A not guilty plea was entered Friday by a man accused of murdering an acclaimed Long Island equestrian, but authorities said he already admitted to shooting the victim by firing a barrage of bullets through the window of the man’s East Setauket home, court documents said.
Brett C. Knight, 46, was ordered held without bail after a Friday morning court proceeding at First District Court in Central Islip. He pleaded not guilty to a sole felony count of second-degree murder.
Knight was arrested Wednesday in Seymour, Tenn., after Suffolk homicide detectives and US Marshals tracked him across the country in connection with the slaying of Ross Reisner, who was shot through the window of his East Setauket home on Sept. 24.
Prosecutors said he made oral admissions to investigators after his arrest. According to court documents, Knight “stated in sum and substance that he shot the victim.”
Sources said Knight had previously lived in the basement apartment of the East Setauket home. His attorney said he had lived there for “seven or eight months.” It was unclear what prompted Knight to move, but sources said there was an ongoing disgruntlement between the landlords and tenant.
Assistant District Attorney Rafael Pearl said Knight used a .45-caliber handgun to fire 11 shots through a front window of the home on Upper Sheep Pasture Road. One of the bullets struck Reisner in the chest. Another bullet grazed the arm of his domestic partner, Kevin Murray, who declined medical attention.
A few months ago, Murray allegedly called police and filed misdemeanor harassment charges against Knight. Court officials confirmed that Knight was due to appear in court on Sept. 4 on that misdemeanor charge, but he skipped out and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Prosecutors said the harassment charge appears to be “related” to the murder, but the harassment complaint and all related documents were unavailable, because they were ordered sealed by a Suffolk County judge late last month.
He was due to face arraignment Friday on the aggravated harassment count, as well, but was not formally arraigned on that charge. The district attorney’s office did not provide details as to why that arraignment was delayed or when it has been scheduled for.
US Marshals said after Knight fled the shooting scene, he purchased a motorcycle and began to travel the country. Federal officials described him as “armed, volatile and extremely dangerous.” He was found Wednesday morning at a home on Creswell Street in Seymour, Tenn. Two handguns were also recovered during a raid of the home. It was unclear if either was used in the murder.
Prosecutors asked that Knight be remanded to the Suffolk County jail as the case continues. His attorney, Michael Brown, did not object to the prosecution’s request, but said he would reserve the right to make a bail application at a later date.
“We’re interested in seeing what kind of proof the district attorney has,” Brown said after the arraignment. “From what I know in my limited knowledge, I think they are going to have some serious problems in establishing the guilt of my client.”
Brown said Knight had known Reisner and Murray for more than 20 years. “My client has been good friends with these people,” he said, adding that he didn’t believe Knight had “incentive or motive” to shoot the couple.
Brown declined to say if Knight was romantically involved with the either of the victims. “Those are things better left down the road,” he remarked.
Knight – a native of Utah– formerly worked as an executive at American Express in Manhattan. He left the company in 2009 and subsequently filed a lawsuit alleging that he was wrongfully fired because he was HIV-positive, the New York Post reported at the time. Brown said the case has since been settled, but would not elaborate. A spokeswoman for American Express, Marina Norville, said Knight’s position was “displaced because of reengineering at the time.” The company did not comment on the lawsuit.
Knight will be back in court on Oct. 16.