Police Probe Death Of Homeless Man

Police car on the street

A man, brutally assaulted in broad daylight near Grangebel Park, died in Riverhead in a few days later. Wayne Sapiane sustained a massive head wound or wounds during the beating.

Now his family wants answers, and with three different law enforcement agencies involved, straight answers have been hard to come by, they say.

“Wayne Sapiane reported to police that he was struck on the head by an unknown white male in the area of West Main Street in Riverhead on January 2. Southampton town and Riverhead town police both responded to the incident,” according to a Suffolk County Police department press release dated January 6. The matter is under investigation.

Gary Sapiane, the brother of the deceased, is a radio personality with WLNG. He has been stymied in his attempts to piece together the events that led to his brother’s death. “They haven’t been very helpful,” he said of the police.

The exact location of the attack is in question, and the line between Riverhead and Southampton towns intersects south of Main Street north of the traffic circle. The attack happened near where a woman leaving Chase bank was robbed at knifepoint the following day.

There have been other incidents of knifepoint robberies in Riverhead, in the parking lot behind Suffolk Theater, on the railroad tracks, on East Main Street, and even in the box store parking lots on Route 58.

Sapiane heard his brother was in Grangebel Park behind West Main Street. “He may have grabbed someone else’s cell phone, thinking it was his,” he said. Sapiane was told his brother may have realized his error and went to return the phone. Police said the assault occurred near McDonald’s by a nearby bus stop. It was midafternoon when police arrived.

Lt. Susan Ralph of the Southampton Town Police Department declined to comment on the case or the exact turn of events. County Homicide police said they would not comment until an arrest was made.

Sapiane, 65, who was homeless but staying in Riverside, was transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, and then airlifted to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where he died January 5. His brother spoke to him at about 4:30 PM over the phone.

“It’s tough on the family. He had children,” Sapiane said. His brother was well known on the East End, a musician who excelled on guitar.

An autopsy will be done by the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office to determine the cause of death.

A spokeswoman for the County Homicide Bureau said this week no further updates would be furnished until an arrest is made.

Police are asking anyone with information on this incident to contact Homicide Squad detectives at 631-852-6392 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

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