2001-04-07 / Front Page

Belle Harbor Stalker, Murderer

Belle Harbor Stalker, Murderer

May Face Death Penalty

By Joan Ward George

Michael Taffinder, the Belle Harbor man accused of the March 3 murder of a Long Island taxi cab driver, was arraigned in Suffolk County Criminal Court, Riverhead, Long Island, Wednesday on a first-degree murder charge punishable by the death penalty.

In the 12 count indictment Taffinder is accused of murdering the cab driver, Arthur McNeil, wounding the passenger in the taxi, as well as shooting at two others he followed from a Huntington Station night club, and a motorist on the Long Island Expressway.

Taffinder is charged with: first degree murder, second degree murder, firt degree attempted murder, first degree robbery, two counts of first degree criminal use of a firearm, two counts of second degree attempted murder, two counts of first degree criminal use of a firearm and two counts of first degree reckless endangerment.

The indictment charges that Taffinder shot and killed Arthur McNeil by shooting him on March 3 and wounding the cab’s passenger Cheeooma Joseph, during the course of a robbery. Taffinder allegedly followed Joseph from her job as an exotic cancer at the Carousel Lounge. The indictment also alleges that Taffinder followed two other Carousel Lounge employees on March 11, the weekend after McNeill’s murder, and shooting at them. This particular incident resulted in Taffinder’s arrest and the development of the entire case against the defendant.

Also, on March 11 Taffinder is accused of firing shots at a female motorist traveling on the Long Island expressway in the vicinity of exit 49. The shots struck the victim’s vehicle, but caused no injury.

First degree murder is punishable by penalty of death by lethal injection. The Suffolk County district Attorney has 120 days from today’s arraignment to decide to seek the death penalty or, in the alternative, life in prison without the chance for parole. Drew Biando, a spokesperson for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, told The Wave that "it’s impossible to state at this time whether or not the final decision will be to go with the death penalty." It is known that the original charge of second degree murder, for which Taffinder was arraigned on March 12, carries with it a penalty of 25 years imprisonment to life, so, given the nature of the crimes, there was a major push to go forward with the first degree murder charge.

Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice Michael Mullen who arraigned Taffinder in criminal court Wednesday morning has set bail at $750,000 cash (not bond), despite a strong plea by the Suffolk prosecutor’s request for that no bail be set.

During the course of the police investigation it was learned that Taffinder was in the habit of stalking exotic dancers. For the period of two weeks prior to and one week after the murder of the cab driver it is believed that he may have stalked as many as 12 dancers, their escorts or traveling companions as they left their place of business.

Taffinder was reported by police to be an individual who has an aversion to black people. The cabbie who was murdered last week and the dancer he was transporting home were both black. A resident of 209 Beach 131 street, Belle Harbor, Taffinder is known to frequent local Rockaway eateries, but there had been no incidents of stalking or suspicious activity officially reported here.

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