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Jan 5, 2015 12:28 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

UPDATE: Southampton Chief Says Murder Suspect Is 'Person Of Interest' In Sagaponack Arson Case

Jan 8, 2015 2:10 PM

UPDATE: Wednesday, 3:30 p.m.

Thomas Gilbert Jr. was brought in for questioning by Southampton Town Police following his arrest in September for violating an order of protection filed by Sagaponack homeowner Peter Smith, whose house burned down in a possible case of arson, according to Southampon Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa on Wednesday afternoon.

Sgt. Costa could not comment on whether Thomas Gilbert Jr. is a "suspect," as reported by other news outlets, in the arson case but the investigation is still ongoing, she said. No additional charges, besides violating the order of protection, were filed against Mr. Gilbert Jr., said Sgt. Costa.

Mr. Smith filed an order of protection against Mr. Gilbert Smith in June out of Kings County, said Sgt. Costa, explaining that the stay-away order was put in place following a physical altercation between the two men. Mr. Gilbert Jr. then violated the order of protection on September 1 when he approached Mr. Smith at Sagg Main beach, she said.

"Mr. Smith hadn't disclosed the incident [on September 1] until speaking with him about the fire," said Sgt. Costa by phone on Wedensday afternoon.

"Once we established there was a clear violation of the order of protection, we were able to make the arrest on the 18th."

Between September 15, when the fire occurred, and September 18, when the arrest for criminal contempt was made, Sgt. Costa said Southampton Town Police were working with East Hampton Town Police to locate the young Mr. Gilbert. Initially, he was arrested in East Hampton Town on September 18 for driving with a suspended license, said Sgt. Costa, and then transported to Southampton Town Police Headquarters where he was charged with violating the order of protection.

Sgt. Costa said to her knowledge, the original order of protection came from a physical altercation between Mr. Smith and Mr. Gilbert Jr., and the two were acquaintances from living in the same area.

"The families knew each other," she said.

As for the reports that Mr. Gilbert Jr. killed Mr. Smith's dog prior to the fire, Sgt. Costa said that was "nothing that had been disclosed to us."

UPDATE: Wednesday, 12:30 p.m.

Southampton Town Police Chief Robert Pearce confirmed Wednesday that Thomas Gilbert Jr. is a “person of interest” in the ongoing investigation of the arson at Mr. Smith’s Sagaponack home on September 15.

UPDATE: Tuesday, 10 a.m.

Thomas Gilbert Jr. was charged with murder in the second degree and possession of a weapon on Monday after he allegedly shot and killed his father, Thomas Gilbert Sr., in his Manhattan apartment, according to the New York Police Department.

Several New York City publications, citing sources on the East End, also have identified the younger Mr. Gilbert as a suspect in an arson case in Sagaponack in September.

Mr. Gilbert Jr. had been arrested by Southampton Town Police in September for criminal contempt in the second degree after violating an order of protection, said Southampton Town Police Sergeant Susan Ralph in an email. The order of protection had been granted in June to Peter Smith, a Sagaponack homeowner and Connecticut resident.

The arrest came just three days after Mr. Smith’s 17th-century Sagaponack home burned down on September 15, and a gas can and rags soaked in gasoline were found in the cemetery across from the home the following day. The fire is being investigated as a possible arson.

The criminal contempt charge came after an incident on September 1, when, according to court records, Mr. Gilbert Jr. approached Mr. Smith and attempted to have a conversation with him, in violation of the order of protection. That incident was two weeks prior to the fire at Mr. Smith’s house.

Southampton Town Police would not say whether Mr. Gilbert Jr. is a suspect, or whether the arrest was connected in any way to the fire.

Mr. Smith obtained a second order of protection against Mr. Gilbert Jr. in December. It was granted by Southampton Town Justice Barbara Wilson.

Details of the original order of protection, granted in June in Kings County, were not available, because that case was sealed by the court.


A Wainscott homeowner and New York hedge fund manager was allegedly shot and killed in his Manhattan apartment on Sunday, according to the New York Police Department.

Thomas Gilbert Sr., 70, the managing partner of Wainscott Capital Partners, LLC and part-time Beach Lane resident, was found in his Sutton Place home at roughly 3:30 p.m., according to The Wall Street Journal. His son, Thomas Gilbert Jr., 30, is being questioned by police and remains in custody as of Monday afternoon, a New York Police Department spokesperson said by phone. A press conference is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

The young Mr. Gilbert was arrested by Southampton Town Police last September for criminal contempt in the second degree after violating an order of protection, said Southampton Town Police Sergeant Susan Ralph in an email. Sgt. Ralph said Mr. Gilbert Jr. tried to approach the man, who was not a relative.

In 2012, Mr. Gilbert Sr. filed suit against his neighbor, William A. Babinski Jr., and East Hampton Town, claiming that the Planning Board’s approval of a barn on Mr. Babinksi’s 20-acre property was illegal.

“He just thought he was entitled to a view,” Mr. Babinski said by phone on Monday morning. Outside of the context of the suit, Mr. Babinski said he did not know Mr. Gilbert on a personal level, nor did he know his son.

“I wouldn’t know the son if he knocked on my door today,” he said.

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Now they're saying Gilbert Jr may have had something to do with the arson committed against the Smith house in Sagaponack. That was a historic house that had just been restored.
By btdt (449), water mill on Jan 5, 15 11:03 PM
Well Mr Babinski this gentelman has a much better view now......what an odd comment.....Erica what were you thinking about.....
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Jan 6, 15 12:02 PM
hope the smjith family will now have some kind of closure (although doubt it) over this so called murderer being caught and perhaps can be prosecuted for the arson as well. the arson was a very delibrate act and deserves prosecution but I am sure the murder will take a bigger arena and the arson will be a second matter. So sick over the arson of such a beautiful old house so well maintained by he
Smith family. Offer my prayers every day.
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Jan 6, 15 7:13 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By mtkfish (59), montauk on Jan 12, 15 2:12 PM