Search Continues for Oheka Castle Owner Gary Melius’ Gunman

Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius, who was shot in the head Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 by a masked gunman who is still at large. (Long Island Press)
Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius, who was shot in the head Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 by a masked gunman who is still at large. (Long Island Press)

An extensive police search continued for its fourth day Thursday to find and identify the masked gunman who shot Oheka Castle owner Gary Melius in the head Monday while he sat in his car in a parking lot at the palatial mansion estate-turned-luxury hotel in Huntington.

Melius, 69, who is known as a power broker among local politicians—frequently hosting galas and card games at the 109,000-square-foot French-style chateau with guests including former U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano—was shot at point-blank range Monday as he sat in his car in the valet parking lot of his castle. He was about to leave to meet D’Amato for lunch at a local restaurant around 12:30 p.m. when one of several bullets fired through his car window struck his head.

The assailant reportedly sped away in a Jeep Cherokee.

Melius underwent surgery Monday at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital in Manhasset and has been visited by a steady stream of elected officials and family members, including Mangano, D’Amato, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota (although the latter may have been there to speak with Melius about the case).

Since the attack, Suffolk County police have vowed to investigate “every aspect” of Melius’ private and professional life, including his business and personal relationships. They’ve maintained a constant presence outside Melius’ hospital room, have set up checkpoints around Oheka Castle to question motorists and have been reviewing surveillance tapes taken at the scene.

That footage reportedly shows the incident as it unfolded but did not capture the gunman’s face.

Suffolk police said Thursday that the checkpoints may continue periodically throughout the week ahead and that police will continue to guard Melius’ hospital room “as a matter of protocol.” They declined to comment on published reports that surveillance footage had also spotted a black sedan arriving at the scene just prior to the attack, or provide any additional details regarding the shooting.

Besides the site of high stakes poker games, Oheka Castle, the former estate of financial tycoon Otto Kahn, has also been host to many high-profile weddings, such as that of the disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner and Hillary Rodham Clinton aide Huma Abedin (which was officiated by former President Bill Clinton), and Kevin Jonas of The Jonas Brothers.

Melius, also a developer, has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians on both sides of the aisle throughout the decades. He made headlines last December when he called in a favor with then-Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Dale to request that a Roosevelt resident named Randy White be charged with perjury in an election lawsuit concerning a Nassau County executive candidate that he had bankrolled.

Dale ordered the arrest of the young man on an open warrant for an unpaid $250 fine, and then abruptly resigned when Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice released a report raising concerns about a detective who had served White a subpoena to re-testify in the election lawsuit while he was still in police custody.

Melius has also weathered his own share of financial hardships. He was once nearly $6 million in debt, according to the Daily News, and reportedly defaulted on a multi-million-dollar loan for the castle before renegotiating its nearly $30 million mortgage.

He posted on Oheka’s Facebook page Tuesday:

“I look forward to coming home. I look forward to getting back to work. And I look forward to welcoming families and friends who come to Oheka for its hospitality and warmth.

“If this near death experience has done anything, it is a reminder to live each day, celebrate life and embrace your family. I happen to be blessed with a very very large extended family who rallied to my side during the past 24 hours. God bless you all.”