By Danny Schrafel
It was a case that seemed torn from the pages of a Hollywood murder mystery – a prolific, well-connected businessman shot at point-blank range through the windshield of his luxury car, parked outside the castle he calls home.
Except, one year ago Feb. 24, the experience was all too real for Gary Melius, owner of Oheka Castle, the globally-known luxury hotel and catering hall in Huntington. Melius survived an assassination attempt that made headlines around the world.
Then, Melius was shot once in the head while seated in his Mercedes-Benz parked near the castle’s front door. Police said the bullet passed through Melius’ temple but did not strike his skull, likely sparing him of critical injuries. Further attempts to shoot Melius failed because the gun jammed. The suspects are believed to have fled in a champagne-colored Jeep Grand Cherokee.
On the one-year anniversary, Melius announced in a video statement Tuesday that a $100,000 reward had been established by his friends and family “to get information to solve this crime and bring to justice who is responsible.” That sum is in addition to a $5,000 reward posted by the Suffolk County Police Department and Crime Stoppers.
“I’ve been told by those friends that, with conversations and people they know, that law enforcement said it could definitely be a help,” Melius said. “That’s why they came forward.”
His family has also launched at confidential tips hotline – 631-912-6969 – for callers to submit possible leads. Police said they have only received a “handful” of Crime Stoppers tips on the Melius case this year, but are hopeful the anniversary and reward will rekindle interest.
“On the anniversary of this prominent case, any increased media attention or increase in a monetary reward, could lead to information that could help to solve this case,” police said in a statement Tuesday.
Suffolk County Police continue to say little about the case. In their statement Tuesday, police only said that “several persons of interest” have been interviewed during the course of their investigation, declined to provide updates on the investigation citing department policy, and reiterated that surveillance footage will only be released “when deemed appropriate” because it is a “key piece of evidence in the case.”
The political power broker said he is optimistic for a break in the case. Detectives assigned to his case, he said, “give me great confidence that they’ll find out who did this.”
“I know they’re working very hard at it,” he said. “No resources have been cut from them. They are actively trying to solve this case.”
While in some ways the incident has changed Melius’ life, in other aspects, it’s business at usual. He continues to live at Oheka, where he greets every guest.
“It’s a place of happiness… I enjoy that very much, that interaction with people, to see them happy,” Melius said.
Melius said surviving the shooting, which he credits to God, has made him stronger and given him an opportunity to make some changes.
“It’s let me focus on the things I should, which is to go forward and spend time with family and friends, and just go forward and enjoy my life and help some other people do the same,” he said.