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LIC man convicted of killing Astoria couple

A 36-year-old Mexican immigrant was convicted last Thursday in his third trial for the fatal shooting of an Astoria couple as they lay sleeping in their bed on Easter Sunday 1997.

A jury of seven women and five men deliberated 12 hours over three days in State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens before finding Abel Rosas guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and weapons possession in the killings of Rimgaudas Dainys and Yurate Dainene, a Lithuanian immigrant couple.

The defendant faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Randall Eng on Sept. 17. He has already served six years for an earlier conviction in the same murder case.

During the seven-day trial, Assistant District Attorney Carmencita Gutierrez portrayed Rosas as a "jilted lover" who dated Dainene while she was separated from her husband but flew into a jealous rage when the pair reconciled.

The state's case, assembled from physical evidence, eyewitness testimony and a signed confession, provided a detailed account of the events of March 30, 1997. According to that evidence, following a night of heavy drinking, Rosas forced open the door of the couple's home at 23-17 38th St. using a metal bar, crept past their sleeping 9-year-old son and shot the two in the head at nearly point-blank range.

Most of that account came from a four-page confession signed by Rosas after he walked into the 114th Precinct in Astoria the day after the murders offering to help detectives. The jury appeared unswayed by defense attorney David Cohen's argument that the detectives used psychological and emotional pressure to coerce the confession during the 26 hours Rosas spent in the station house.

Cohen also attempted to discredit the boy who was perhaps the state's most compelling witness, 16-year-old Lukas Dainys, who testified that he saw Rosas fleeing his parents' bedroom only seconds after the shots were fired.

It was the boy's second time on the stand. Lukas did not testify in the first trial in 1998, which resulted in a hung jury. But he returned from Lithuania, where he was living with relatives following the death of his parents, to take the stand in 1999.

Although Rosas was convicted in that proceeding, an appeals judge overturned the decision last fall and ordered a retrial. The defendant has remained in prison since his arrest in 1997.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown hailed Lukas Dainys' testimony as the linchpin of the state's case.

"Their son has shown remarkable strength and courage by testifying," he said. "His account of the terrible crime that changed his life forever has helped ensure that justice has been done."

The state also provided physical evidence including a handprint matching Rosas' palm that was lifted by crime scene investigators from the door to the couple's apartment.

The defense called no witnesses and Rosas himself never took the stand.

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

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