Death Of BC Teen Will Make It More Difficult To Prosecute His Attackers
By Howard Schwach
and Brian Magoolaghan
John Rich, who was killed in a recent subway accident, was supposed to be the key witness in the case against two young men accused of stabbing him, but prosecutors have not given up on the case.
A spokeswoman for the Queens District Attorney's office said that "the investigation is continuing and no final decisions have been reached," but another law enforcement source said there was other evidence that could be presented if there is a trial.
Rich, 16, fell under the wheels of a northbound shuttle train on November 11. he was scheduled to testify against two defendants who have been charged with stabbing him with a serrated knife on November 10, 2002. He was allegedly stabbed outside a Broad Channel bar by the two men, who police identify as Nicholas Minucci, 17 and Frank Ambrosio, 16, both from Howard Beach.
Police sources say that they first thought that Rich might have been killed to keep him from testifying at the trial, but that they have since discounted that theory.
According to Ray Sanchez, a columnist for Newsday, Rich, despite his young age, had been drinking at Paddy K's, a bar on Beach 92 Street. According to Sanchez, the teenager was reportedly ejected from the bar only when he became drunk.
"That's a pretty strong accusation," said Matt Spiewak, who has been operating the bar since the summer. "According to the people who were working that night everything was aboveboard," Spiewak said, adding that he was not there that night. Spiewak began advertising the bar for sale before the allegations surfaced following what he called "a horrible tragedy."
Witnesses told Newsday that Rich stumbled going to the Beach 98 Street station, attempting to make his way home to Broad Channel. He then fell to the tracks.
After falling, he lay motionless, according to an unidentified witness who called 911.
Rich's father is allegedly suing the city because the operator of the train did not have a radio on the day of the accident.
On December 19, Beach Channel High School will hold a memorial service for Rich and for Jonathon Rhodes, 17, who was gunned down on November 16 in what police are saying was a "gang-related" shooting.
A lawyer for Ambrosio says that the District Attorney does not have sufficient evidence without Rich's testimony, but prosecutors plan to pursue the case to trial.