Life appears perfectly normal along Horton Road in Valley Stream, a Long Island suburb of New York City. The screen door slams as a little girl scampers out of one of the neat little houses to meet a jingling ice-cream truck. Boys thump, thump, thump a basketball beneath a driveway hoop. A father and son tinker in their garage. And pink ribbons decorating the trees suggest some sort of celebration—a new baby perhaps, or a birthday.
But for two families, life on Horton Road is hell: The ribbons, in fact, are pink and black, and they commemorate the death last year of 13-year-old Kelly Ann Tinyes, whose family still lives at number 101. And the ribbons are conspicuously absent from John and Elizabeth Golub’s house, five doors down at number 81, where Kelly Ann’s naked, brutalized body was found in the basement. The Golubs’ elder son, Robert, 22, is in jail, facing a maximum of 25 years to life for Kelly’s murder when he is sentenced on June 1.
“I can’t believe this has happened,” Kelly Ann’s uncle Jack Tinyes said last year when the police found her body. “This is a quiet block. We all know each other.” But it was precisely because Kelly Ann did know Robert’s younger brother, John J., now 14, that she responded to a phone call from someone at the Golubs’ and walked into their house on Friday afternoon, March 3, 1989. She never walked out. At the time that she was killed, Robert was the only one home. Unemployed—he refused to work at his father’s gas station because he didn’t like to get his hands dirty—he was by his own account lying around his room watching TV and drinking beer. He’d been out just once during the day, to buy a muscle magazine. Robert was an avid weight lifter, even using steroids at one time.
It took a jury less than eight hours to conclude from forensic evidence that it was Robert who strangled, beat and stomped Kelly Ann for at least 20 minutes before she died, then bit, slashed and mutilated her body before stuffing it, wrapped in trash bags, beneath the basement stairs. Why, no one knows, except maybe Robert.
For Richard and Victoria Tinyes, the agony of losing a child has been compounded by the continuing presence of the Golubs. And for the Golubs, who refuse to believe Robert is guilty, the pain of a son imprisoned is heightened by the hostility of practically all the neighbors. Friends of the Tinyeses’ have repeatedly gathered outside the Golub house to scream abuse and demand their departure. But the Golubs, who have lived on Horton Road for 25 years—the Tinyes family has been there for 13—refuse to leave. Every day their mutual hatred grows deeper. The occasional explosion—insults hurled on the street, shouts and a scuffle in the courtroom—does nothing to blow it away.
“I just don’t understand why they don’t move. I don’t understand how they walked back in the house and lived there,” says Kelly Ann’s mother, Victoria. With hindsight, she thinks there was always something ominous about the Golubs. “They don’t have a normal life. They never did. [Elizabeth Golub] was groomed for the courtroom, but if you saw her at other times, she wore very dirty spiked heels, frayed on the bottom, like a wicked witch. We always thought there was something wrong, and we worried that they might cause trouble. We found out the hard way.” As to why her own family won’t move, Victoria insists they don’t want to disrupt their 9-year-old son Richie’s education or the life she and her husband labored so hard to build, she as an office worker and he as the owner of an auto-body shop. In any case, she says, it’s impossible to leave the grief behind. “Even if we picked up and moved, I would take it with me.” So they stay and pay the price: “It’s very hard to wake up each morning and feel so much hate.”
The animosity is not the Tinyeses’ alone. “Nobody wants the Golubs here,” says one neighbor. “I’d like to see the house torn down and made into a garden.” Paint has been spattered on the Golubs’ car, and a pellet was fired through their window. But such incidents only stiffen the family’s resolve to stand its ground. John Golub refused to speak for an article that would also quote the Tinyeses, but he did hold forth recently on TV’s Inside Edition. “If somebody died in my house, it doesn’t mean I should throw my house away. If somebody gave me a fair price for my house, I would move,” he said. He went on to accuse the Tinyeses of harassing his family.
The Tinyeses complain that the Golubs have never conveyed their sympathy to them. John Golub responds that his family no longer feels any sympathy, because the Tinyeses’ unrelenting hostility has “burned it out of us.”
Such is the poisoned atmosphere in which the neighborhood children now live, but they think less about the adults’ blood feud than about the girl whose murder is at the heart of it. “We’d get together all the time, just sit on the steps at the side of my house and talk. You were never sad around her,” says Kelly Ann’s friend Stephanie Falco, 14. Recalls Christine Arcamona, also 14: “She was really looking forward to confirmation. We were getting our nails done, and we were talking about what kind of dresses we’d be wearing.” Kelly Ann, they believe, was planning on a pink dress—pink like the ribbons on Horton Road.
Stephanie gazes for a moment into the past, then speaks what could be the epitaph for a once idyllic street. “Life will never be normal.”
—James S. Kunen, J.D. Podolsky in Valley Stream, Victoria Balfour in New York City