FARMINGVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Bay Shore man has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the death of a Farmingville mother of two young children.
More than a dozen family and friends of 36-year-old Monica Lino filled the courtroom Tuesday for the arraignment of 34-year-old Charles Pray. He was ordered held without bail.
“I’m in shock, I really am,” friend Melissa Tanzi told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan. “I’m filled with anger. She was just so beautiful, loving mother — I’m just still in shock.”
Lino was found stabbed to death Sunday in the Farmingville home she rented on Berkshire Drive, police said. A day later, Pray was arrested after investigators said they found Lino’s stolen Volkswagen Jetta abandoned 30 miles away in Merrick.
Prosecutors allege Pray fled the scene of the murder in Lino’s car, driving while impaired by drugs. They said Pray first crashed Lino’s car in Merrick, then escaped to West Babylon where police said he stole another car, McLogan reported. But he was allegedly so high on drugs and alcohol that he parked in traffic facing the wrong direction, prompting a volunteer firefighter to pull over, seize Pray’s keys and call 911, McLogan reported.
“I had no idea who the guy was whatsoever,” said Michael Senk. “I pulled him out of the car, had no idea he had anything to do with the murder of Monica Lino. I just wanted to get him off the road.”
Prosecutors did not reveal a possible motive in the case, but said Pray admitted to taking a knife from the butcher block in Lino’s kitchen and stabbing her more than 20 times, 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported.
But defense attorney Steven Politi said there was a fight and hinted at self-defense, saying Pray had stab wounds on his hands, arms and torso.
“We are going to have a viable defense based on the injuries my client has on his body” he said. “I believe that my client was attacked by the decedent prior to anything occurring.”
Prosecutors said Pray gave a full videotaped confession, but Politi challenged that claim.
“We have not admitted anything,” Politi told WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs. “There is allegedly a video of my client making statements to the police, but I haven’t seen that yet.”
Friends and neighbors said Lino and Pray had recently started dating. The two met after Lino was in a motorcycle accident, McLogan reported.
“He was a new male friend,” Tanzi told Rivera. “I don’t know how serious, but he was definitely a presence for about two weeks — daily.”
Tanzi said she had “a bad vibe” about Pray.
“I’m very angry. I just got a bad vibe about him from the beginning,” Tanzi said. “I’m glad that they got him. She deserves justice.”
Lino worked a desk job for an insurance company while raising her children — a 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, who are currently visiting relatives in Portugal.
Lino had been raising them on her own after her husband committed suicide years ago.
“Very sad. She was a nice lady,” said Richard Pelliccia, who is engaged to Lino’s aunt. “Two beautiful little kids, and now they are lost.”
“She was a good friend, a good mother,” said neighbor Doug Perro. “A real shame.”
The day of her murder, neighbors said they didn’t hear a thing. A nephew found her body and detectives later revealed a large knife was missing from a set in her kitchen.
Pray, a U.S. Navy veteran, has a police record that includes criminal trespass, contempt and petty larceny, WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reported.
Politi has demanded Pray be photographed for defensive wounds, segregated in jail, and placed on suicide watch, McLogan reported.
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