Holtsville man pleads guilty to Greenport carjacking with baby in car

A Holtsville man is expected to spend two to four years behind bars after pleading guilty to committing a carjacking in Greenport in which a 14-month old baby was trapped inside the stolen vehicle during a series of high-speed chases.

Paul Ludeman, 56, pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony grand larceny, driving while impaired and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the office of Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney.

“This defendant had absolutely no regard for the law or anyone, for that matter, when he stole a vehicle with a baby in the backseat while under the influence of alcohol,” Mr. Tierney said in a statement.

The incident unfolded on the morning of February 14. Retired East Marion engineer Bill Gorga was shopping on Front Street in Greenport ahead of a Valentine’s dinner date with his wife Stephanie, when a woman ran from a store creaming, “That car just left with my baby inside! They took my car with the baby!”

The baby was her grandchild, suddenly being whisked away in her stolen Mercedes.

“’Don’t worry,’ Mr. Gorga said he told her, in an interview after the incident. ‘We’re getting this guy.’” 

The woman got into Mr. Gorga’s Ford Ranger truck and they took off after the stolen car.                                

“I gunned it and put my hand on the horn to draw attention and didn’t take it off for I don’t know how long,” he recalled.

Mr. Gorga managed to race ahead of the fleeing Mercedes and force the car off the road against some fencing.  

As Mr. Gorga blocked the car’s path, he said, Mr. Ludeman, in the driver’s seat, began yelling, ‘Take the baby! Take the baby! I don’t want the baby!”

The woman leapt out of Mr. Gorga’s truck, ran to the back of her Mercedes and climbed into the back seat.

Suddenly, according to Mr. Gorga and police, Mr. Ludeman sped off again, this time with both the woman and her grandchild in the back seat.

Good Samaritan Bill Gorga in his Ford Ranger truck. (Credit: Chris Francescani)

Amazingly, Mr. Gorga chased down the Mercedes again and once again forced it to stop on the side of the road.

This time, the woman and the baby got out of the car — before Mr. Ludeman hit the gas and fled for a third time, ultimately crashing the stolen car.

“This could have ended in a tragedy, but luckily the child’s grandmother and [Mr. Gorga] were able to get the child out of the vehicle before this defendant crashed into the guardrail,” Mr. Tierney said.

The district attorney said that at Mr. Ludeman’s May 30 sentencing, he is expected to be ordered to serve two to four years.

The guilty pleas were good news to Mr. Gorga, the Good Samaritan.

“I was going to call the detective tomorrow and ask him if there was going to be a grand jury where I’d have to testify, so that’s good,” he said this week. “I wasn’t looking forward to that.”

Mr. Gorga said he feels Mr. Ludeman deserves a stiffer sentence.

“Does that mean he’s out in six months with good behavior?” he wondered. “In my personal opinion, he deserves more than two to four.”