A wanted man with a criminal history dating back nearly 15 years was identified by police Saturday as the masked home invader involved in the death of a Hofstra University student early Friday morning.
Dalton Smith, who was wanted on a parole violation related to a first-degree robbery conviction, attempted to rob the off-campus home where he and Hofstra junior Andrea Rebello were fatally shot, Nassau County police said.
Authorities said police were involved in the shooting although it isn’t clear who fired the shots that killed Rebello and Smith around 2:30 a.m. Friday. Police said they are still investigating.
Smith was identified using fingerprints just hours after funeral arrangement were made for Rebello, 21, a popular public relations major who was with her twin sister Jessica and several other students in an off-campus house at the time of the break-in. The other students were unharmed.
Smith, of Hempstead, Long Island, had what police described as “an extensive criminal history,” which included arrests for robbery in the first degree in 1999, promoting prison contraband in the second degree in 2000, robbery in the first degree in 2003, assault in the second degree in 2003 and robbery in the second degree in 2003.
Nassau County Chief of the Homicide squad Lt. John Azzata said in a statement that a warrant was issued for Smith on April 25 for absconding from parole.
The shooting, which took place just steps from campus, cast a pall over the university community as it geared up for commencement on Sunday.
“Today is the last day of finals and this should be a happy day on campus; but it’s not,” said Hofstra freshman Scott Aharoni of Great Neck, as he passed through the area rife with yellow crime-scene tape Friday. “It’s really sad.”
Rebello’s father, Fernando, was too distraught to discuss the incident in detail outside the family’s Tarrytown, N.Y., home Friday.
“It’s my daughter, my baby daughter,” he told the Journal News through tears. “She was so beautiful. I’m so confused.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said.
The Journal News reported that Wednesday’s funeral Mass for Rebello at Teresa of Avila Church in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., will be in Portuguese.
Hofstra’s commencement ceremonies will go on as planned on Sunday despite the tragedy. University spokeswoman Karla Schuster said she expects school President Stuart Rabinowitz to acknowledge the shooting in his remarks.
The two sisters, another woman and another man were inside the two-story rental house when the gunman, wearing a ski mask, forced his way in, according to Nassau County Inspector Kenneth Lack. The intruder allowed the third unidentified woman to leave, and she called 911.
A law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press the woman called 911 from near an ATM. The official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Victoria Dehel, who lives four houses away, said she heard what sounded like fighting. At first she ignored it, figuring it was from rowdy students coming home from a bar.
Suddenly, “this girl was shrieking,” followed by loud bangs just seconds later.
“It didn’t sound good at all,” Dehel said. “I turned to my boyfriend and I said, ‘I think someone just got murdered.’ It was awful.”
Rebello and her sister were 2010 graduates of Sleepy Hollow High School, according to principal Carol Conklin-Spillane.
“They were smart happy beautiful young women,” Conklin-Spillane said. “I speak about them together because they were very much a matched pair. They were best friends by choice.”
Andrea Rebello quoted Benjamin Franklin and Bob Marley in a yearbook photo from the school.
“Believe some of what you hear and only half of what you see” was attributed to the founding father and “Love the life you live, live the life you love” was the citation for the reggae legend.
Associated Press writer Jim Fitzgerald in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., contributed to this report.