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'Wrong man' murder-for-hire case
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Murder-for-hire - Death of a man killed in a tragic case of mistaken identity
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 17, 2001
Date of birth: 1967
Victim profile: Alexander Algeri, 32 (fitness-club owner)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Suffolk County, New York, USA
Status: Sentenced to 25 years to life in prison on April 28, 2004

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In January 2001, Alexander Algeri was shot and killed as he left his gym.

More than a year later, police uncover that Algeri had been the victim of mistaken identity and the bullet had actually been intended for his best friend, Paul Riedel, who had been in a custody battle with his estranged wife, Lee Ann.

Police discover that Lee Ann's then new boyfriend, Ralph Salierno, had hired his friend Scott Paget to help him kill Riedel, but the two men simply got the wrong guy.

So the wrong man was killed; but whose idea was it to kill Paul? Police arrested Lee Ann Riedel, charging her as the mastermind of the scheme. Prosecutors claimed the only way and Salierno could be together was for Ralph to kill her estranged husband Paul. They would inherit money and his share of the fitness club. Lee Ann has always denied any involvement, and her lawyers argued that prosecutors got the story completely wrong.

Salierno did not testify against Lee Ann and even after his conviction, claims that Lee Ann had nothing to do with it. Lee Ann Riedel and Ralph Salierno were convicted of first-degree murder, and Scott Paget pled guilty to second-degree murder.


Lee Ann Reidel always had a thing for hunky men. So when she married Long Island gym owner Paul Reidel in 1998, everyone thought it was the perfect match. Lee Ann just had one small problem with her new husband - his crack cocaine addiction.

In July of 2000, Lee Ann took the couple's infant son and moved in with her mom in Florida. After being separated for six months, the couple reconciled when Paul agreed to go into rehab. But just when things were starting to look up for the Reidel family, tragedy struck.

On January 17, 2001, a gunman shot someone fitting Paul's description outside his gym in Long Island. When the police arrived at the scene, it wasn't Paul that lay dead on the asphalt, it was his partner and best friend, Alex Algeri.

Detectives made their first break in the case when they arrested a drug-abusing bodybuilder named Scott Pagett. In his interrogation, Pagett fingered a Florida strip-club bouncer named Ralph "Rocco" Salierno as the actual triggerman. Pressing Pagett more, investigators discovered that Rocco and Lee Ann were having an affair. With the information in hand, authorities immediately charged the two for the murder of Alex Algeri.

At their trial, prosecutors alleged that Algeri was the unintended victim of a scheme to murder Paul Reidel for his insurance money. Though Lee Ann and Rocco each tried to pin the murder on each other, the jury found them both guilty and sentenced the former lovers to life in prison.


Wife who fell in love with hired hitman gets 25 years to life

By John Springer - Court TV

Thursday, April 29, 2004

A woman who fell in love with a hitman with more muscles than brains was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison Wednesday for the death of a man killed in a tragic case of mistaken identity.

Lee Ann Reidel, 36, mumbled to her lawyer while Judge Louis Ohlig chastised her for continuing to maintain her innocence despite evidence that she hired, and later had a baby with, a man who was supposed to kill her husband.

"When is this charade going to end?" Ohlig asked Reidel, who stood with her hands cuffed behind her back. "Do you know how many families were affected here? How many lives were affected here?"

The hitman, Ralph Salierno, was sentenced Monday to life without parole for the January 17, 2001, shooting death of 32-year-old Alex Algeri outside a Long Island fitness center. Salierno actually intended to kill Reidel's estranged husband Paul, who was Algeri's business partner, but botched the job.

Reidel did not address the court during her sentencing. Her attorney, Bruce Barket, asked Ohlig to "tread lightly" because he was about to send a wrongly convicted person away to prison.

Assistant District Attorney Denise Merrifield, who prosecuted Salierno and Reidel simultaneously before separate juries, took issue with Barket's statements questioning the jury's verdict.

"Justice has been served here, your honor," Merrifield said. "She, because of her own greed and evil heart, wanted her husband dead ... This defendant is the most self-absorbed defendant I have ever prosecuted."

According to testimony, Reidel left her husband abruptly in the summer of 2000. She took their children and $120,000 of his money and moved to Florida to begin a new life.

Witnesses testified that Reidel, her mother and her mother's female lover recruited Salierno and another man to "put a beating" on Paul if he showed up in Florida to make trouble.

Paul Reidel, an ex-convict who spent six years in prison on drug charges, hired a New York lawyer and forced Lee Ann to bring their toddler son back to Long Island pending the outcome of a custody battle. At that time, the plan to scare Paul Reidel transformed into a plot to have him murdered.

Algeri, who happened to drive the same car as Paul Reidel, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Salierno shot him to death while he was retrieving music CDs from his car.

"Our brother is gone and the hole in our hearts will never be filled because of [Lee Ann's] greed and hatred of her husband," Christie Stoll, the victim's sister, told Ohlig. "Even though Lee Ann Reidel wasn't there on the night of Jan. 17, 2001, she just as well might have been. Lee Ann Reidel is just as guilty as Ralph Salierno."

Merrifield declined to comment on why she did not ask Ohlig to sentence Reidel to life in prison without a parole, an option under her first-degree murder conviction.

After the sentencing, Ohlig told Reidel he gladly would have given her a harsher sentence had the prosecutor's office asked for it.

As Reidel was led out of the courtroom, an unidentified person yelled out, "Lee Ann, we love you. You'll be home soon, sweetheart."

A relative of Algeri's yelled back "Forget it!"

Outside the courtroom Salvatore Algeri, the victim's father, said he had no quarrel with the prosecutor's recommendation of 25 years to life.

"They chose to give her a lesser sentence. Good for her," he said. "Justice has been done. She's going to serve her time. That's good with us."

During the trial, Barket portrayed Salierno as an obsessive, manipulative man and argued that he took it upon himself to kill Paul Reidel so that he could have Lee Ann all to himself.

Barket said Reidel has retained appeals counsel and that a notice of appeal had been filed.


Miami man gets life without parole in mistaken identity murder

April 26, 2004

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. - A Miami man who killed the wrong victim in a murder-for-hire plot received a life sentence Monday.

Ralph Salierno, 35, was convicted last month of fatally shooting Alexander Algieri outside the gym he co-owned with Paul Riedel on Jan. 17, 2001.

Salierno was having an affair with Riedel's estranged wife, Lee Ann Riedel, when he enlisted an accomplice, Scott Paget. They drove from Florida to New York to kill Paul Riedel, prosecutors said.

However, the pair mistakenly shot and killed Algieri, who had the same dark hair, build and drove the same model sport utility vehicle as Paul Riedel.

Lee Ann Riedel also was convicted last month on murder and conspiracy charges and is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday. She also faces a sentence of life without parole. Both she and Salierno were tried in the same Suffolk County courtroom before separate juries. Her lawyer has said he intends to appeal Riedel's conviction.

The third conspirator in the case, Paget, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in November and will be sentenced to 18 years to life in prison because of his cooperation against Salierno and Riedel, prosecutors said.

Paget testified he was paid $3,000 by Salierno to drive to and from Florida. He also said Salierno had a photo of Paul Riedel and they were given directions by Lee Ann Riedel on where he could be found.


Jury convicts wife in 'wrong man' murder-for-hire case

March 26, 2004

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. Lee Ann Reidel smiled nearly every time she was escorted into the courtroom during her six-week murder-for-hire trial, but she cried uncontrollably Friday when a jury pronounced her guilty on all counts.

Reidel, 36, wanted her boyfriend to kill her husband, but he shot the wrong man. It took the jury 29 hours over four days to sort out what exactly prosecutors had proved, but they returned guilty verdicts on all three counts.

After reading the verdicts, the foreman of the 12-member jury put his head in his hands as if he was exasperated. Reidel's crying became louder and louder as Judge Louis Ohlig thanked the jury.

Reidel, of Boynton Beach, Fla., faces life in prison when she is sentenced April 28 for first-degree murder, second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

"Can I just say good-bye to my family?" Reidel sobbed as she was led off to jail. Her father and his wife, David and Cathi Armanini, appeared upset but said nothing as they left the courtroom.

Defense attorney Bruce Barket told reporters there would be an appeal. "I respect the jury system. I respect the jury process. I strongly disagree with the verdict," Barket said.

Prosecutor Denise Merrifield said she believed the sequestered jurors deliberated so long because they may have found it difficult to convict a woman when she did not actually participate in the actual killing.

Merrifield called 35 witnesses as she methodically built a case that Reidel's lover, a 35-year-old sometimes-loan-shark collection agent named Ralph Salierno, drove to New York from Florida in January 2001 to kill Lee Ann's husband Paul. Merrifield argued Lee Ann wanted Paul out of her life and wanted his money without the inconvenience of a messy interstate divorce proceeding.

'I want him ... dead'

The key evidence against Lee Ann Reidel and Salierno, who was convicted by a separate jury Tuesday after just four and a half hours of deliberation, came from a drug addict and a drug dealer. The addict, Scott Paget, faces 18 years in prison and admits he drove the getaway car after Salierno shot and killed 32-year-old fitness-club owner Alex Algeri in a case of mistaken identity.

Algeri and Lee Ann's husband Paul were co-owners of the gym where the murder occurred. Paget testified that Salierno told him Lee Ann Reidel had given him a photograph of Paul and directions to his home and business. Drug dealer Michael Paglianti testified he was present when Lee Ann gave Salierno a photograph and said, "I want him f---ing dead."

The defense tried unsuccessfully to argue that Paget and Paglianti are not credible and have motives to lie. Paget's plea bargain has not yet been finalized, and Paglianti is awaiting federal sentencing for growing a quarter pound of marijuana, according to testimony.

The defense claimed that Lee Ann Reidel's mother and her mother's female lover recruited Salierno because they feared Paul Reidel might show up in Florida looking to make trouble after Lee Ann moved there with their infant son and $120,000 of Paul's money.

Members of the jury apparently were hung up for a while on the first-degree murder count. They requested a reading of that charge and the elements of that crime six times during their deliberations. Jurors were escorted out a side entrance to cars in a secured parking lot because they did not wish to speak to reporters, a court officer said.

Algeri's family said they were pleased with the verdict but that there was no cause for celebration.

"Justice has been served completely," said Salvatore Algeri, whose son was shot five times at point-blank range when he entered his SUV to retrieve some compact discs. "It is sad to see another young life got wasted, but these people did a horrible deed."



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