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Gary Melius Speaks Out About Oheka Shooting in Video Statement [WATCH THE VIDEO]
Melius, 69, released a video statement Monday to media outlets in which the developer-turned-owner of the historic luxury hotel and wedding hall thanked supporters and gave a brief update regarding his recovery.
“I got a break,” he said, a bruised and bloated closed left eye covered by a plastic patch and the back left side of his head wrapped in white medical bandage. “I guess God looked out for me. He’s always looked out for me.”
“I want you to know that I’m healing, getting better, and I’m looking forward to just starting over again,” the more than seven-minute edited statement continued.
Known as a power-broker among local politicians—frequently hosting galas and card games at the 109,000-square-foot French-style chateau in Huntington, with guests including former U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano—Melius had been shot in the head at point-blank range by a masked gunman as he sat in his Mercedes-Benz in the back courtyard of his castle Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 at about 12:30 p.m.
Bleeding profusely, Melius was rushed him to Syosset Hospital by his daughter. Later he was transferred to North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in Manhasset, where Melius underwent surgery for what police described as a “penetrating head wound.”
The assailant reportedly sped away in a Jeep Cherokee and an extensive police search for the shooter and any accomplices has continued ever since.
Melius had reportedly been on his way to meet D’Amato for lunch, and a who’s-who of local politics visited him at the hospital once he was in stable condition—D’Amato and Mangano, of course, plus former Freeport Mayor Andrew Hardwick, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, among others.
The 109,000-square-foot manor—which borrows its from the name of its originator, Otto Herman Kahn, who built it in 1919—had a cameo in Orson Welles’ 1940 American classic Citizen Kane. The castle has also been host to several celebrity weddings, including disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner (which former President Bill Clinton officiated) and pop sensation Kevin Jonas of the Jonas Brothers.
Melius, who’d worked as a bowling alley pin setter and a plumber’s helper before striking it rich in real estate, acquired the property in 1984 for $1.5 million and reportedly contemplated tearing it down because vandals had had the run of the place for several years. He stuck with it but the costs of renovation were steep, and so in 1988 he sold Oheka to a Japanese businessman for $22 million. By 2003 he was its rightful owner again, having bought it back for $30 million and spending almost an equal amount over the years on its upkeep and restoration.
Melius once was nearly $6 million in debt, according to the Daily News, and owed the Trump Taj Mahal some $100,000 in 1992. He had also faced three criminal convictions as a younger man, according to the paper. Melius reportedly renegotiated its $27.9-million mortgage last August and had defaulted on the loan in 2012.
Melius has been a hefty and impartial campaign contributor, doling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians without party preference, according to state finance records. Yet his political dealings have also resulted in some controversy.
It was Melius’ call to former Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Dale requesting Randy White, a Roosevelt resident, be charged with perjury in an election lawsuit that made headlines last December—resulting in White’s arrest and Dale’s resignation following a Nassau County District Attorney probe that ultimately cleared the developer, Dale and Mangano of criminality, but infuriated Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs for giving the Mangano administration a pass.
Following the Feb. 24 911 call to police, officers, dogs and a police helicopter descended on the estate. Authorities set up “informational checkpoints,” interviewing passing motorists and anyone else who might have seen something useful. They have reviewed the castle’s video surveillance footage, but it reportedly did not catch the face of the would-be killer.
Police have vowed to investigate “every aspect” of Melius’ life; he went into shock immediately after he was shot and his recollection of the shooting are hazy, police said.
The FBI had also offered assistance, an agency spokesperson tells the Press.
“I just want everybody to know—mainly just for my friends to know—everything’s okay,” Melius said in his statement. “I thank God for everything that I got.”