In the Shadow of His Death, Remember the Life of Kyle Underhill

My father died violently when I was seven.  Story goes that he was found by the police in his Nova on the side of an Arizona highway with a bullet in his brain.  He was 31.  But my father was lost to me for years before that.  My mother and father were divorced before my first birthday.  It was not an amicable split.  I was two-years–old the last time he visited me.  Nobody in my house ever spoke of him.  Not even when I asked.  Only one photo of him existed as I was growing up.  I hid it in my underwear drawer.  I was scared my mother would throw it away if she ever saw it.  Then one day in September of 1977 – I don’t remember what day – my father’s mother came by to tell me that my father was murdered and the graphic details.  Because I knew nothing of his life, my father’s dramatic, tragic death defined him for me.  It stinks for me and for him.  I know that there was more to my father’s 31-year life than the bullet that ended it…but this is the only story I was ever told.

A block or two from my home on the evening of November 18th, the Suffolk County Detective Squad joined by the Homicide Squad embarked on an intense search.  Seeing the police cars with their lights flashing closing off Brook Street, the News 12 van camped out and hearing bits and pieces of at times contradicting information frightened my daughter and me all night.  We woke to the sound of police helicopters.  It sounded as if they were going to land on our roof.  Instead they used Commack Road Elementary School’s property as their landing pad.  It wasn’t long until they found who they were looking for; Kyle Underhill, a member of my community who lived a few short blocks away who I never knew.

The circumstances surrounding Kyle’s tragic death are still being investigated.  The only thing that the police have told us is that he was murdered.  This mystery is haunting our small, quiet neighborhood.  Things like this simply don’t happen here.  It is unnerving.

Long hair and a suit…Kyle doesn’t look too different from my friends when I was 18.

But I hope that in this state of upset we don’t lose sight of the heart of this tragedy; Kyle Underhill.  Please let’s not remember him as the Islip “teen found in marsh” as Newsday dubbed him.  He had a name; Kyle Underhill.  He had a life…albeit too brief.  Let’s remember to define this fallen member of our community for the life he lived and not just by how he died.  From what I learned about him in the days since his passing, he deserves a better legacy than that.

This is who I found out Kyle Underhill was:

  • Quiet demeanor
  • Metal head
  • Really funny, really good kid
  • Hobbies included drawing, working in the school’s tech room and games of Manhunt (that’s how Catalina spent many summer nights)
  • Most caring person you could ever meet
  • Cared  for his friends, loved his family.
  • He put his friends first
  • Worked two jobs (Teller’s and Manhattan Sweets) with a strong work ethic rare in 18-year-olds
  • Bright and gregarious
  • Genuine young man
  • Life of the party
  • He made you feel smart
  • You could tell he knew a lot
  • Freshman at Farmingdale with aspirations of being a psychologist
  • He was determined to do whatever it took to make the people around him happy
  • He was a bright vivacious little boy who grew to be a fine young man
  • Helped his grandfather step by step with his home improvement projects
  • One of the most sweetest and polite young men. How many teenagers would ask if you needed help carrying in your groceries?

…and finally, I think this story told by one of his friends says a lot about who this young man was:

I have shared and cherished so many memories with Kyle. One of my favorites was when he texted me asking what I was doing, I told him I was about to get coffee with my cousin. When I got to Starbucks Kyle was already there with my usual coffee and a cupcake in a little pink box. This was a prime example of the things Kyle would do for the people close to him. He always went out of his way to make those close to him smile. I will always remember all the great qualities of his and how much he meant to me.

Islip High School is famous for award-winning pumpkin catapults constructed by the students. Perhaps Kyle is kissing this one good-bye before the annual pumpkin fling?

Like I said, I never knew Kyle in life.  I hope I relayed these things correctly.  If you knew him, please feel free to share his stories here so we can, too.  Here’s a link to his memorial video:

Meanwhile, we can each take control of how the world remembers Kyle Underhill.  When talking about this horrific event as we are trying to deal with it, please remember to refer to Kyle by name to maintain his humanity, something so easily lost when a life is ended this way.  Also remember Kyle had a family and friends whose lives will never be the same after this loss.  Keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they embark on this holiday season without him.  Most of all, if you have any information about Kyle Underhill’s last days, please contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477).  Your call will be kept confidential but it might make a huge difference for a lot of people.

Face full of promise for a glorious life.

Also a friend of Kyle’s, Chris Cutrone, is putting together a petition to install street lights on Brook Street in Islip.  Everyone familiar with that spot knows how dark, secluded and eerie it is.  Having street lights there would make it a safer place for everyone.  A shining light keeping our community safe from harm seems a more fitting legacy for Kyle Underhill.  If you agree and would like to put your name to this petition, please contact me.  Our community watch group is meeting on November 30th and I should be able to provide more details then.


25 thoughts on “In the Shadow of His Death, Remember the Life of Kyle Underhill

  1. Liz November 27, 2011 / 9:34 pm

    We knew Kyle and he was as sweet as he sounded!! My daughter was the girl who wrote about the coffee and cupcake. We would love to sign the petition! Chris had a great idea!

    • Judy Cangemi November 28, 2011 / 8:48 am

      Please thank your daughter for sharing that story. As sad as it is to know that someone so kind and thoughtful was taken from us so senselessly, it was wonderful to know the kind of person he was. I’ll let you know more about the petition when I have a copy of it and/or more details. I am proud of Chris dealing with the loss of his friend Kyle in this way.

  2. Liz November 27, 2011 / 9:37 pm

    I forgot to add: This was a beautifully written tribute to Kyle!! Thanks for taking the time to honor him! The newspapers seem to be lacking sensitivity to this horrible situation!!

    • Judy Cangemi November 28, 2011 / 8:53 am

      Thank you. As I said, with my own experience with my father’s murder, it is terrible for your life to be summed up in the way that you die. It would be especially tragic for Kyle. It seems that in his brief 18 years on this earth, he touched the lives of many others in positive ways, in big ways and in small moments. That needs to be what the community thinks of when they remember Kyle Underhill, not the dehumanizing negativity the newspapers deliver. Newsday has a higher circulation than my blog…but I am glad to do what I can to help celebrate Kyle’s life.

      • Liz November 28, 2011 / 7:12 pm

        I’m sorry for your loss! I posted this on Facebook for others to read and to pass on, so the world will know how great Kyle was!!

  3. Justin December 1, 2011 / 10:13 am

    Kyle simply was the most caring teenager in all of Islip. Kyle at first hated me, but saw that I was hurting. He couldn’t watch people hurt, so he started talking to me every day, just so that I wouldn’t be alone. He cared so much for someone that was cared so little for, which gave me confidence. He slowly became one of the closest friends I had in my final year of High School. Whenever I would put a negative status on facebook or look down, he would offer a cookie from the cafateria or a trip to get icecream. Even when school ended, he found I was having a hard time in college when it came to being social… so he went out of his way to try to make me feel better by asking to take me out to get Italian ice’s. He always wanted everyone around him to be happy even if you were only acquaintance’s and didn’t care for those that went out of their way to hurt others.

    This article is beautifully written. Thank you.

    • Judy Cangemi December 1, 2011 / 10:28 am

      Thank you for sharing this story about Kyle. Telling them will help us all remember this beautiful life that ended too soon. I am so sorry for your loss.

  4. Kyles Dad December 2, 2011 / 7:01 pm

    Kyle is truly a remarkable young man and he will forever be in my heart. Thank you so much for posting this…very well written 🙂

    • Judy Cangemi December 2, 2011 / 9:17 pm

      Thank you, sir. My heart goes out to you and your family. If you need anything, please contact me. I’m a good listener. God bless all of you. God bless, Kyle.

  5. Aimee December 6, 2011 / 5:50 am

    Thank you for writing such beautiful and truthful thoughts about my son, and I am sorry for your loss.

    • Judy Cangemi December 6, 2011 / 8:32 am

      As a mother, I cannot imagine what you are feeling now. Please know you and your family are in my prayers. Please know i am here if you need anything.

  6. Louise Schaetzle December 6, 2011 / 7:18 am

    Thank you for this beautifully written memorial to a fine young man. I’m so happy that people are remembering Kyle for all the right reasons and not the quote that was carelessly written and printed in the yearbook. The school district should be ashamed for allowing that to be a students legacy.

    • Judy Cangemi December 6, 2011 / 8:47 am

      It seems everyone who had even the most brief contact with Kyle, came away with a memorable experience with a caring, thoughtful, genuine person. It’s amazing how the media is drawn to that one out-of-character thing Kyle said/wrote to characterize him. I’ve come to the conclusion that the media is more interested in generating drama than conveying the truth. Kyle was loved by so many. That’s his true legacy.

  7. jackie December 6, 2011 / 1:35 pm

    I remember Kyle as a small boy who was in my son’s class and also the boy who my husband coached in soccer. I remember his kindness, sense of humor and smile. He was also the first boy I knew who read the first Harry Potter book in record time. This is going back to his early years at May Moore school in Deer Park. My prayers go out to his mom who is one amazing person and to all of Kyle’s family. May you rest in peace.

    • Judy Cangemi December 6, 2011 / 4:39 pm

      You know, from the photos that I’ve seen of Kyle, I thought there was something “Harry Potter-esque” about him. Thank you for sharing your memories of this special person.

  8. Dawn Bradford December 17, 2011 / 7:03 pm

    Our family lives in Islip and did not have the honor of knowing this young man, he has however touched our lives. I loved the article and want to thank you for taking the time to write about what seems like a wonderful young man. My husband and I would be more than happy to sign the petition to put lights on Brooke street for the safety of all. Please keep us posted if there is anything we can do to assist in geting signitures for the petition.

    We will continue to keep Kyle’s family in our thoughts and prayers as they try to survive this sad and tragic event.

    • Judy Cangemi December 17, 2011 / 7:29 pm

      Thank you for the support, Dawn. By the time the Neighborhood Watch meeting I mentioned in the article was over, Chris Cutrone, Kyle’s friend whose idea it was to try and get the lights put up on Brook Street, had over 400 signatures on the petition. Our Legislator Tom Cilmi was at the meeting along with some other elected officials. They were moved by the efforts of this young man and his friends and the incredible support of our community. The great news is that we are getting the trees cleared and lights installed wthout having to first get 1,000 names on the petition. They’ve already started work. It should be complete soon. Please continue to pray for Kyle’s family. I cannot imagine how difficult this is for them, especially in the midst of the holiday season.

  9. pamela June 28, 2012 / 11:54 pm

    I have has this article on my Facebook for awhile I finally got up being able to read it….. As kyles cousin I take deep appreciation in how amazing this article was written as stated by another on here the newspaper seems cold and heartless they dont realize the people they write about are real they has families and futures and were loves by so many he was a good person clearly loved by so many Thank you again for this article its nice to see people reaching Out to one another in time of pain and loss

    • Judy Cangemi June 30, 2012 / 8:35 am

      I think of your family often. I hope that you are finding a way to cope with this devastating loss. I hope that the person who did this to Kyle is brought to justice soon. I know that that won’t make Kyle’s loss any easier to manage but at least it will offer some closure for you, your family and Kyle.

  10. Alex May 11, 2015 / 9:38 am

    Does anyone have any updates on this case? Any speculation on the role Elaine Liming played in this murder?

    • Makenzie Jobbs May 11, 2015 / 9:54 am

      I second that!

      What’s going on with this case? Seems like its been lost in the news and its not even solved yet. The way the killing is discribed, it sounds like something that a female would do. I don’t wanna speculate any further…

      • Judy Cangemi May 11, 2015 / 10:10 am

        A male friend of Kyle’s turned himself in a while back. The attorneys have been preparing for trial since then. There were initial reports that the trial would’ve started at the beginning of this year but it has since been delayed. You are right; it is best not to speculate. The SCPD detective squad has been very carefully gathering evidence and facts regarding what happened to Kyle. It is best to await the trial when all is revealed. I do plan on attending once it is underway.

    • Judy Cangemi May 11, 2015 / 10:04 am

      In speaking to Kyle’s family, the trial will be starting soon. Once the dates are set, i will be posting more. It us very nerve wracking how slowly the wheels of our justice system turn. I do not know any details other than what the media reported. I plan on attending the trial whenever i can so i can hear the testimony of all the witnesses firsthand rather than through the media filter. Please continue to keep everyone in your prayers.

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