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Newsday, August 29, 2005
BY CHRISTINE ARMARIO, KARLA SCHUSTER AND JENNIFER SMITH, STAFF WRITERS
The bludgeoning death of a Nassau University Medical Center emergency room surgeon was the culmination of longstanding tension with the son charged with his murder, Nassau police said yesterday.
Mulumba Kazigo, 26, of Lincolndale, planned the death of Dr. Joseph Kazigo several days in advance, authorities said yesterday, purchasing weapons, plastic and tape to wrap the body, and using a family car to dispose of the corpse within 10 minutes of the family’s Westchester home.
The elder Kazigo, 67, lived with his family in Westchester but often stayed at a Westbury apartment due to a long commute from the East Meadow hospital. Authorities said Mulumba Kazigo broke into the Westbury residence, repeatedly beat his father with a bat and then cut his father’s throat with a knife while he slept Wednesday morning.
Kazigo was reported missing on Thursday when he did not show up for his shift at the hospital. Police said yesterday that he also did not respond to a page from the hospital Wednesday evening, but that this was not uncommon for on-call surgeons.
Mulumba Kazigo was arrested Friday on second-degree attempted murder and assault charges after neighbors reported seeing a man fitting his description driving one of the family’s cars from his father’s Westbury home on Wednesday, police said.
After talking with his family, Kazigo led police to his father’s unburied remai ns in a wooded area near the Muscoot reservoir Saturday between 4 and 5 a.m., and confessed in writing and video to the murder, Det. Lt. Dennis Farrell of the Nassau Homicide Squad said.
The younger Kazigo was a graduate student in history at the University at Albany, according to attorney Francis Ssekandi, a family friend who grew up in Uganda with Joseph Kazigo and represented the son at his arraignment yesterday. At the time of his arrest, Kazigo was living at his parents’ home and working as an assistant at a nearby summer camp, Ssekandi said.
“There may have been an argument recently,” Farrell said, adding that tensions between father and son had been “building for a number of years.” He declined to say what had spurred the son’s problems with his father, who was known as a strict man devoted to traditional values of his native Uganda. Eyes drooping, Mulumba Kazigo stared stoicly ahead as he was escorted yesterday from Nassau police headquarters. He paused briefly before entering a police vehicle and looked at the swarm of reporters.
“I have no comment,” he said in a quiet voice.
At First District Court in Hempstead, Kazigo pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail. Karoli Ssemogerere, one of Mulumba Kazigo’s attorneys, described his client as having a “gentle demeanor, quiet, unassuming. Obviously, we are shocked.”
Kazigo’s lawyers argued that their client needed a psychiatric evaluation and had not been granted access to legal counsel despite numerous requests while in police custody until 1 a.m. yesterday morning, claims that Assistant District Attorney Frank Schroeder denied.
Nakizito Kazigo, one of the suspect’s sisters, said in court that her brother was on Effexor XR, an anti-depressant, and that it was “important that he be on it.” There was no indication yesterday that the drug had played a role in the killing, but the drug’s side effects can include hostility, worsening depression and suicidal thoughts, according to Healthwise, a nonprofit organization. There have been reports throughout the nation of people who allegedly committed violent crimes while on the drug, including a Maryland teen who poisoned his best friend and is serving a life sentence.
The drug’s manufacturer, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc., warns on its Web site that patients should be “watched for becoming agitated, irritable, hostile, impulsive or restless.”
The sister was accompanied by her husband and one of her five brothers at the arraignment. Nakizito Kazigo and her brother showed no visible emotion as Schroeder described how Mulumba Kazigo took days to buy different weapons and bludgeoned his father in his Westbury apartment.
“This crime and its brutality are only by its premeditation and attempts to cover up the crime,” Schroeder said, adding that the suspect gave an “extensive confession” in writing and video. Schroeder also denied claims by Mulumba Ka zigo’s attorneys that the suspect was refused access to an attorney before making the confession. “I don’t think the attorney really knows what he was talking about,” Schroeder said outside the courthouse. “The defendant never requested a lawyer.”
Ssemogerere said a funeral is being planned for Wednesday and that Joseph Kazigo’s remains will then be sent back to Uganda. He said that the family was “obviously saddened. They’re trying to find themselves.”
At the Kazigos’ Westchester home, a steady stream of family and friends visited yesterday to offer support and comfort.
A woman who answered the door there declined to comment. A woman identified by a family friend as Kazigo’s daughter, Nakizito, 32, a doctor and West Point graduate who lives in Honolulu, said nothing as she arrived home from her brother’s arraignment.
“It’s totally incomprehensible,” said Dr. Sam Kigongo, a surgeon who had worked with Kazigo at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx and is also Ugandan, after pulling up in the family’s driveway.
Another friend who declined to give her name shook her head when asked if she had ever seen any tension between the Kazigos and their children.
“They’re such a good family,” she said. “I remember them all playing in the backyard as kids; they were the most well-behaved children you ever saw.”