Volume 73, Number 37 | January 14 - 20, 2004


Police Blotter

Second crèche theft
The figure of the infant Jesus was stolen from the Nativity scene in front of the rectory of Most Precious Blood Church, 109 Mulberry St., on the night of Jan. 6, according to the pastor, Father Fabian Grifone. The Nativity scene was installed two weeks before Christmas and is usually taken down by Epiphany, Jan. 6, but the cold weather delayed the removal, according to Rev. Grifone. All the figures in the scene were imported from Italy two years ago. Police are investigating.

The theft was the second from a Downtown crèche this season. The baby Jesus figure was stolen from the Nativity display outside St. Anthony of Padua Church on W. Houston St. between Sullivan and Thompson Sts., sometime on the morning of New Year’s Eve.

Missing actor-writer
Spalding Gray, 62, the performer and writer who starred in “Swimming to Cambodia,” was reported missing from his home on Wooster St. in Soho following his return home from a movie with his wife and their two children on Saturday night Jan. 10.

Severely depressed since June 2001 when he suffered head injuries in an auto accident in Ireland, Gray made two suicide attempts in 2002 near his home in the Hamptons.

His wife and manager, Kathleen Russo, reported the disappearance to the First Precinct on Sunday night, Jan. 11. Gray left no note at his Soho or Hamptons homes or at the Wooster Group, the experimental theater he helped organize in 1977 at the Performing Garage, a block north of his home.

“We last saw him at a performance in December,” said Joel Bassin, manager of the Wooster Group.

Hit-run death
Peter Hornbeck, 26, the bakery manager at Bazzini’s Gourmet outlet in Tribeca, was killed in a hit-and-run auto accident on the Upper East Side on Saturday night Jan.10.

Hornbeck’s body was dragged underneath the car for a block, police said. The driver, Gurpreet Oberoi, 26, of Queens, abandoned the car a few blocks from the accident scene and took a bus to Atlantic City for a gambling spree, according to police.

Two friends who were in the car at the time of the accident fled, but called police after Oberoi phoned them from Atlantic City the following day asking them to bring him cash and his passport so that he could flee the country. The friends convinced him to return to New York and surrender to police who charged him with leaving the scene of a fatal accident, unauthorized use of a vehicle and driving with a suspended license. The car had been reported stolen by Oberoi’s father and Oberoi’s license had been suspended for speeding, failing to pay fines and failing to respond to summonses.

Hornbeck, a native of Watertown, N.Y., was planning to pursue a master’s degree in education at Hunter College and become a teacher like his parents. He began working at Bazzini’s three years ago, according to Micah Damato, a manager of the store. “He touched everyone he met,” said Damato, “He developed our soda fountain and kids loved him.”

Fined in collapse, but no jail
Walter Blum, 76, and his son, Evan Blum, 47, were fined $1,000 each and Evan was sentenced to 250 hours of community service on Jan. 8 for reckless endangerment in connection with the July 2000 collapse of their building on Second Ave. and Houston St. The defendants were convicted last September for ordering construction of a basement cafe in the building where heavy stone architectural and garden ornaments were stored on the upper floors for their business, Irreplaceable Artifacts. Judge Gregory Carro said last week that he would not impose possible one-year jail terms because the Blums had no previous criminal records. An adjacent apartment building, known as The Cube Building, was damaged in the collapse and was evacuated for a period, but no one was injured in the incident.

Arrest in Village
A suspect charged with shooting his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend to death in a van on a Queens street on Saturday morning Jan. 10 and then grabbing his own five-year-old daughter and fleeing with her, was arrested that night in the W. Fourth St. subway station in the Village where the child was also found unharmed.

The suspect, Jeffrey Mitchell, 45, is charged with shooting the victim, James Young, 40, driver of the van in which the child, Destiny Mitchell, and her mother, Hope Perkins, 28, were riding.

Mitchell called his cousin in Queens from a phone in the W. Fourth St. station while police were questioning the cousin. After learning where Mitchell was phoning from, police alerted officers in the Village who made the arrest.

Subway stab death
A dispute between two men in the I.N.D. station at Sixth Ave. and 14th St. during the early hours of Wednesday morning, Jan. 7 ending in a stabbing and the death of John A. Wilson, 41, of 420 E. 169th St. in the Bronx, police said. A suspect, Lloyd Koulen, 28, of no fixed address, was arrested at the scene and charged with second-degree murder.

Sexual assault arrest
Police arrested Isaac Jahudi, 23, of 2842 Grand Concourse, the Bronx, on Wed. Jan. 7 and charged him in connection with sodomizing and sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman on Nov. 20 near the F.D.R. Drive and E. Houston St. The suspect, a stranger to the victim, had threatened that he had a gun and forced the victim to an alley where he attacked her, police said.

Chelsea teacher attacked
Two girl students were arrested at 11 a.m. Mon. Jan. 12 in the High School for Fashion Industries, 225 W. 24th St., for assaulting a woman teacher, police said. Charged with assault were Mercedes Rojo, 17, and a 16-year-old student.

Bank job
A man who walked into the M & T Bank branch on First Ave. at 22nd St. at 3:10 p.m. Mon. Jan. 12 passed a note to a teller demanding money and fled with an undetermined amount of cash, police said.

DOA on Canal
The medical examiner is investigating the cause of death of Yuk Lam, 73, of Brooklyn, who was found unconscious inside 198 Canal St. near Mott St. shortly after noon on Sun., Jan. 11. The victim was taken to NYU Downtown Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival. There was no sign of trauma, police said.

Albert Amateau


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