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Wendy’s suspect charged as mastermind of killings

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John Taylor, one of two Queens men charged in the massacre at a Wendy’s in Flushing last spring, was arraigned on additional charges Friday that reflect his alleged role as the mastermind of the robbery that left five people dead and two others wounded.

The indictment, which has not yet been incorporated into the original one handed up last summer, was unsealed in State Supreme Court Justice Stephen Fisher’s courtroom in Kew Gardens Friday.

John Taylor, who sat impassively during the proceedings, was arraigned on four new counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder, to which he pleaded not guilty. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown is seeking the death penalty against Taylor, 36, in both indictments having been charged with first-degree murder.

Mary de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, said the new indictment serves to strengthen the prosecution’s case because it directly implicates Taylor in allegedly directing Craig Godineaux, who pleaded guilty in January, to shoot six of the workers, four of whom died.

Specifically, he is charged with “commanding” Godineaux to shoot Anita Smith, Ramon Nazario, Ali Ibadat, Jeremy Mele, Jaquione Johnson and Patricio Castro. Johnson and Castro were the only victims to survive. Taylor was not charged with ordering Godineaux to kill Jean Auguste.

It has been almost a year since the seven workers at the Wendy’s in Flushing were marched into the basement, bound and gagged, and shot execution-style during a robbery. For nearly seven months, the former restaurant on Main Street in Flushing sat boarded up and abandoned until it was sold to a restaurateur who considered turning it into a fast-food restaurant. The property, however, is being converted into a mini-mall that could open up as early as this month.

The half-hour arraignment Friday was attended by only family members of three of the victims and a handful of detectives who investigated the case. In interviews both before and after the arraignment, the family members said they were confident that the new indictment would serve to bolster the district attorney’s case.

In court Friday, prosecutors asked the judge to consolidate the supplemental indictment with the 50-count one under which both men were arraigned last summer, a move that would reinforce the district attorney’s case. In the original indictment, Godineaux and Taylor were charged as “acting in concert,” a phrase indicating that the men’s alleged roles were unclear.

“It would give the jury a more comprehensive allegation,” de Bourbon said. “It would bolster the grand jury’s charge that Taylor was the mastermind behind the robbery.”

Benjamin Nazario, whose brother Ramon was among those murdered, said that while he was pleased with the new indictment, he thought the case was proceeding too slowly.

“It’s almost going to be a year,” he said. “Me and the other families must be tired of seeing his face. I know justice is doing it as fast as they can, but with criminals who committed murders like this, it should be swifter than this.”

But Joan Truman-Smith, whose 21-year-old daughter Anita, was murdered, said she was not growing impatient with the speed of the case. “Let it take as long as it takes,” she said, repeating those words several times outside the courthouse.

Family members have said they felt some sense of closure when Godineaux pleaded guilty in January. Godineaux’s plea came several months after his attorney raised the possibility that her client was mentally retarded, a claim that the district attorney’s office investigated and ultimately found to be true.

As a result, Brown chose not to seek the death penalty against Godineaux because New York is one of 13 states that do not execute mentally retarded criminals. In exchange for his plea, Godineaux was sentenced to five consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Jacquline Hall, the mother of Jeremy Mele, who was also murdered, said she hoped that in the end the indictment would strengthen the case.

“Godineaux being able to get away with being retarded was bad enough,” she said. “I hope it does change the case. I hope the man gets the death penalty.”

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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