Police search for suspect in fatal stabbing of NY rehab center worker, wounding of 2nd staffer

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cops search for suspect in NY rehab center slaying

ELLENVILLE, N.Y. — A man suspected of stabbing to death a security guard and wounding another employee at an upstate New York addiction rehabilitation center remained at large as police searched near a Catskills village on Wednesday evening, authorities said.

Ulster County Sheriff Paul VanBlarcum said Richard Giga killed 60-year-old Leland Wood at the Renaissance Project inpatient center in Ellenville after getting into an altercation with him around 3:30 a.m.

Giga, 24, forced a female worker to drive him away from the scene, then repeatedly stabbed her while she was driving, VanBlarcum said. The car flipped over less than a mile from the center, injuring the woman, who underwent surgery at a Poughkeepsie hospital and was expected to recover, he said. The woman’s name hasn’t been released.

Police in helicopters and with dogs searched through the morning and afternoon in a wooded area near the crash scene after warning local residents of the potential danger. Local schools shut down for the day in the community about 75 miles north of New York City.

Police don’t know what led Giga to attack Wood, VanBlarcum said.

“We haven’t been able to interview the woman, so we don’t know what led to the altercation,” he said.

According to the Renaissance website, the Westchester County-based organization has a 100-bed facility in Ellenville and nine outpatient facilities in other locations.

Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe said Giga, who lived in New City, was sent to the facility to recover from drug and alcohol addiction before being sentenced on a felony theft charge. Giga had been charged with stealing a cell phone, misdemeanor assault and shouting racial slurs during an altercation with three Hispanic teens in 2008.

Investigators determined Giga was highly intoxicated at the time, Zugibe said, and he pleaded guilty to fourth-degree grand larceny. Under a state program, he was sent for treatment at the Renaissance center in January 2009. Zugibe said the program typically lasts about 18 months.

Sheriff’s deputies, state troopers, Ellenville police and state environmental conservation officers joined Wednesday’s search along a road southeast of the rehab center. Police were going house to house to search the few homes in the area. The Ellenville Central School District closed for the day because of the search.

Associated Press writers Chris Carola and George M. Walsh contributed to this report from Albany, N.Y.

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