We've searched through our archives in 2012 to give you the Top 10 most significant police and fire stories of the year. From crimes against veterans, to missing persons, to a tragic murder, we bring you the year 2012 in breaking news hindsight.
Wheelchair Stolen from Vet in Holbrook
Operating off tip through Facebook, former editor Chris Vaccaro brought you the harrowing ordeal of Christopher Levi, a former U.S. Army Ranger who lost both his legs in Iraq in 2008. Levi's wheelchair was stolen in front of his house back in January of last year. The story evolved over time and eventually the wheelchair was recovered. One of the rare times a crime story ends happily.
Bleachers Stolen from S.Y.A.G. Complex
Call it one of the more bizarre crimes of 2012. With opening day for little league baseball at the S.Y.A.G. Complex just weeks away, seven sets of aluminum bleachers suddenly vanished into thin air. According to the report, it appeared that the stands were hoisted above a backyard fence to an adjoining residential property. The crime has not yet been solved.
Crime Boss Whitey Bulger Spent Time in Holtsville
The Sachem community was also tied into one of the most legendary crime stories in American history in 2012, when the longtime girlfriend of notorious Irish gangster Whitey Bulger admitted during a bail hearing back in March that she and the fugitive mobster holed up in Holtsville between 1995 and 1996. According to the woman, Catherine Greig, she and Bulger stayed in the Best Western in Holtsville (now known as the Crowne Plaza) under the pseudonym Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Baxter. Bulger was finally caught in California and was charged with upwards of 19 murders. As the leader of the Winter Hill gang in Boston, Mass. Bulger went on the lam in 1994. He would later become the inspiration for the character Frank Costello, played by Jack Nicholson in Martin Scorcese's masterpiece "The Departed."
Local Firefighters Chip In to Battle Massive Brush Fires
Not quite as devestating as the 1995 wildfires, but the east end wildfires that tore through parts of Ridge and Manorville in April was most certainly a "calling all cars" affair. Several volunteer trucks from the Sachem community responded to the blaze, including the Ronkonkoma FD. Eventually the fire was extinguished, but not before it destroyed homes and acres upon acres of wooded land.
FDNY Firefighter From Farmingville Dies Fighting Brooklyn Blaze
The year 2012 was certainly not without its share of tragedy, and in Sachem some might argue that it began with the death of Farmingville resident and FDNY Lieutenant Richard Nappi in April. While battling a commercial fire in Brooklyn, Lieutenant Nappi became overheated, suffered exhaustion and collapsed. He was rushed to an area hospital, but never recovered. Nappi was not only a dedicated member of the FDNY, he volunteered his spare time at the Farmingville FD. In October, lawmakers got together and renamed the LIE overpass at North Ocean Avenue, the Lieutenant Richard Nappi Memorial Bridge.
Fire Destroys Home of East Football Coach Wojciechowski
April would prove to be a tough month for Sachem. After a tearful goodbye to Lieutenant Nappi, the Farmingville home of Sachem East Coach Mark Wojciechowski was completely destroyed by a fire. Everyone in the Wojciechowski family escaped the blaze, however, thanks to the quick thinking of 7-year-old Mia Wojciechowski, who alerted the family before tragedy struck. Most heartwarming of this entire ordeal, was the outpouring of support by the Sachem community for Coach Wojciechowski as the family spent 2012 trying to pick up the pieces from the devestation.
Missing Swimmer Found Dead in Lake Ronkonkoma
This story took all night to develop, as Sachem Patch Editor Matthew McGevna was heading away from the graduation commencement ceremony at Sachem North High School and stumbled upon police cars and a search helicopter hovering above the dark waters of Lake Ronkonkoma. The story was posted to Sachem Patch as McGevna was feeding on-the-scene information to Associate Regional Editor Ryan Bonner. In the end, sadly, the body of 40-year-old Sammie Weiner was found the next day. According to reports, Weiner dove into the water to retreive a disabled remote-control boat after being offered $40 from three men on land to do so.
Not all news is bad news, and for the Grossman family in Holtsville, the story of how baby Hannah came into the world in June of 2012 will be a matter of public record. Hannah could wait no longer than nine minutes to be born, which is what it took for police and EMS workers to get the phone call and head over to Blue Point Road. Hannah was born right in her mother, Elena's bedroom, just as Elena was being prepped for an ambulance ride. Afterward a joyful reunion of the emergency workers took place at the Holbrook Fire Department.
Farmingville Mother Frantically Searching for Missing 15-Year-Old
One of our most compelling stories of 2012 also ended happily for a Farmingville family. This story developed over the course of multiple days after 15-year-old Ailsa Papik left her home one late night in September without telling anyone where she was going. Her mother, Christina Papik, became more frantic as the days marched by, holding a candlelight vigil in the parking lot of KK Athletics, and desperately gobbling up every false lead she was handed. In the end, Ailsa was discovered four days after we broke the story, safe and sound in the Bronx.
Holbrook Man Stabbed to Death Outside Local Bar
Undoubtedly the most shocking crime of 2012 was the murder of 29-year-old Julian Pena, a Holbrook resident, U.S. Navy veteran, and father of a 2-year-old boy. Pena was stabbed during an altercation in the parking lot shared by Momo's Bar & Grill. Police would later arrest 19-year-old Robert Gregory, a Farmingville resident and Sachem East graduate for the crime. The outcome of this crime is one story Sachem Patch will be following into 2013.