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Reporters to answer reader questions about cold case report


In the more than 24 hours since The Suffolk Times published its 35th anniversary story on the Mattituck drowning deaths of William and Michelle Becker, the paper has been sent many questions from readers searching for more specific details from inside the 1981 police investigation.

In an attempt to provide answers to reader questions, the authors of the piece, executive editor Grant Parpan and managing editor Joe Werkmeister, will host a live chat on suffolktimes.com at noon Monday.

Readers will have an opportunity to inquire about the case files the Times used to supplement its reporting. Many scanned police reports will also be shared publicly for the first time during the chat.

“We recognize that it was a fairly lengthy, complicated read and a lot of people walked away from wanting to know more,” Mr. Parpan said. “One of the more challenging aspects of publishing the story was just how rich in detail the 49-page case file is and how sometimes statements contradict each other and become difficult to explain in one piece.”

“Hosting the live chat will give us a chance to get even more in depth about specific details of the investigation our readers want to know more about,” added Mr. Werkmeister.

RELATED STORY: Police seek new information in 1981 Mattituck double drowning, offer $15K reward

The reporters aim to keep the chat specific to the details of the investigators’ reports and not their own opinions.

“I am not a detective, I only play one in the newspaper every now and again,” Mr. Parpan joked. “In all seriousness, we believe these files contain enough details and interesting facts to carry a conversation with our readers that will help them walk away understanding this story better than at any other point in the 35 years since the drownings first made headlines.”

The Becker death investigation is back in the news this week after DEC police announced a $15,000 reward for anyone who comes forward with new information about the decades-old case that leads to an arrest and conviction.

DEC police Maj. Scott Florence said several facts surrounding the case make the deaths appear suspicious, despite what investigators said at the time. For starters, Mr. Becker’s tie was found on the floor of a nearby boat owned by the man whose gathering the couple had attended earlier that evening. A dining table in the boat’s cabin was broken off its hinges.

“Today, you would look at that and go, maybe there was a struggle and his tie got pulled off and the table broke,” Maj. Florence said.

Several reports in the case file make reference to the condition of the boat, Mr. Werkmeister said.

“Even in a fairly comprehensive story package like the one we published this week, we can only get into so much detail about that one aspect of the investigation,” he added. “The chat, however, will give us a chance to tell people exactly what investigators and witnesses said about whatever facet of the case intrigues them most.”

Readers who would like to submit a question about the investigation or any aspect of the stories published this week can do so in advance by writing to [email protected] or by commenting on any of our stories about the investigation or on social media. Real-time queries can also be submitted during Monday’s live event.

Anyone with information about the deaths should contact Suffolk County police homicide detectives at 631-852-6392.

Caption: A police diagram of the crime scene. (Credit: Suffolk County Police Department)

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