Published January 13, 2015
Two day laborers have been sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for drowning a drinking buddy over beer money.
Augustin Perez, 46, and Manuel Perez, 25, were sentenced Wednesday in the killing of Esmaraldo Salazar, 33, whose body was found floating in the Croton River in Brewster last November.
The three men were living in an encampment in the woods outside Brewster.
Prosecutors said the Perezes, who are not related, drowned Salazar because he balked when it was his turn to buy beer. They each pleaded guilty in March to second-degree murder.
"It is appalling to this court that a life can be taken over beer money but that's what occurred," Putnam County Judge James Rooney told Manuel Perez at the sentencing. "This case was no less violent because you and your co-defendant decided to use the waters of the Croton River rather than a knife or a gun."
The three men argued in mid-November, and the defendants held Salazar down in the river until he drowned. His body was found about two weeks later, on Nov. 29.
Both defendants apologized for their actions. Rooney said that if either man is released from prison he will immediately be deported to Guatemala.