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Third trial in murder of Astoria couple set to start

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Abel Rosas, 36, of 47-16 Greenpoint Ave., faces two counts of first-...

By Alex Ginsberg

Jury selection began Tuesday for the third trial of a Long Island City man accused of the brutal murder of an Astoria couple as they slept in their bed on Easter Sunday six years ago.

Abel Rosas, 36, of 47-16 Greenpoint Ave., faces two counts of first- degree murder as well as weapons, burglary and child endangerment charges for allegedly shooting Yurate Dainene and her husband, Rimgaudas Dainys, in a jealous rage, the Queens district attorney’s office said.

If convicted, the defendant could get 25 years to life in prison.

According to the district attorney’s office, Rosas met Dainene, a Lithuanian immigrant, when the two worked at a Manhattan restaurant. Daniene, who was having problems in her relationship with her husband at the time, began a short-lived affair with her alleged killer.

When Daniene and her husband reconciled only a few weeks later, Rosas was furious, prosecutors said. He allegedly broke into the family’s Astoria home early in the morning of March 30, 1997, and shot both victims in the head as their 9-year-old son slept nearby, the district attorney’s office said.

Rosas turned himself in at the 114th Precinct station house the next day.

The jury was unable to agree on a verdict during a 1998 trial at State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens. The prosecution’s case relied mostly on a confession Rosas allegedly made at the 114th Precinct. At his first trial, Rosas’ attorney David Cohen argued the confession was made under duress and was not valid.

“They forced me to sign this document,” Rosas said in his testimony. Asked by his lawyer to explain what he meant, Rosas said detectives in the 114th Precinct used verbal aggression and threats “that if I didn’t sign this document, they were going to hurt my family.”

In a retrial the following year, prosecutors buttressed their case with the testimony of the couple’s son, Lukas, who was 9 when the crime occurred. The boy testified that he saw Rosas fleeing the house after the shootings.

That jury convicted Rosas.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown hailed the decision at the time, calling the attack “a horrifying crime” and praising the courage of the couple’s son for testifying in front of his parents’ alleged killer.

But an appellate judge threw out the conviction last fall following the revelation that notes from an interview between investigators and the couple’s son were not made available to the defense. In those notes, the boy appeared to contradict his own testimony on the stand.

In any trial, key pieces of evidence such as criminal complaints, police records searches or chemical and forensic test results must be provided to the defense. But Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said prosecutors at the time did not believe the documents in question were included in that category. The appellate judge disagreed, so Assistant District Attorney Carmencita Gutierrez will make the state’s case again.

A key part of the prosecution’s case will be the testimony of the slain couple’s son, who must now return to court to relate the events of March 30, 1997, for a second time.

Rosas will be defended by Cohen, the attorney who represented him in both previous criminal trials.

Opening statements were expected to take place Thursday.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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