I cried all the time when he was missing, said Espinoza of Brendan McNelis, the Flushing resident who was...
By Alexander Dworkowitz
When Delores Espinoza learned her neighbors son, Brendan McNelis, had disappeared, she wanted to do something to ease the pain for his family.
I cried all the time when he was missing, said Espinoza of Brendan McNelis, the Flushing resident who was found dead in the Susquehanna River on May 15. I have a 25-year-old son, and I cant imagine how my life would be without him.
Espinoza worked to organize a benefit for the late 20-year-old Queensborough Community College honor student. The benefit, scheduled to take place on Saturday, July 20, will raise funds for the McNelis family, who have struggled financially since Brendan McNelis disappearance.
Brendan McNelis was reported missing after a fraternity party in Binghamton, N.Y., in early March.
He had traveled to SUNY Binghamton to see Fiorella Ramirez, a friend from Flushing whom he had dated two years before, Binghamton police said.
Sometime between 12:30 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. on March 3, McNelis left a fraternity party he attended with Ramirez at the American Legion Hall, police said.
No one reported seeing McNelis again until his body was found in the Susquehanna River, several miles from the American Legion Hall on May 15, according to authorities.
An autopsy showed McNelis had died of drowning and there were no signs of foul play, Binghamton police said.
Diane McNelis, Brendans mother, waited by the phone for the two weeks after her son was reported missing. Working off and on, she found herself in a difficult financial situation.
Im trying to work and go through the most terrible experience anyone could ever imagine, she said. I have all these debts that were incurred because of this.
Kevin McNelis, Brendans father who is divorced from Diane, stopped working after his sons disappearance and also is trying to make ends meet.
My savings are depleted, he said. Ive had help from various families and friends. Im behind in many different bills.
Diane McNelis said she was touched when she learned her neighbor of six years was trying to help her family.
Im very honored that she cared, she said. Brendan is very well loved in the Queensborough College community as well as this town.
Espinoza said she had fond memories of Brendan McNelis.
He was a very good boy, very quiet, very helpful, very nice kid, she said. I never saw him in any kind of trouble. He just went to school and did all the things a boy should do.
I just feel very sad that it had to come to this.
The benefit is slated for July 20 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of St. Andrew Avellino School at 35-60 158th St. The location was arranged in part by state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlins (D-Flushing) office.
The money raised will help the McNelis family with their bills as well as legal fees. The family has hired a lawyer in an attempt to access Binghamton police records.
Our main concern is to find out exactly what happened that night, said Kevin McNelis.
For more information about the benefit, call (917) 854-8993.
To donate to the Brendan McNelis Memorial Fund, call 445-1453.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.
©2002 Community News Group
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