A Long Island man who was recently reunited with his eldest son after he disappeared from a Jamaica Estates home 21 years ago lost his second-born last week when the 20-year-old died of carbon monoxide poisoning, the Nassau County medical examiner said.
Christopher Russini, 20, of Westbury, L.I. was found unconscious in his car and died at a Long Island hospital of carbon monoxide poisoning, said Nassau County Deputy Medical Examiner Michael DeMartino.
Russinis death was classified as an accident, DeMartino said. Russini was found in his car Oct. 10 outside the Westbury firehouse, where he was a volunteer firefighter, Newsday reported Sunday.
His father, Anthony Russini, was reunited with his first-born son, Matthew Propp, 22, earlier this year after the couple who raised him, Barry and Judith Smiley, appeared in a Queens court and were charged with kidnapping Propp more than 20 years ago.
The Smileys did not tell Propp he was adopted until he was 21 and pursuing a career in law enforcement.
Several members of the tight-knit Russini family attended each and every court date the Smileys had this year in Kew Gardens and Christopher Russini was present at one hearing in August. He bore a striking resemblance to Matthew Propp, although he was taller and had a larger build.
Propp was raised in New Mexico, where he continues to live and work as a security guard in a hospital.
Propp began to establish a relationship with the Russinis over e-mail and when he visited New York for the Smileys court dates.
Matthew Propps birth mother, Debbie, lives in Florida and has chosen to remain out of the spotlight of the high-profile court case. She and Anthony Russini had one more child, Jennifer, now 17, before their divorce.
When Propp was born in 1979, Debbie was 19 and unmarried. Her father arranged to have the child placed with the Smileys, but Debbie and Anthony Russini soon got married and fought to get their baby back.
In 1980, a family court judge ordered the baby to be returned to its biological parents, but when Anthony and Debbie Russini went to the Smileys Jamaica Estates home to claim the child, they realized the Smileys were gone.
The Russinis never stopped searching for the child, spending thousands of dollars on detectives and psychics.
Both Smileys pleaded not guilty to kidnapping earlier this year. Their lawyers are still negotiating with the Queens district attorneys office, but the case could go to trial later this year or next year.
If they are convicted of kidnapping, the Smileys face a minimum of two to six years in jail or up to a maximum of 25 years in jail.
Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2001 Community News Group
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