A Port Jefferson Station man to death pled not guilty to murder charges in Suffolk County criminal court in Riverhead on Monday morning.
Eduardo Nunez, 20, of Port Jefferson Station, is charged with one count of second-degree murder and two counts of intimidating witnesses, said Assistant District Attorney Raphael Pearl who is prosecuting the case for Suffolk County.
Nunez was read the charges through a Spanish language interpreter and secured his court appointed attorney during the arraignment.
Alex Fernandez, 19, of Port Jefferson Station, a co-defendant in the case, is accused of accompanying Nunez to scene of the crime. Fernandez has been charged with first-degree manslaughter by Suffolk police but he has yet to go before a grand jury, according to Pearl.
According to an account given by the assistant district attorney in the court room, on Feb. 27 Nunez and Fernandez sought out Luis Vargas, 21, of Selden, after they got into an argument on Magnolia Drive in Coram. Nunez went to get a gun and gave a knife to Fernandez. The pair found Vargas on Judith Drive in Selden and Nunez shot Vargas in the chest with a .38 caliber handgun.
The district attorney's office confirmed that Nunez and Vargas had known each other before the initial argument. They declined to comment on the relationship between Nunez and Fernandez or where Nunez got the gun he used to shoot Vargas.
Vargas was transported to Stony Brook Hospital but he died shortly after arriving.
On March 2, police announced that they had arrested both Nunez and Fernandez in connection with the murder. Nunez had fled to the Bronx where he was picked up by police.
Pearl said that he recommended that Nunez be held without bail because he was a flight risk. Suspicions arose from the District Attorney’s office over Nunez’s connection to Suffolk County because he was unemployed and it’s unclear of his residency status.
“As far as I can tell, he’s undocumented,” Pearl said over the phone. He said that Nunez might be here illegally from the Dominican Republic.
If convicted, Nunez possibly faces life in prison, another factor in recommending he be held without bail.
At the arraignment, Nunez’s attorney reserved right to apply for bail at a later date. Although Pearl said he can make a bail application at any time, he’d have to show reasons why he’s not a flight risk.
Charges against Nunez include accusations that he threatened two witnesses afterwards who were present at the scene of the shooting.
Fernandez has been charged with manslaughter but has not been brought before a grand jury. Pearl said he would be the one to prosecute Fernandez as well saying they “very well could” be prosecuted together.
“So many things can happen,” he said of the possibility. “If he gets indicted we can consolidate.”
Nunez will return to court on April 23 where conferences will start to bring a trial.
Although there is a potential to have a plea bargain in the case, Pearl said that if the case goes to trial it will not be until later this year.
“The goal is to get it on trial,” he said.