Peggy DiLena never thought the driver responsible for killing her brother John Judge in Amagansett this past October would be found. Three and a half months later, she got a surprise when she awoke to the news that an arrest had been made.
On Friday, at about 1 a.m., East Hampton Town police detectives phoned her house in Florida. DiLena was asleep, and her husband, Dennis, took the call. He didn't wake her, choosing instead to tell her when the sun came up.
A pain that she once described as "a ripping apart of your heart" was somewhat eased by the news the case had been solved. "We knew that the odds were against finding the individual who did this terrible thing to John, but we never lost hope. Knowing that this man has been found, will hopefully finally bring some closure for his family and friends," DiLena said.
Judge, who was 61, was walking across Main Street, after leaving his best friend Tony Lupo's restaurant, when he was struck and killed. The driver — whom police identified as Edward Orr, 30, of Montauk — fled the scene with not much of a trace.
When DiLena and her family spoke to Patch back in December — just days before what would have been Judge's 62nd birthday — she said they had pretty much resigned themselves to believing the driver would never be found.
"John's family wishes to thank all those who worked so hard to apprehend this individual — the detectives who were persistent," DiLena said later on Friday. They called her just two weeks ago to let her know they were still plugging away.
"I couldn't be prouder of the men and women here, particularly, the detective division, the way they pulled the case together," Police Chief Ed Ecker said. "They never lost sight of it."
Throughout his career, he said he doesn't recall a case that brought in fewer leads from the public. "It was all pretty much done through forensics, with a great help and cooperation with the Suffolk County Crime Lab. We certainly have to give them a pat on the back too, they did a great job," he said.
Methodical police work like this, the chief said, takes time. Superstorm Sandy, which hit less than a week after Judge was killed, was also an interruption, he said. "I understand how people kind of lose track and think that nothing's being done, because of what they watch on television, but it doesn't work like that in real life."
"It was a difficult investigation," Detective Lt. Chris Anderson said. "I'm proud of what my guys did."
With a grand jury indictment expected, police are remaining mum on how the case unfolded, other than to say that they were able to trace Orr's Jeep, which was found in New Jersey, to the scene. However, Anderson did confirm that no one will receive the $10,000 in reward money that was posted after the accident for any information leading to an arrest.
Half of the money came from Larry Siedlick, an Amagansett homeowner, who wanted to ensure Judge's death was not forgotten. "As they say, 'the wheels of justice grind slowly' sometimes and while this arrest doesn’t bring John back I hope this provides some closure for his family and friends," Siedlick said. "And kudos to the East Hampton Police Department for solving this case."
East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson was the first among many who are applauding the department's work on this case.
"Chief Ecker, Lt. Anderson and the entire detective squad worked this case at a depth and breadth that was equivalent of any detective bureau in any city in these United States," he said. "Couple this with the recent award received by Detective Giles and the people of East Hampton should be extremely happy with the level of protective services that they get from this police department."
From Florida, DiLena said she was glad to hear that Tony Lupo's wife, Allison Lupo, and her family and friends were in the East Hampton Town courtroom when Orr was arraigned Friday morning.
Afterward, the Lupo family said they were disappointed not to see more emotion from the man, whom the Suffolk County district attorney's office said confessed to hitting Judge with his Jeep and driving away.
"Given this man's history, I wouldn't have expected any emotional response from him regarding the charges against him," DiLena said, after reading that he was on probation for a prior felony conviction.
"I do feel sorry for his family, as they will have to experience the loss of a loved one when he is sent to prison for the things he has done. Unfortunately, it will never bring John back," she said.
"To the Lupos and their family, who with their loving nature and support made us all part of their family, thank you, we love you. To the people of Amagansett and East Hampton, we cannot thank you enough for everything you did for our brother John, and his family," DiLena said.
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