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Oct 21, 2009 12:57 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Witness recounts fatal struggle in Southampton bar

Oct 21, 2009 12:57 PM

In a Suffolk County courtroom in Riverhead packed with lawyers, reporters, curious onlookers, and friends and family of both the defendant and victim, the murder trial of Anthony Oddone, the golf course caddy who strangled off-duty corrections officer Andrew Reister to death during a bar fight, got under way late Monday morning.

Assistant District Attorney Denise Merrifield and defense attorney Sarita Kedia each gave their opening statements Monday morning and soon after began questioning the first of some 30 witnesses expected to be called in the case. As of Wednesday afternoon, three witnesses had taken the stand: two Southampton Village Police officers, and a 23-year-old Dutch college student who witnessed the clash between Mr. Oddone and Mr. Reister on August 7, 2008.

The trial is expected to last well into November.

The first detailed account of the moments leading up to the incident and the dramatic struggle that ensued was offered late Tuesday afternoon by Merel Beelen, a University of Iowa student from the Netherlands who spent the summer of 2008 on the East End, teaching tennis at the exclusive Meadow Club in Southampton. Ms. Beelen and two girlfriends were dancing on low cocktail tables in the crowded Southampton Publick House that Wednesday night when they were joined by at least two young men, one of them Mr. Oddone.

During questioning by Ms. Merrifield on Tuesday, Ms. Beelen said that one of the bar’s bouncers, wearing a dark golf shirt with the Publick House logo on it, told her to get off the table. She said she complied.

But “when we turned around, there were two people falling over,” she said. “They fell down on the benches. The guy got behind the bouncer and got his arms around his neck and started choking his neck.”

The girl demonstrated how Mr. Oddone—though she did not identify the defendant as the man involved in the struggle with the bouncer, who was Mr. Reister—locked his arms around the other man’s neck and how Mr. Reister struggled to pry them loose. She recalled that after a short time Mr. Reister’s struggle waned and his arms went limp. Both men fell to the ground.

“The bouncer goes to the ground, on his belly, and the other person was still choking him,” she recalled. “Other people were trying to get him to stop, but he would not let go.”

The young collegiate tennis player said that at least three or four other people tried to pull Mr. Oddone off Mr. Reister, even hitting him repeatedly in the face and body. She said at one point the pair seemed to lurch forward on the floor, Mr. Reister’s limp body simply sliding along the floor.

“Then the guy just suddenly let go and took off,” Ms. Beelen said. “He started running.”

In her opening statement, the day before Ms. Beelen’s testimony, Ms. Merrifield said the prosecution would prove that Mr. Oddone intended to kill Mr. Reister when he wrapped his arms around the other man’s neck. She told the jury that Mr. Oddone did not release his grip around Mr. Reister’s neck for several minutes, even after Mr. Reister lost consciousness and as other patrons in the bar yelled at him to stop and, she claimed, told him he was killing Mr. Reister.

“The people are not standing here telling you that this defendant planned to kill Mr. Reister that night, but that at the moment he began choking Mr. Reister,” his intent was to take his life, Ms. Merrifield said during her half-hour opening.

“We’ll prove beyond reasonable doubt this is intentional murder. This defendant decided he can do whatever he wants. He was having a good old time, and Mr. Reister ruined it. He was mad. He was out with friends, and he didn’t want some middle-aged man knocking him on his butt. He was mad, ladies and gentlemen—he was mad.”

Ms. Merrifield described in graphic detail the injuries Mr. Reister suffered from the choking, including hemorrhaging around his eyes, broken bones in his neck, and a crushed airway—to the point that paramedics who responded to the scene could not insert a breathing tube to get air into the injured man’s lungs.

“The defendant stayed in the chokehold after they fell to the ground,” said Ms. Merrifield, who referred to Mr. Oddone only as “the defendant” throughout her opening statement, and three times turned and pointed an accusing finger at the defense table. “He continued choking him on the ground. Bystanders tried pulling him off, hitting him ... he still maintained that grip. Coordination, awareness of what he was doing—all these things he possessed at that time.”

Mr. Reister, a Southampton native who lived in Hampton Bays, was 40 at the time of his death, and had worked as a guard at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside. He had two young children.

Besieged by reporters and television and radio news crews outside the courtroom on Monday, his widow, Stacey, said she wished the whole ordeal was over with. “I’m just numb,” she said.

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ADA Merrifield: "We’ll prove beyond reasonable doubt this is intentional murder."

Right! She's got no shot -- remember, you read it here first! They've over-charged Oddone, and if this is the best of the Suffolk DA's office, they'll be lucky to wind up with a manslaughter conviction, which is what should have been charged in the first place.
By Frank Wheeler (1775), Northampton on Oct 21, 09 1:17 PM
3 members liked this comment
You know...you are making this sound like a "we win...you lose" situation"..Like Anthony is gonna win this case. Ok...suppose he does...or suppose he doesn't...what does it really matter to the Reister family....They LOST...they LOST big time. David and Mary Grace lost their Daddy. Halina and George lost their son. A Daddy and a Son are not replacable. No matter what Oddone gets...the Reister family LOST!!
And..I wonder if Oddone has a conscience...will it matter to him at all?? Or will ...more
By AnonymousSgh (183), Sag Harbor on Oct 21, 09 3:25 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By The Royal 'We' (186), Southampton on Oct 21, 09 2:33 PM
It's a tragedy all around. Neither Andrew Reister or Anthony Oddone got up that morning thinking that he would be killed as a bouncer at the Public House or arrested for murder.

Life is so fragile. We take it for granted and it can all change in a moment.

I pray for the Reister family and am sorry for their loss. As for Anthony Oddone, I believe he has serious anger issues and most likely a drinking problem. I think he should be held responsible for what he has done and the pain ...more
By concerned east ender (48), Sag Harbor on Oct 21, 09 4:43 PM
5 members liked this comment
Hey Wheeler, Have you been at ANY of the pretrial hearings? ANY of the trial thus far? ???? I am just curious. Were you at the Public House that night? Did you hear the testimony today? I am assuming not based on your comments. Let me guess, Oddone is a friend of yours...perhaps it would benefit you to hear some of this stuff first hand, not via the papers and make an informed comment after having done so.
By SD (2), HB on Oct 21, 09 6:49 PM
2 members liked this comment
SD: I know none of those involved in this case, was not at the Publick (proper spelling if you know how to read) House that evening nor any other, and have not attended the trial nor any of the preliminary hearings.

If you re-read my original post, you will note that I quoted the direct quote from the Assistant District Attorney. and based my opinion/comment on her verbatim words.

Whatever happened that night -- and yes, Mr. Oddone almost certainly cause the death of Mr. Reister ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1775), Northampton on Oct 22, 09 2:36 AM
1 member liked this comment
So my post was deemed inappropriate... Why? Because I feel that killing people is inappropriate...?!
Because I was there that night, and saw the aftermath?

I hope one of the hitman's family flagged my post, after getting the chanceto read my words...
By The Royal 'We' (186), Southampton on Oct 21, 09 9:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
It was removed because you used an ethnic slur. You may revise and repost.

Brendan O'Reilly
Web Editor
27east
By BOReilly (133), Hampton Bays on Oct 22, 09 9:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
Brendan, would it be possible for you to email the slur, and/or post I had originally put up? I never intend to use racial slurs, and perhaps would like to edit..

Thanks
By The Royal 'We' (186), Southampton on Oct 22, 09 11:27 AM
death penalty is in order for Odone.
By local (106), north sea on Oct 22, 09 2:01 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By The Royal 'We' (186), Southampton on Oct 22, 09 2:37 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Oct 22, 09 4:32 PM
Please do not post copyrighted material here. That is why your comment was removed. Other newspapers' articles are their intellectual property and may not be reproduced here.

Brendan O'Reilly
Web Editor
27east
By BOReilly (133), Hampton Bays on Oct 22, 09 4:36 PM
Sorry Brendan my mistake..." I will not copy and paste from one news website to another again...you guys need to get on the ball though...Newsday has better coverage.I did quote the source which is what you are supposed to do when you are pulling from another publication. I guess those rules don't apply on the world wide web
Anyway...Per an article I read on Newdays website, another patron who was there that night stated that the bouncer ( Andy) politely asked the defendant (Oddone) to stop ...more
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Oct 22, 09 5:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
Accidental or not, he took someone's life and has to be held accountable. He has to take responsibility for what he did and face the legal consequences. What kind of people get up and dance on tables? "Idiots". People that have no respect for other people and other property. Mr. Reister clearly had on a shirt with the establishment's name on it identifying him as an employee of that establishment. There is no winner in this case, it's sad all around. My prayers go out to the Reister family.
By pch50 (6), Hampton Bays on Oct 22, 09 6:46 PM
2 members liked this comment
Mr. oddone will not do well. - even if he does a year - in the prison system.. folks that kill kids or folks that kill cops don't fare well. How the prosecution handles the case - he said - she said is not relevant to the fact that - this guy killed some kids father and someone's husband who isn't coming home. maybe that fact should remain most relevant.
By johnnytax (29), new york on Oct 22, 09 8:40 PM
Even if Reister initiated it with a llittle push, that does not mean Mr. Oddone can immediately use deadly physical force. Putting someone in a choke hold is the same deadly physical force as using a gun. Can't do it, sorry. There were many other alternatives that Mr. O could have chose. His lawyer will never be able to save him. See ya in 25 big Tony.
By The End (13), Riverhead on Oct 22, 09 8:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
According to New York State Penal Law, gun=choke hold. They are both deadly physical force, and an individual has to prove that there no other options available.
By The End (13), Riverhead on Oct 22, 09 10:49 PM
Maybe you should have backed off the steroids for a while.
By The End (13), Riverhead on Oct 22, 09 9:01 PM
Clearly, Mr. O wasn't taking steroids for the golf clubs. He was a ladies man and wanted to look his best when he went to the bars. "Ladies were loving me" he admits saying as he danced on the table like an idiot. Did you forget that???
By The End (13), Riverhead on Oct 22, 09 10:51 PM
Anyone who was at the trial today(Thursday) clearly saw when the defense held up the clothing held for evidence from the fatal day, big Tony's clothing was the same size, if not larger than Andrew's. I suppose he is called big Tony because of all the steroids he used back then. Putting someone in a headlock..........can anybody say........ ROIDRAGE ??
By The End (13), Riverhead on Oct 22, 09 9:07 PM
Maybe if you went to the trial and you saw the pictures of big Tony you would clearly see the clothes in the photos of him were not loose fitting.
By The End (13), Riverhead on Oct 22, 09 10:44 PM
Reister was a big boned individual, and at the time, Oddone was jacked up on steroids.
By The End (13), Riverhead on Oct 22, 09 10:45 PM
Go to the trial and see the evidence. Delusional? Not.
By The End (13), Riverhead on Oct 22, 09 10:47 PM
As someone who knows Mr. Oddone..just like any normal 25 year old...you wear your clothes big not tight. He definitely wasn't on steroids either. Don't start spreading false rumors.
By Tiny1 (3), long island on Nov 4, 09 10:08 PM
The lack of coverage is astounding. I have read one article from Newsday with new information and nothing new from your publication for days as this trial has went on. Ur paper can't update this story every day??? It certainly seems to have interest in the community. Furthermore, ur decision not to print the names of the high powered attorney's willing to let Oddone use his house and put up bail as if they are lifelong friends (as printed in the NY Post Wollinsky and his life partner) is perplexing. ...more
By HB 4 Life (72), Hampton Bays on Oct 23, 09 9:51 AM
I cant believe that you people are saying that tony was the same size as reister thats absurd. I can also promise you that tony was not taking any steroids. he is 6 ft 175 lbs. he was scared for his life when pushed off a table by a much larger man. its a terrible tragedy all around.
By friend of tony (9), ronkonkoma on Oct 23, 09 2:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
Where is all the coverage of the cross examinations of the DAs witnesses so far? How come it is not being shared that there was no attmept made to separate witnesses even though the first responding officer said how witnesses tend to come togther and share one story that they believe will help the poilice. Sarita's cross exmaination lead to people changing their story from seeing Mr. Reister talking to Tony to then saying Tony was pushed from the table without warning. The officer admitted that ...more
By FOTO (36), Lake Grove on Oct 23, 09 3:03 PM
Were you there that night, FOTO? Why are you so hell bent on defending him if you weren't??
By AnonymousSgh (183), Sag Harbor on Oct 24, 09 7:07 PM
good work FOTO
By friend of tony (9), ronkonkoma on Oct 23, 09 3:14 PM
Friend of Tony and Foto are totally misrepresenting all the facts of the case and disrespecting the memory of Reister. Here are some facts from somebody who knows Tony.

Tony was not on steroids but was in great shape and not scrawny. He is 6'1" and built like a wide receiver, not muscle bound but cut (at least he was until the cuisine de Rikers).

Tony is extremely arrogant and while I would not have characterized him as violent I would say he was very brash and thought he was ...more
By HB 4 Life (72), Hampton Bays on Oct 23, 09 3:22 PM
It is certainly not my intent to dishonor Mr. Reister in any way. I cannot express how much saddness I feel for his enitre famiily and his friends. That doe snot change the fact that someone else is being unfairly accused of INTENDING to kill him. Go to the trial and listen to facts, not just a one sided news article!
By FOTO (36), Lake Grove on Oct 23, 09 3:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
FOTO...You say he is being unfairly accused of INTENDING to kill him. Well, what the hell was it that he was doing??? He stood there choking Andrew and he didn't let go!!! What was that???!!!!! Sounds like an INTENTION to kill to me!!
By AnonymousSgh (183), Sag Harbor on Oct 24, 09 6:48 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By bigfresh (3390), north sea on Oct 23, 09 4:17 PM
Your comments have much more spin than anything this second rate newspaper can muster up. You love to portray Tony as this small "scrawny" and skinny guy which u and I both know he was and is not. Tony is larger than the average person and his weight 175 only shows he was in peak physical condition. U and I both know he is very athletic and could handle himself and if he wanted to be he could intimidate with his stature. That was not the Tony I knew but rather the arrogant type that ended up ...more
By HB 4 Life (72), Hampton Bays on Oct 23, 09 5:29 PM
"Ladies were lovin' me" the arrogant pretty boy is quoted as saying. FOTO- if you went to the trial you would see the shirt that had the publick house logo on it and said Southampton ales. I know now that you haven't gone to the trial at all this week, so how can you continue to post comments without knowing about any of the evidence. I guess it just proves that you too are probably one of Tony's friends. I really thought the affirmative defense would be a manslaughter, but it's looking like a Murder2 ...more
By The End (13), Riverhead on Oct 23, 09 6:45 PM
WRONG! They said the the shirt the bouncers wear are maroon with the logo and that Mr. Reister was not wearing it but instead was wearing a plain blue shirt that said Southampton Ales on the sleeve!
By FOTO (36), Lake Grove on Oct 23, 09 7:14 PM
I get it, it's ok that he KILLED someone because he didn't know he was a bouncer. Is taking the life of a fellow patron somehow OK? He killed someone with his bare hands. I don't care what the person was wearing they are now dead.
By bb (773), Hampton Bays on Oct 25, 09 9:16 AM
http://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/witness-describes-bouncer-s-collapse-during-bar-scuffle-1.1545462

Two minutes and thirty seconds... How can u up the island, low intelligence, dirtballs spin this one??? U can't, just do us all a favor and stop disrespecting the deceased by staying off this message board. If u want to help somebody go clean up the scrap metal from ur front yard.
By HB 4 Life (72), Hampton Bays on Oct 24, 09 9:10 AM
Good for you!!! You go guy!!! I couldn't have said it better!!!!
By AnonymousSgh (183), Sag Harbor on Oct 24, 09 4:27 PM
HB 4 Life.... we are not disrespecting the deceased at all. My thoughts and prayers go out to the reister family. By being there for my friend Tony and expecting a fair trial I am not disrespecting the Reister family. Are you better then me bc you are from hampton bays? is that what you are trying to get at? why dont you grow up? i honestly am mad at myself for even giving someone like you the time of day. My only intentions are to be there for a true friend to me no matter what his situation ...more
By FOTO (36), Lake Grove on Oct 24, 09 8:02 PM
I don't believe that anyone is asking you to "turn your back on a friend". That doesn't change the facts. The man grabbed someone around the neck when he was told to get off a table. Why would someone feel it necessary to do that? Is that how he responded to anyone who asked him to behave like an adult? Please support your friend, but don't sit there and say he didn't kill someone or he doesn't have an anger issue. What were his intentions? To sit and have a little chat with Andy?

By bb (773), Hampton Bays on Oct 24, 09 9:44 PM
With friends like Oddone, you don't need enemies. You certainly don't have very high standards for your friends.
By AnonymousSgh (183), Sag Harbor on Oct 24, 09 10:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
There is a big difference between defending oneself and killing someone. Get over it...you don't know what happened.
By AnonymousSgh (183), Sag Harbor on Oct 25, 09 8:43 AM
1 member liked this comment
bb--your level of ignorance is funny to me. if you have ever been out to a bar/club especially out in eastern suffolk, its disgusting the level of power these bouncers have. i feel that since i have no connection to this case my opinion is 100% unbiased. bouncers go out of there way to fight. my two best friends are bouncers at neptunes bianco etc. and they tell me all the time that after hours of standing around they look to start fights to create a little action. this guy was acting like an idiot ...more
By Bluewave7 (2), riverhead on Nov 9, 09 6:35 PM
***^^^^^^^ left out that the reaction was due to the bouncer pushin him off the table... anyone who belives the bouncer walked away is a fool because who in there right mind would push someone and immediatley turn his back to the guy?... no one. please let me mention this whole message is coming from the son of a Corrections Officer at the Riverhead Jail.
By Bluewave7 (2), riverhead on Nov 9, 09 6:40 PM
actually i do have high standards for my friends and tony has always gone out of his way for his friends and been nothing but a pleasure to hang out with. to BB he didnt just grab a guy around his neck when asked to get down from the table. if u have been in court or read anything about what happened he was pushed off a table by a bigger man not wearing any staff shirt. The end result is a terrible tradegy but from someone that has known Tony for a few years i promise his intentions were never ...more
By friend of tony (9), ronkonkoma on Oct 24, 09 10:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sorry this is a bunch of hog wash. He'd already been asked to get off of the table. Clearly you believe that dancing on a table in an establishment is accepted conduct. Scared for his life? Please. No I wasn't in court but I know someone who saw the entire thing that night. He wasn't scared for his life he was scared of being arrested and put in jail for murder which is why he ran. Scared for his life because he was supposedly "pushed off a table". Yikes, poor little man must be afraid ...more
By bb (773), Hampton Bays on Oct 25, 09 9:08 AM
1 member liked this comment
2 minutes and 30 seconds..... That is not self defense..... I know Tony and he is a punk..... U and ur up the island buddies keep trying to change the facts but ur low intelligence/education level keep shining thru... U have known Tony for a few years...... Lol......at least it is longer than the high powered attorneys willing to put up bail and their residence..... Lol..... On the east end we judge friendship based on a persons character..... Don't u want to tell us all how "scrawny Tony was .... ...more
By HB 4 Life (72), Hampton Bays on Oct 25, 09 8:25 AM
Its never a good idea to assault anyone and then turn your back on them. The bouncer...or 'moonlighter' had ZERO right to put his hands on anyone. What if for instance after the shove Tony landed his head on that bench and died?

This is why i barely go out to these bars/clubs anymore. Too many tough guys roaming around.

Lose - Lose situation in this case

By slamminsammy (104), East Moriches on Oct 25, 09 12:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By bigfresh (3390), north sea on Oct 28, 09 10:09 AM
the murderer will get what's coming to him, one way or another.
By bigfresh (3390), north sea on Oct 31, 09 10:16 AM
carpeting, remnants, area rugs, hardwood flooring, rolls of wool,rug samples