Crime and Courts

Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Owner Shot in Head at Oheka Castle, Prominent Wedding Venue on Long Island

The owner of a prominent wedding venue on Long Island where celebrities and dignitaries have held their lavish nuptials was shot in the head at the sprawling mansion Monday.

The owner of Oheka Castle, Gary Melius, was gunned down in his car, authorities said, by a suspect who may have been wearing a mask.

Frank MacKay, a friend of Melius, told NBC 4 New York that Melius was sitting in his car when a man appeared outside and opened fire on him through the glass window. Melius' daughters called 911 but ended up taking him to the hospital themselves, MacKay said.

Police said Melius had made it out of surgery by Monday evening and was alert and in stable condition. 

MacKay described Melius as alert and even joking on the phone after the shooting, and said "he's the toughest man I've ever met."

While Melius was well known in the community and respected for his charitable donations, he was also involved in a local controversy last year, playing a role in the political scandal that led to the ouster of Nassau County's police commissioner at the time.

The oldest member of the Jonas Brothers, Kevin Jonas, was married at the 109,000-square-foot French-style chateau in 2009. Former President Bill Clinton officiated the wedding of Anthony Weiner, ex- congressman and mayoral candidate, at the castle in 2010.

Shock spread among guests at the hotel and banquet hall after the shooting Monday.

"I cannot believe this; you are not safe anywhere," said Natasha Silne, a newlywed who was supposed to check into the hotel with her husband for their honeymoon.

Oheka Castle, which is also a hotel offering $1,095-a-night suites, says on its website that it can accommodate up to 1,000 wedding guests.

In addition to weddings, the castle hosts fundraisers, galas and numerous other high-profile events.

It was built 100 years ago on one of Long Island's highest points.

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