Matthew Propp’s brother dies from inhaling fumes

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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.

Russini’s 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 Propp’s 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 attorney’s 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 or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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Reader feedback

Long Islander from Long Island says:
It appears the Russini family could not keep any of their children in line. Jennifer Russini the youngest, now named Jennifer Palmero was imprisoned for identity theft. And she is responsible for her ex boyfriends actions of murdering one of her identity theft victims. Shameful!
Sept. 27, 2013, 11:43 pm
donna russini says:
Just an fyi there are six russini children. One who is successful in the union, one graduating high school this year and myself successfully attending college full time while holding a full time job. So for that previous comment from such an ignorant person was incorrect.
Jan. 28, 2014, 7:54 am
donna russini says:
And jenns name never changed. Dont always believe everything you read.
Jan. 28, 2014, 7:59 am
Leeza from Queens says:
Raised by two obese people, Matthew is himself obese. His birth parents are not.

He is not genetically obese but overfed -- that too is a crime.
March 9, 2014, 12:58 pm
Jennifer Russini says:
Hi my name is Jennifer Russini..let me put a few things out there right now ...The Russini family are an amazing family..and I'll first put this out there in refards to the —— about how I was involved w an ex boyfriend murdering someone...I was absolutely not involved with anyone murdering anyone, I never ever met the girl mandy jenkins but a girl Amy gill that dave was seeing was caught on camera using her id to open an account....and funny how people believe or make up ——..that obviously have no lives..and obviously no facts what so lawyer pulled cameras at so called bank that I used her identity and never was I in that bank and anyone who knows anything about any of the case would also know that if I could use her identity I might at as well michael Jackson...we look.nothing alike at all blonde hair brown eyes, and she had blue eyes and black hair and weighed like 90lbs...due to her drug abuse....I never stole anyone's id and certainly not her..........and FYI...I am a college graduate, went to an amazing private school for HS...and us Russini kids are amazing people and would be lucky to know us and..I have a very successful career and a great family has been through more then Anyone could imagine...and yes I did get married and became mrs.Palmero..and I lost my husband in a horrible accident......
Jan. 30, 2015, 1:35 am
Jennifer Russini says:
I.have made mistakes who hasn't...but I would never hurt anyone intentionally or ever be involved with anything like people like to say about.....the funny thing is too my brother christopher who passed away from carbon monoxide was the most c amazing person to ever live and not only am I beyond lucky to say I'm his lil sister and that we were best friends but he loved all of his lil sisters and brother from my father's 2nd marriage...and his cousins
Jan. 30, 2015, 1:40 am
Jennifer Russini says:
And fyi whoever came out with that bs comment about Matt being obese is a moron as well..the people stole him are disgusting fat Slobs but the Russini family is an amazingly beautiful family....
Jan. 30, 2015, 1:41 am
from NY says:
5/20/15- Offender Name: JENNIFER M RUSSINI
Offender ID:

Date of Birth:

Custody Status:
In Custody
May 20, 2015, 6:25 pm
mary lamb from the world says:
Jennifer russini is a sociopath and a liar. She had her ex kill someone and she put the blame on on other people at the time. She is a sick individual who needs serious mental help. All she does is rob and lie. Ms jennifer russini the internet is an amazing thing all people have to do is type in your name and all your charges and arrests come up. So stop lying to everyone and yourself you dont have custody of your kid your ex died bc he od bc the 2 of you are addicts which is a shame. You are a joke. You knew mandy bc there are wintnesses who saw her in the home you shared with dave and again just go online there are pictures of you with her. Its sad you beieve your own lies. You ruined so many peoples lives with your actions.
Jan. 10, 2016, 4:06 pm
mary lamb from the world says:
Oh and stop lying bc my sweet dear jennifer you were dating dave he was your boyfriend everyone knows that so please please stop making stories up you ruined his life and mandys life.
Jan. 10, 2016, 4:09 pm

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