POLICE OFFICER QUESTIONED ABOUT CAR BOMBING DEATH OF OFF-DUTY NARCOTICS DETECTIVE

February 21 1990

A Nassau County police officer was questioned yesterday as a prime suspect in the death of an off-duty Suffolk County narcotics detective who was killed last week in a car bombing outside his home in North Patchogue, L.I., a law-enforcement official said. 

The official, who requested anonymity, would not give details about the questioning. He said that investigators had not completely ruled out their original suspicion that revenge by drug dealers was the motive for the killing of the 41-year-old undercover detective, Dennis Wustenhoff. 

But the official said that the officer who was questioned, Robert Horan, knew that Detective Wustenhoff had been having an affair with Officer Horan’s wife, Nancy. She is a part-time secretary in the Long Island office of the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration, other law-enforcement officials said. 

The officials said Officer Horan was in his 40’s and had been on the force for 20 years. They added that he was most recently assigned to the Emergency Services Bureau but has also worked with a hazardous-materials unit. The officials said that would have given him a working knowledge of explosives and how to detonate them. 

The disclosures came to light a day after Detective Wustenoff’s funeral, which was attended by more than 5,000 officers from as far away as Utah. They formed a line of blue nearly half a mile long as a silver hearse carried Detective Wustenhoff’s flag-draped coffin from a funeral home in Patchogue. With black bands of mourning over their badges, the officers stood at attention as a 21-gun salute rang out and a bugler played taps. 

Yesterday a team of Suffolk detectives went to Cooperstown, N.Y., where Officer Horan was on vacation, and questioned him, the official said. 

Officers from Nassau and Suffolk also converged on the Horans’ house in Bethpage, L.I. As Nassau officers sealed off the house, Suffolk officers arrived with a search warrant. Bomb-sniffing dogs from Suffolk County were brought in, apparently to search for evidence of explosives. 

Detective Wustenhoff, who won a Bronze Star in the Vietnam War before joining the Suffolk force in 1970, was killed last Thursday after getting into a white Cadillac Eldorado he used for undercover work. The car was parked outside the house where he lived with his wife, Francine, and three children. It was not clear whether the blast was set off by Detective Wustenhoff’s starting the engine or whether the bomb exploded before he turned the key in the ignition. 

Initial Suspicions About Drugs

The police had originally described the bombing as a ”probable assassination” related to his job as a narcotics detective. Police Commissioner Daniel P. Guido said then that the bombing appeared to have been aimed at avenging a conviction or thwarting an investigation that Detective Wustenhoff had been pursuing. 

The police said the bomb was a sophisticated device placed under the front seat or attached to the car’s undercarriage. The device blew out the windshield, showering the street with shards of blackened car parts and rocking the quiet neighborhood of well-kept homes. 

Detective Wustenhoff was conscious when rescuers pulled him from the car. He was taken by a police helicopter to University Hospital in Stony Brook, L.I., where he died. 

The police said they did not know where Detective Wustenhoff was going when the bomb exploded. He had been assigned to the narcotics squad since 1984 and was involved in what the police described as major investigations into high-level narcotics trafficking rather than street-level deals. 

Complaints to Authorities

Yesterday, law-enforcement officials said that the investigation changed direction over the weekend and that they began focusing on Detective Wustenhoff’s affair with Officer Horan’s wife. 

A Suffolk law-enforcement official said Officer Horan had complained to the Suffolk police about Detective Wustenhoff’s involvement with Officer Horan’s wife a year ago. When the detective’s superiors confronted him, the official said, Detective Wustenhoff told them that the affair had ended. But the official added that the affair was apparently continuing at the time of the bombing. 

Suffolk investigators last week sent bomb fragments and pieces of the demolished car to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Washington to determine the type of explosive used, how the device worked and how much the bomber might have known about explosives. 

A spokesman for the bureau, Jack Killorin, said yesterday that the agency had discussed its preliminary results with the investigators. But he refused to disclose what they were. Mr. Killorin said that a complete laboratory analysis would take additional time. 

Mr. Killorin said that in the last 11 years there had been 219 bombings of police vehicles nationwide, killing three officers and injuring 55 others.

– James Barron

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About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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