Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Grandson of Victim Was 'Scared' to Implicate Pal

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Grandson of Victim Was 'Scared' to Implicate Pal

Article excerpt

The 22-year-old grandson of a Fairview veteran -- who was robbed and fatally beaten over the head with a pan -- testified Wednesday against his friend who is charged in the attack.

Andrew Abella, who lived across the street and a few houses down from his grandfather, 88-year-old Vincent Leuzzi, when the beating took place, testified on behalf of the prosecution as part of a plea deal. Leuzzi died from his injuries nine days after the July 2010 attack.

Authorities have said that Abella's friend, 22-year-old Edwin Estrada of Cliffside Park, bashed Leuzzi's head with a pan before taking his wallet. Estrada is charged with felony murder.

Under questioning by police shortly after the attack, Abella said that Estrada was the one seen on surveillance footage using Leuzzi's credit cards at stores in Times Square. Estrada, who his lawyer says suffers from mental illness, also plotted to kill Abella to prevent the testimony, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli announced in April.

Estrada's lawyer, John Pieroni, said after court that Estrada has not been indicted on that allegation. Pieroni said it would be "impossible" for Estrada to commit such an act while in jail for four years with no money or family.

As part of the plea deal, Abella, who now lives in Saddle River, pleaded guilty of conspiring to burglarize his grandfather's home in a separate incident a month or two before his grandfather's death. Abella could receive a reduced sentence of a year in jail because of his cooperation, Assistant Prosecutor John Higgins told jurors.

In his testimony, Abella said that when law enforcement officials first spoke to him four years ago, he sensed that Estrada might be involved. But he withheld that information because he was "scared."

"I obviously didn't know what to do. I knew I had done something very wrong," Abella told jurors. …

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