Jennifer Gross, 54, of Long Beach, was arrested September 20th, on charges of second degree murder and second degree arson, in the death James M. Coppola, 75, of Centre Island and Howard Beach. Coppola was killed in a house fire in Centre Island last year. Gross was a 20-year girlfriend of Coppola.
In a news conference Nassau County Det. Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick said the relationship included the stealing of money and violence. Gross was on the radar of the investigation from the beginning, and when she pawned some stolen jewelry of Coppola’s the action pointed to her as the alleged murderer. Gross had gone to Coppola’s house to ask for money. An argument ensued and Gross used a pot or pan to beat Coppola and left him lifeless at the front door of the house. Gross used a fire accelerant to cover her tracks.
Coppola and Gross were in a recent court case about stolen items, and Coppola asked for a protection order, Fitzpatrick said.
The fire at 300 Centre Island Drive, where Coppola’s body was found, on Nov. 20, 2018, was a huge blaze. The Bayville Fire Company responded with all its equipment including the fireboat. The only way to fight the fire was with tanker trucks and the fireboat. Eight fire departments took more than five hours to extinguish with the assistance of Bayville, Locust Valley, Oyster Bay, Glen Cove, Glen Cove Volunteer Ambulance, Sea Cliff, Glenwood, Syosset and Nissequogue Fire Departments.
Gross was arraigned at First District Court in Hempstead September 21st, and pleaded not guilty. Gross was held without bail, and was set for another court appearance on September 24th.