Today’s news:

Fresh Mdws. cold case slay ends with life 22 years later

A 21-year-old murder investigation drew to a close last week when a 54-year-old former Fresh Meadows resident was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for the murder of his neighbor in 1986. The now-convicted man had been living as a fugitive in California, where he was found in 2006, the Queens district attorney said.

Victor Clemente Jr., 54, of San Francisco, was sentenced by Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter to 20 years to life in prison after being convicted of second-degree murder last month, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

The victim, Fred Drapete, 32, lived in the basement apartment at 160-16 79th Ave. in Fresh Meadows, a house which Clemente's mother owned, Brown said. Drapete and Clemente were arguing about the purchase of a plane ticket to the Philippines when Clemente shot Drapete in the arm with a defaced 9 mm handgun, Brown said. He then shot Drapete eight more times, the DA said. Drapete's daughters, who were 4 years old and 5 years old at the time, witnessed part of the shooting, the DA said.

The case was set for trial March 31, 1988, but the trial judge dismissed the incident because the only eyewitnesses known at the time, Clemente's mother and sister, were unavailable, the DA said. Brown's office appealed and on May 22, 1989, Clemente's indictment was reinstated, the DA said.

By then Clemente had fled the jurisdiction, but when he was fingerprinted for a job he had applied for in California, he was discovered and returned to Queens Dec. 8, 2006, the DA said.

"This was a senseless murder that left two little girls without a father and a wife without a husband," DA Brown said. "After 21 years, I am happy to say that justice has finally been done."

Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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