FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 9, 2022
Three Defendants Sentenced to 75 Years to Life in Prison for Robbery and Murder of New York City Police Department Civilian Employee in His Bensonhurst Home
Defendants Staked Out Victim’s Home, Then Entered After He Left for Work;
Ambushed and Tortured Him Hours Later in Attempt to Force Him to Open Safe
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that two men and a woman have each been sentenced to 75 years to life in prison for the torture and murder of a Bensonhurst man during a robbery at his home. The defendants were convicted in April following a jury trial.
District Attorney Gonzalez said, “The depravity of this horrific murder can’t be overstated and the lengthy prison terms to which these defendants were sentenced today holds them accountable for torturing and killing an innocent man during a carefully-planned robbery. While no sentence can return Robert D’Onofrio to his loved ones, I hope this sentence gives some solace to his family and friends.”
The District Attorney identified the defendants as Abasie Brabam, 31, of Marietta, Georgia; Lee Williams, 30, of Clarksville, Tennessee; and Tanaja Grant, 32, of Orlando, Florida. The defendants were each sentenced to 75 years to life in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Vincent Del Giudice. They were convicted of second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary on April 26, 2022, following a jury trial.
The District Attorney said that, according to the evidence, on February 8, 2017, the defendants left Brownsville, Brooklyn at approximately 4 a.m. to drive to the house of the victim, Robert D’Onofrio, 66, on Bay 8th Street in Bensonhurst. They arrived before he left for work, waited for him to leave and then pulled into his parking spot. They continued to wait over two more hours for his daughter to leave and for the house to be unoccupied.
The defendants then entered the victim’s home, according to the evidence, and stole electronics, jewelry, boxes of ammunition, and other items. They then waited for the victim to return home to force him to open a large safe in his garage that contained firearms.
The evidence showed that defendant Grant, who had a relationship with the victim, texted him throughout the day to confirm his whereabouts, who he was with and when he would be arriving home.
When the victim arrived home at approximately 5 p.m., according to the evidence, the defendants ambushed him, tortured him by repeatedly striking him in the head with blunt objects, whipping him across the torso with a weapon consistent with a belt, and dragging him – tearing the flesh off his knees. The victim was then shot twice – one bullet pierced his lung and penetrated his heart and the other entered his back and pierced the same lung.
Following the shooting the defendants fled in the victim’s Ford Mustang, packed with stolen property taken from his house. They traveled to Brownsville, where they were all caught on surveillance video concealing and disabling the victim’s car. DNA from all three defendants was recovered in or on the car.
The victim’s body was found by his 31-year-old daughter in a garage attached to the house. The safe was also recovered in the garage.
Abasie was arrested in 2018 after being questioned by police in another matter. Grant and Williams were arrested in 2019.
A fourth defendant, Derek Simpkins, 32, was arrested on February 10, 2017. He pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary on January 28, 2022 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison and five years’ post-release supervision.
The District Attorney thanked New York City Police Department Detective Gilberto Alonso of the Brooklyn South Homicide Squad, Detective Louis Caputo of Brooklyn South Nightwatch Squad, Detective Omar Santiago of the NYPD Video Unit, Detective Kevin McDonough of Brooklyn South Homicide Squad, Retired Detective Michael Habert from Brooklyn South Homicide, Assistant District Attorney Robert Kaftal, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Law Enforcement Assistance Unit, Senior Assistant District Attorney Melody Huang of the Law Enforcement Assistance Unit, Senior Intelligence Analyst Eungee Hwang and Paralegal Meghan Brancato for their assistance on the case.
The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Jamie Begley and former Senior Assistant District Attorney Andy Palacio, of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau, and Senior Assistant District Attorney Michael Bierce, of the District Attorney’s Appeals Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Leila Rosini, Homicide Bureau Chief.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.