Manor Man Charged With Murder
By John Emerson
MONTICELLO May 30, 2000 -- A Livingston Manor man was indicted on murder charges Friday, bringing to a close a case that has baffled State Police investigators for almost 20 months.
Samuel VanDunk, 23, was charged with two counts each of second degree murder and third degree criminal possession of a weapon when a sealed indictment was opened by Sullivan County Court Judge Frank LaBuda Friday morning.
VanDunk stands accused of bludgeoning Angelo Barbaria, 67, with a rock on September 8, 1998, in the Town of Thompson Park.
At a news conference held after the indictment was opened, District Attorney Stephen Lungen said the break in the case for State Police investigators came from information generated through the state prison system. He declined to be more specific.
Barbaria, a well-known Loch Sheldrake pianist, was reported missing by family members in September 1998 when he failed to arrive in Philadelphia to accompany his niece on a scheduled vacation trip to Great Britain. Two days after State Police received the report of Barbarias disappearance, they discovered his car parked in a Toyota dealership lot near Newburgh.
At the time, forensic investigators found a fingerprint on one of the car windows but could not match the prints with a suspect.
In a perfect world, the [Statewide Automated Fingerprint Identification System] SAFIS would have worked and matched the fingerprint with a supsect, said SP Captain John Melville, who heads Troop Fs Bureau of Criminal Investigations. This time, it didnt match until we had an eye-to-eye inspection.
Although they were armed with a fingerprint, State Police were still unsure of Barbarias whereabouts until March 1999 when a hiker discovered badly decomposed human remains in the Town of Thompson Park. The remains, by now not much more than a few scattered bones, were identified as Barbarias through dental records.
Police then were certain that they were dealing with a homicide.
It really was started as a homicide investigfation, given the circumstances, said Senior Investigator David Goggin.
Investigators interviewed hundreds of people from throughout the United States and Canada in the intervening months, all to no avail. Complicating the investigation was Barbarias open homosexuality and his frequent casual sexual relationships, Lungen said.
In the meantime, VanDunk, who was convicted of burglarizing a Livingston Manor building in July 1997, was in state prison serving a two- to six-year sentence after violating parole. He was free on parole when the alleged murder took place.
In March this year, based on information generated from the prison system, investigators identified VanDunk as a possible suspect in the case. When forensic experts matched VanDunks fingerprints to the print found in the car, they could positively place the men together.
The investigators then obtained information that is corroborative of our investigation from VanDunk, Lungen said. Lungen would not, however, characterize VanDunks statements as a confession.
VanDunk is currently being held in state prison on the burglary conviction while court proceedings involving the murder charges move forward. The next court appearance is scheduled for June 22 in Sullivan County Court.