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Andrew Krivak

Other Putnam County, New York exonerations
On November 22, 1995, a hunter found the remains of 12-year-old Josette Wright in a wooded area of Putnam County, New York near Fields Lane. Her mother had reported her missing on October 4, 1994, after she failed to return home the night before.

A rope bound Wright’s hands behind her back and circled her neck and one of her legs. The bones of her right foot were broken. Her underwear was stuffed in her throat, and her bra was tied around her face. The death was classified as a murder.

Three days later, police arrested 19-year-old Anthony DiPippo, 18-year-old Andrew Krivak, and 16-year-old Dominic Neglia after finding them in a car with drugs. During questioning, Neglia gave a vague statement suggesting that DiPippo and Krivak knew something about Wright’s death.

Neglia’s statement was insufficient to bring any charges, so police pressured him to give a more detailed statement. They visited him at school, at his job, and at his home. He was pulled out of classes so often for interrogation that the principal of Neglia’s high school demanded that they stop. Neglia lost his job due to absences.

At one point, he went to the police station and said he wanted no part of the investigation. Neglia later said that Putnam County Sheriff’s Detective Patrick Putnam hit him in the back of the head with a set of handcuffs and told him he had no choice. Detective William Quick, who was present, told Neglia that Quick and Castaldo had just watched Neglia fall out of his chair and hit his head. Neglia, afraid of more physical abuse, agreed to take money from Quick to buy DiPippo drugs, get him high, and get him to talk. But while Neglia did ply DiPippo with drugs, no confession was forthcoming.

Ultimately, Neglia falsely claimed that DiPippo had admitted committing the crime with Krivak, and several others. Neglia said DiPippo told him that at the time of the crime, he was with 18-year-old Andrew Krivak, as well as Adam Wilson, William MacGregor, and DiPippo’s then-girlfriend, Denise Rose.

Wilson also gave a statement implicating Krivak and DiPippo in the crime. And while MacGregor said he was in the van with Krivak, DiPippo, Wright, Wilson, and Rose, he said he remembered nothing else because he passed out after drinking and taking drugs.

On July 1, 1996, DiPippo and Krivak were arrested on charges of murder and rape. They were convicted in separate trials in Putnam County Supreme Court in 1997. By that time, Neglia had recanted in a sworn affidavit. He said that his statement was false, that he thought the story would “blow over,” and that he never thought DiPippo and Krivak would be prosecuted. Wilson also had recanted prior to the trial.

Meanwhile, Rose had given two statements to detectives Castaldo and Quick. In her first statement, Rose said she was with the DiPippo, Krivak, and Wright on October 3, 1994, but she did not say that she had witnessed the rape and murder. She later claimed she was afraid because DiPippo had threatened to kill her if she spoke of the crime. In her second statement, Rose said she saw Krivak and DiPippo rape and kill Wright.

In March 1997, Krivak went to trial in Putnam County Supreme Court. MacGregor testified that he saw Wright at a Citgo gas station one night in October, 1994. MacGregor did not know Wright's name at the time because he had never seen her before. He said he got into the van, which Krivak was driving, with DiPippo, Wilson, Wright, and another girl he did not know, and they drove to Fields Lane. He said he was barely conscious when they arrived at Fields Lane due to the drugs and alcohol and that the next thing he remembered was waking up in front of his house in Krivak's van with Krivak and DiPippo.

The prosecution presented evidence that after a skull was found by the hunter, and dental x-rays confirmed it was Wright, Investigators searched the area and found a pair of sneakers. Eventually, a bone was found protruding through a surface of leaves. The skeleton was found underneath leafy debris and branches.

The skeleton was not clothed, but there was a coat placed over the top of the remains. The coat was wet and badly deteriorated with plants growing through the fibers of the material. Also recovered were a pair of underpants and a nylon rope with knots which was found with the skeletal remains under the jacket. One of the knots was draped over one of the bones that was found beneath the leaves. Also found was a shirt beneath the skeletal remains and a lower jaw bone with a bra tied and knotted around it. On the jaw bone there was also a mass of hair tied up in a hair band.

Alongside the skeletal remains, police found a hologram eye pendant, a pink Bic lighter, and a quarter and a nickel. Rose identified the hologram pendant and the clothes as those Wright was wearing at the time of the crime.

Edward McDonough, a forensic pathologist, testified that Wright's remains were completely skeletonized except for some hair in a hair tie. He testified that the remains were consistent with a young female and with death having occurred on October 3rd, 1994. Additionally, the condition of the remains were consistent with death having been caused by asphyxiation. However, he testified that because the remains were skeletonized, the cause of death could not be specifically determined. McDonough testified that clothing pushed into the mouth can cause death by asphyxiation.

Dr. Albert Harper, an anthropologist, testified that the state of decomposition of the body was consistent with death having occurred 13 months prior to the discovery of the body.

Harper testified that Wright had been hog-tied with the rope – her hands and feet were bound together behind her back. He said that the skeleton was found face down and that when the flesh and organs deteriorated, the bones collapsed. Because of this, her hands appeared to be in front of her, when actually they were behind her. The expert said that the victim’s underwear was found near the head in a position that suggested the underwear had been shoved down her throat.

Rose testified that they were playing spin the bottle in the van. She said that when Krivak tried to kiss Wright, she resisted. Krivak then threw Wright to the floor of the van, pulled off her jeans and underwear, and stuffed the underwear in Wright’s mouth to keep her quiet. Rose said that when Wright continued to kick and struggle, Krivak removed Wright’s shirt and bra, then grabbed a piece of rope, and tied Wright’s hands in front of her. Rose said Krivak raped Wright and then DiPippo raped her.

Rose said that Wright had been struggling to breathe while Krivak raped her, but she was motionless and silent after DiPippo raped her. Rose said Krivak and DiPippo then carried Wright out of the van and returned about 15 to 20 minutes later. Rose testified that when she asked where Wright was, Krivak said, “She is sleeping.”

The defense sought to discredit Rose’s testimony by noting that she was an admitted drug user, and that she had changed her statement to implicate Krivak and DiPippo after she had been arrested on felony criminal mischief and driving while intoxicated charges which carried as much as 7½ years in prison. The defense claimed that the detectives had fed Rose the information in her second statement, including the misinformation that Wright’s hands were tied in front of her, not behind her back as the evidence showed.

Police testified that on May 11, 1995, several months before the victim's body was discovered, Krivak's brown van was searched. Putnam County Deputy Sheriff William Asher found two rings, a ruby ring and a pear-shaped diamond colored stone ring, on the floor of the van between the driver's seat and the passenger seat.

Four witnesses, including the victim's mother, Susan Wright, and the victim's boyfriend, Billy Wooster, identified the rings as belonging to Wright. One of the witnesses, Tara Duffy, testified that Wright was wearing both rings when Duffy last saw her on October 2, 1994.

Police also testified that in a subsequent search of the van, conducted by Investigator John Rees on January 22, 1996, a lizard earring and a tiger eye ring were found in the map pocket of the vehicle. Rose said the lizard earring was similar to one Wright wore on the night of the crime. Wooster testified that Wright was wearing the lizard earring and the diamond colored ring when he last saw her on October 2, 1994. The victim's grandmother, Geraldine Allen, identified the tiger eye ring as a ring she had given to Wright.

Detective Castaldo testified that when he and Detective Quick interrogated Krivak, Krivak admitted that he raped Wright, but denied killing her.

The defense contended the statement was coerced by the detectives. The defense presented testimony from a polygraph expert who testified that Krivak had been subjected to a polygraph examination and that his denials of involvement were truthful. The defense claimed that the detectives falsely told Krivak that he had failed the polygraph to coerce him to falsely confess.

The defense also called three witnesses who testified they saw Wright after October 3, 1994, the day prosecutors claimed that she was raped and killed.

On April 16, 1997, the jury convicted Krivak of second-degree murder and first-degree rape.

DiPippo went to trial in May 1997. Rose and MacGregor again testified.

Vincent Farinella, a corrections officer at the Putnam County Jail testified that on July 1, 1996, at approximately 10:25 p.m., while he was escorting DiPippo to the first floor of the jail after completing the booking process, DiPippo said, “I can't believe Krivak ratted me out.”

Scott Chestnut, who was an inmate at the jail, testified that on July 1, 1996, when DiPippo returned to his cell in the North Housing Unit at approximately 9:45 to 10:00 p.m., DiPippo said “he couldn't believe his best friend ratted on him.” Chestnut said DiPippo then said that he had sex with the girl but he did not kill her, and that Wright’s death was an accident because he was “high on dust.”

Victor Nestor, another Putnam County corrections officer, testified that on July 3, 1996, while DiPippo was in a holding cell next to the booking room, he asked Nestor to help him with his necktie. Nestor said that while he was helping DiPippo, DiPippo said that he was scared. Nestor said that when he told DiPippo to go to court and see what happens, DiPippo said, “I was there. I was high and I don't remember.”

DiPippo testified and denied any involvement in the crime or making any admissions. He said that while he knew Wright, he could not have been with her at the time of the crime because he was living with his girlfriend in a trailer park in Danbury, Connecticut.

The defense called Wilson, and he recanted his original statement, but the prosecution impeached his testimony with his original statement.

Robert Hansen testified that on the morning of July 3, 1997, while he was incarcerated at the Putnam County Jail, and working as a trustee in charge of laundry, he had a conversation with Chestnut. Hansen said Chestnut told him that he spoke to police about giving a statement against DiPippo in order to get himself transferred out of north housing.

Andrew Krivak Sr., Krivak's father, his wife, Babette Krivak, and Gennarro Desimone, a mechanic who was a friend of the Krivak family, all testified that on the date of the crime Krivak's van had three flat tires and was not operational. They had not been called to testify at Krivak’s trial. They also testified that there were two captain’s chairs in the back of the van, and the sliding door was broken.

Andrew Krivak Sr. also testified that just before the search of Krivak's van on May 11, 1995, he had cleaned out the map pocket, which was filled with debris and litter, and he found no rings.

On June 5, 1997, the jury convicted DiPippo of second-degree murder and first-degree rape.

On June 11, 1997, Krivak was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. At his sentencing hearing, Krivak declared, “I feel I was treated unfairly, and the sad thing is, the real killer is still out there, and I’m going to prove it.”

On July 11, 1997, DiPippo was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. “I am not looking for mercy here,” DiPippo said. “I am only looking for the truth. I was framed. I am not a murderer. And I am not a rapist.”

Krivak’s conviction was upheld on appeal in 1999, but the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court vacated DiPippo’s conviction and ordered a new trial in 2011. The court held that DiPippo’s trial lawyer was ineffective because, prior to DiPippo’s trial, he represented Howard Gombert on a rape charge. Gombert, according to evidence presented at an evidentiary hearing, had been a suspect in Wright’s murder.

DiPippo’s attorney had been provided reports prior to DiPippo’s trial showing that a witness reported seeing Wright get into a car, driven by Gombert, at 4 p.m. on the day she was last seen. Police had dismantled the car, which belonged to Gombert’s girlfriend, but found no evidence that linked Gombert to the crime.

The appeals court noted that not only did DiPippo’s lawyer fail to reveal that he had previously represented Gombert in an unrelated criminal case, but the lawyer made no attempt to present any evidence pointing to Gombert as the real killer. The appeals court noted that the lawyer “did not conduct even a minimal investigation into Gombert.”

DiPippo went to trial a second time in the spring of 2012. Wilson again recanted. And MacGregor also recanted the testimony he gave at the first trial that he was present in the van when Krivak and DiPippo raped and killed Wright. McGregor and Wilson said detectives had threatened to charge them with the murder if they did not implicate Krivak and DiPippo.

Rose again testified that she was present in the van and that DiPippo and Krivak raped and killed Wright.

The defense sought to present testimony from Joseph Santoro, but the judge did not allow it. Santoro had been incarcerated in Connecticut with Gombert, who was serving a sentence for rape. Santoro had provided a sworn affidavit saying that in April 2011, Gombert admitted that Putnam County police were “trying to get him for the killing of two girls” in Putnam County. One of the girls was Wright, but Gombert wasn’t worried about that case because “they already convicted some other suckers” for that crime.

Santoro said in his affidavit that Gombert told him that he had met Wright at his former girlfriend's house and was attracted to her. According to Santoro, Gombert said that the only way he could get Wright into his car was to ask her to babysit for his daughter. After that, Gombert said he had sex with her, but he had to “persuade her” because she did not want to have sex with him. Santoro also said Gombert made statements regarding a second missing girl, whose body he claimed would never be found. Santoro said he interpreted Gombert’s statements as boasts that Gombert had killed both girls. The defense also was barred from calling several women who were prepared to testify that they had been sexually molested by Gombert and that he had tied them up and stuffed clothing in their mouths. One of the witnesses was the victim in the case that led to Gombert’s imprisonment in Connecticut.

On May 9, 2012, DiPippo was again convicted of second-degree murder and rape. Once more, he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

In March 2016, the New York Court of Appeals reversed DiPippo’s convictions again and ordered a new trial. Although the court said the evidence was "arguably overwhelming," the defense should have been allowed to present Santoro’s testimony about Gombert’s admissions as well as testimony from the women who said Gombert sexually assaulted them in a fashion similar to the attack on Wright.

In August 2016, a legal team headed by Adele Bernhard, who oversaw the Post-Conviction Innocence Clinic at New York Law School, filed a petition on behalf of Krivak seeking a new trial. The petition cited the evidence of Gombert’s involvement in the crime. The petition also cited Putnam County Sheriff’s Detective Daniel Stephens, who had administered a polygraph examination to Krivak and falsely told Krivak he had failed and that he should confess. In this petition, Krivak claimed that his confession was false and coerced.

Stephens, the petition noted, was involved in a similar scenario in 1990—five years earlier—when he interrogated Jeffrey Deskovic about the murder of a classmate. After Stephens questioned him for hours and told him that he had failed a polygraph, Deskovic falsely confessed to killing his classmate. In 2006, Deskovic was exonerated by DNA testing. He later filed a federal civil rights lawsuit. In 2014, a federal court jury found that Stephens had fabricated evidence and coerced Deskovic’s false confession.

DiPippo, represented by attorneys Mark Baker and Marc Agnifilo, went to trial a third time in September 2016. Rose again testified that she was present in the van when Krivak and DiPippo raped and killed Wright.

In addition to Santoro, the defense presented testimony from Allyson Clokey, who testified that she saw Wright at the Danbury Mall on October 7, 1994 — four days after Rose said the crime occurred. Lorraine McLoughlin, who had been one of Wright’s teachers, testified that she saw Wright at the Poughkeepsie mall on October 8 — five days after Rose said the crime occurred.

The defense also presented evidence that during an interview with law enforcement prior to the third trial, Rose admitted she said the crime occurred on October 3 because the detective who was interrogating her told her that was the day that Wright was reported missing. In attacking Rose’s testimony, the defense noted that Rose also admitted that she had smoked crack cocaine more than 10,000 times and that she maintained an intimate relationship with DiPippo for several months after the murder.

Santoro testified about Gombert’s admissions to having killed Wright and another girl. Two women testified that Gombert raped them—one of whom was seven years old at the time of the crime.

Dominick Neglia, the youth who had initially implicated DiPippo and Krivak, recanted his statement, saying that at the time he was 16 years old and had never been arrested before. He said detectives repeatedly showed up at his school and his job and threatened him with prosecution for drug crimes. Neglia said, “I started with a small story and dug myself a grave.” He said that he thought if he told a big enough lie, the detectives would realize it was false and leave him alone.

On October 11, 2016, the jury acquitted DiPippo and he was released. After the verdict was announced, DiPippo embraced Jeffrey Deskovic, whom DiPippo had sought out for support. After Deskovic was exonerated in 2006, he had founded The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, which fights wrongful convictions and assists the exonerated. Deskovic also provided support for Krivak.

In December 2016, Krivak’s petition for a new trial was denied without a hearing.

In October 2017, DiPippo filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking compensation. Separately, he received $2.9 million in compensation from the New York Court of Claims in 2018. In January 2019, the New York Appellate Division, Second Department reversed the dismissal of Krivak’s petition for a new trial. The court ordered a hearing on the petition be held. “In view of the parties' submissions, particularly the third-party culpability evidence relating to Gombert, a hearing is necessary to promote justice,” the court declared.

In February 2019, U.S. District Judge Nelson Roman declined to dismiss DiPippo’s federal lawsuit. In his ruling, Judge Roman outlined evidence presented by DiPippo’s lawyers that included:

--DNA testing of Krivak’s van failed to detect any traces of Wright’s DNA even though she had allegedly been raped and murdered in it.

--After DiPippo’s second conviction and while the case was being appealed, Putnam County District Attorney Adam Levy began reinvestigating the case after video footage came to light showing Detective Castaldo beating a shackled prisoner. Levy discovered that Castaldo had withheld notes about the investigation of one of Gombert’s other victims from DiPippo’s defense lawyers. Levy concluded that Castaldo had shown Rose much of the evidence in the case and met with her repeatedly to shape her testimony. Rose admitted that Castaldo and Quick had threatened her with prosecution if she refused to testify against DiPippo.

In May 2019, Krivak was granted a new trial. Putnam County Supreme Court Judge David Zuckerman ruled that there was a reasonable probability that Krivak would be acquitted if the defense were allowed to present evidence relating to Gombert.

In August 2020, Putnam County agreed to settle DiPippo’s federal lawsuit for $12 million.

In September 2020, the Appellate Division, Second Department upheld Judge Zuckerman’s ruling, paving the way for a possible retrial for Krivak. On October 23, 2020, Krivak was released on bond to house arrest.

Meanwhile, Krivak’s lawyers, Oscar Michelen and Karen Newirth, prepared for Krivak’s retrial.

In April 2021, Santoro was at the Putnam County jail on robbery and assault charges. When Michelen met with him on April 23, for an interview in anticipation of the retrial, Santoro demanded a new truck, $100,000, and a Louis Vuitton bag within five days, as well as $1.5 million in an offshore bank account to give the same testimony that he gave in DiPippo's trial. He said that if he didn't get it, he said he would go to the prosecutors.

The FBI was notified and recorded a conversation between Michelen and Santoro's girlfriend, Melodie Montefusco, during which she said Santoro felt underappreciated and wanted to be compensated before helping Krivak. She said Santoro wanted $3.3 million and that the SUV and some of the initial $100,000 were for her.

On April 28, 2021, Santoro and Montefusco were charged with conspiracy and extortion. On September 10, Santoro pled guilty to extortion and was sentenced to four years in prison. He said his testimony about Gombert was true and that he was trying to get money by threatening to recant. On January 13, 2023, Montefusco pled guilty.

On January 18, 2023, after a jury was selected, the prosecution and defense lawyers gave their opening statements as Krivak went to trial a second time in Putnam County Supreme Court.

On February 27, 2023, the jury acquitted Krivak. The defense had presented evidence that was not presented at his first trial more than 25 years earlier. This included:

--Testimony from Krivak’s father and the mechanic that Krivak’s van was inoperable at the time that Wright was reported missing.

--An admission by Rose that in 2019, while being questioned under oath as part of DiPippo’s civil lawsuit, she falsely testified that DiPippo had brandished a gun in the van.

--Stevens, who had retired, was cross-examined about how he had used false polygraph evidence to elicit a false confession from Deskovic. He acknowledged being found liable for fabricating evidence and coercing a false confession from Deskovic.

--MacGregor said his previous testimony was false when he testified at both Krivak’s and DiPippo’s trials that he was in the van with Rose, Wright, Krivak, DiPippo, and Wilson, but passed out and only woke up when he was outside his home. He said Castaldo and Quick "made this all up" and that he signed a statement Quick wrote out because the detectives were threatening him with prosecution. He acknowledged testifying under oath three times that the statement was true - before the grand jury in 1996 and at both men's trials the following year - but said he was lying in those instances because, "I was doing what I was told.” MacGregor said, "I didn't know what they were talking about…But they were convincing ... I still thought it was okay to trust police." MacGregor had first recanted in 2005.

--Kyle Scherr, a psychology professor at Central Michigan University, testified as an expert on false confessions. Scherr said Castaldo, Quick, and Stephens used minimization of the crime, misinformation, and contamination to elicit the statement that Quick wrote and Krivak signed. Scherr said that Rose’s statement that Wright’s hands were tied in front of her — which was wrong – was an example of as a "false-fed fact" that came from the police. It was not until after the officers said Rose provided that detail that an expert determined that Wright’s hands had been tied behind her. Scherr testified that the investigators lied to Krivak, saying that DiPippo had implicated him. Scherr said Stephens told Krivak that the polygraph machine could not tell if someone had acted on purpose or by accident, which was a form of minimization. Krivak had responded by asking what would happen to him if it was an accident, and he subsequently asked Castaldo if rape was less serious than murder. Scherr said Krivak was engaging in "temporal distancing," hoping to get out of the interrogation while ignoring the long-term consequence of confessing to a serious crime.

--Two women testified about sexual assaults by Gombert and how he tied up his victims and put their underwear in their mouths.

The jury began deliberating on the afternoon of Friday, February 24 and adjourned at 4:30 p.m. without reaching a verdict. On Monday, February 27, Krivak was acquitted. The ankle monitor he had been wearing since October 23, 2020, was removed.

“It’s about time,” Krivak declared. “Now’s the first start of the rest of my life.” DiPippo was present when the verdict was read. He said the verdict represented a “full exoneration of the both of us.”

In May 2023, Michelin a $50 million claim in New York Court of Claims seeking compensation on behalf of Krivak. In August 2023, Michelin filed a federal civil rights suit against Putnam County and investigators and prosecutors in the case.

In September 2023, Krivak settled his Court of Claims case for $5,720,000.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/10/2023
Last Updated: 10/11/2023
State:New York
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Rape
Reported Crime Date:1994
Sentence:25 to life
Age at the date of reported crime:17
Contributing Factors:False Confession, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes