Newsday

True confession?
Teen says his father admitted to taking part in the Tankleff killings, for which the victims’ son is imprisoned

BY ZACHARY R. DOWDY AND ROBIN TOPPING
STAFF WRITERS

August 4, 2005

As a county court judge prepares to consider whether Martin Tankleff deserves a new trial for the murder of his parents, a 17-year-old boy says another man -- his father -- confessed to the crime.

Joseph John Guarascio, son of Joseph Creedon -- the Selden man who Tankleff's attorneys have said participated in the Sept, 7, 1988 killings of Arlene and Seymour Tankleff -- claims his father told him he took part in the grisly murders of the Belle Terre couple.

Tankleff's attorneys said they submitted the teen's affidavit and motion to the court yesterday, just over a year since the start of a hearing to determine whether Tankleff should get a new trial. Tankleff is serving a 50-years-to-life sentence.

Guarascio and his father were driving around in April 2004 "and I asked him, 'Did you really do that?'" according to the teen's affidavit. "We both knew I meant the Tankleff murders. He said 'Yeah. I did it.' Over the course of the day, he began to tell me more and more about the murders, and I began to ask more questions."

Final arguments are mostly done, but Tankleff's attorneys are hoping County Court Judge Stephen Braslow will admit Guarascio's statement.

Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Leonard Lato, who is handling the case for District Attorney Thomas Spota, said "we will not prejudge Tankleff's new motion, but will investigate his claims to determine if they have merit." Lato is opposing a new trial for Tankleff.

Creedon's attorney, Anthony La Pinta, of Hauppauge, called the statement "ludicrous and absolutely meritless" and "a product of his mother manipulating him with the specific purpose of hurting Joseph Creedon."

La Pinta said Creedon and his former girlfriend, the boy's mother, have had a longstanding bitter feud, in part about when Creedon can see his son.

One of Tankleff's attorneys, Barry Pollack, of Washington, denied the statement was related to any feud, saying the boy had given it at "great personal risk" and has "no ax to grind."

Guarascio's statement said Creedon confessed to the crime while the teenager visited with his father in New York. The boy and his mother then lived in Florida. Tankleff's attorneys, Bruce Barket, of Garden City, and Pollack said the boy initially came forward in February but they took the statement July 28 due to concerns about the boy's safety.

Tankleff's attorneys contend the boy corroborates testimony by other defense witnesses who have said Creedon admitted to the killing.

However, Guarascio's statement differs somewhat from written accounts provided by Glenn Harris, who has said he drove Kent and Creedon to Belle Terre but didn't know that a murder was in the works.

For example, Guarascio's statement says his father told him Harris knew the murders would take place and helped dispose of a pipe used in the killings.

Harris declined to testify at the hearing, invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Richard Barbuto of Mineola, Harris' attorney, said that given the affidavit, "There is certainly no reason for Glenn Harris to testify."

The defense motion says, "The admission is startling because it provides the first window into what took place inside the Tankleff home," the night of the murders.

The boy's statement says Kent and Creedon waited outside the home until they got a signal from Jerry Steuerman, a business partner of Seymour Tankleff, who owed him money. Creedon used a cable to strangle Seymour Tankleff and a gun to beat him, while Kent stabbed Arlene Tankleff in bed, the statement says.

Kent and Steuerman have denied any part in the murders and have not been charged.

Martin Tankleff was convicted of the crimes in 1990, but his attorneys and family contend he was railroaded by an overzealous Suffolk homicide detective, James McCready, who tricked Tankleff into confessing by telling him Seymour Tankleff had awakened from a coma and told police his son, then 17, had done it. Tankleff then implicated himself in a statement to police. His attorneys say it was coerced.

Based on the new evidence, Tankleff's family called for his release, as well as the arrest of Creedon, Kent and Steuerman.

"Enough is enough," Tankleff's family wrote in a statement.

Marty Tankleff Website

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