20/20 Friday: Teenage Tragedy

An argument between two boys turned ugly in a Long Island suburb.


April 1, 2008 — -- So many things could have changed what happened that night. So many people could have done something differently. But in the course of a few terrible minutes, it all came together: teenage jealousy, race, too much alcohol and a single gunshot. And when it was over, a white teenager lay dead and a black family man stood accused of murder.

It wasn't supposed to happen there, not in Miller Place, a peaceful suburb on Long Island.

John White moved his family to the seaside town in 2004, his reward for decades of punishing work as a laborer for a paving company in New York City.

White's son Aaron entered Miller Place's high school in his senior year. He was just one of four black students, but he made a big effort to become part of his class. Aaron was a good student who seemed to mingle well with the other kids, often joining casual nighttime get-togethers where car-obsessed teens showcased their rides.

Few at those get-togethers were more passionate about cars than Daniel Cicciaro. Known to everyone as Dano, he'd been a regular at his father's garage since he was 8 years old. His mother, Joanne, said, "He was always around cars. He had a '68 Camaro. He bought it with his Dad, and they were totally rebuilding the whole thing. He loved to do things that he would have the wind in his face."

Dano's father, Dano Sr., says his son planned to follow in his footsteps, taking over the family garage.

Aaron and Dano were two kids with promising futures, but they were about to be set on a tragic collision course. In December 2005, two friends of Aaron's -- posing as Aaron in an Internet chat room -- made sexual threats against a girl named Jennifer Martin, who was only 15 years old.

"It said something along the lines of, 'let's get to Jennifer Martin's house and rape her,'" she said. "It scared me a lot. It terrified me."

Though he never said anything directly to her about the matter, Aaron told several people, including Jennifer's boyfriend, that he'd never written anything about her.

By the night of Aug. 9, 2006, months had passed and Aaron thought it was all long forgotten. On that night, Aaron was invited to a birthday party for Jennifer's brother Craig Martin at the Martin home. But Jennifer says she was still unaware that Aaron had never threatened her.

"I did not expect to see Aaron White at all," she said. "When he walked in my back door, it just sent chills up my spine."

When Aaron arrived at the party shortly after 10 p.m. there were about two dozen teens there, including Dano. Within minutes, Jennifer Martin prompted Dano, a longtime friend of hers, to ask Aaron to leave.

"I just said OK and I left," Aaron said. "It's not my house, not my property. I have no right to question him."

After Aaron had left the party, Jennifer told Dano about the Internet threat and Dano decided to call Aaron. A toxicology report would later reveal that 17-year-old Dano had a blood alcohol level of .14 -- enough to fuel an argument that quickly got ugly.

Aaron says that shortly after he left the party, he received a call from Dano. He says Dano was using racial slurs and threatening him. That conversation, beginning at 10:32 p.m., was less than two minutes, but it sparked a series of frenzied phone calls between the two.

The argument escalated to the point where Dano decided to go to Aaron's home. Dano and a friend left in one car and were soon followed by a second car carrying three more teenagers, including Tom Maloney, who says he had no idea how bitter the argument had become.

"I was friends with Aaron from high school so it was going to be me talking one friend to another friend, you know. I had no problem being a mediator in the whole situation."

"[I was] really scared. I mean, I've never been in a situation before like this," Aaron said. "I ran upstairs. I said, 'Dad, wake up. These kids are coming here to beat me up and kill me.'"

White remembers being woken up that night.

"It was the sound of his voice, I have never heard Aaron be afraid of anything," White said.

An avid hunter, White then began to look for one of several guns he kept in the house. As he moved downstairs toward the garage, he says he shouted to his wife to call 911, but she says she didn't hear him.

At 11:10 p.m., a neighbor's security camera captured the two cars moving toward the White's home. The fatal confrontation was just moments away.

Watch the story Friday on "20/20" at 10 p.m. ET

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