk County Criminal Court before Judge Richard Ambro dressed in a suit, his hands handcuffed behind his back, but spoke only briefly.
Judge Ambro remanded Mr. Batterson to the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside without bail, citing the “brutal” charges against him, despite statements from defense attorney Ed Burke Jr. that his client denied all involvement with the fatal shooting that also injured the victim’s uncle. Mr. Burke also noted that his client has no prior criminal history.
Mr. Burke noted that Mr. Batterson lived with his parents and worked as a carpenter and window washer prior to his arrest earlier this month.
“He knows the gravity and severity of the charges against him,” the attorney said, of his client.
Mr. Batterson pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree assault on Thursday morning. If convicted, he could face up to 25 years to life in prison, according to Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe, the lead prosecutor.
Ms. Newcombe said during the court proceeding that Mr. Batterson and an accomplice, who is still being sought by Suffolk County Police, yelled outside the home on East Moriches Boulevard in Eastport on December 8 at roughly 3:30 a.m. before shooting through the windows and doors.
The two men then kicked down the door and demanded money from the residents, including Francisco Pirir Canel, 45, who said he had no money and threatened to call police, Ms. Newcombe said. Mr. Batterson then shot Mr. Pirir in the face, killing him almost instantly, she said.
Mr. Pirir’s uncle, Cipriano Pirir Patzan, 56, also lived at the home and suffered a hand injury from a shotgun blast, police said. Both men were natives of Guatemala, where Mr. Pirir’s four children and wife live.
Ms. Newcombe explained that Mr. Batterson made admissions to others about his involvement in the crime, and after obtaining a warrant, Suffolk County Police recovered the alleged murder weapon, a shotgun, as well as other “items consistent with evidence at the scene” in his East Moriches home.
Outside the courtroom, Ms. Newcombe declined to comment on the other evidence police recovered from Mr. Batterson’s home.
Roughly two dozen friends and members of Mr. Batterson’s family filled half the courtroom and appeared teary eyed after the hearing, though all declined to comment.
Mr. Burke said their support at the courthouse “speaks volumes” about his client’s character.