YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A River Vale teen who received notoriety for a Make-a-Wish meeting he had with hockey great Wayne Gretzky when he was 12 will remain behind bars until a bail hearing can be held next week in connection with a pair of “knockout game” attacks that seriously injured two fellow students at the Massachusetts college where he is a sophomore.
A judge in Salem County ordered 19-year-old Dillon DeStefano of River Vale held at the request of a prosecutor who said the “completely unprovoked, vicious attacks” require a hearing to determine whether DeStefano poses a danger to the public.
One Endicott College student had his jaw broken and the other had an eye socket shattered, requiring reconstructive surgery, following the Sunday attacks, the prosecutor said.
DeStefano, who played hockey for St. Joseph’s Regional High School in Montvale and was listed on Endicott’s team roster last season (photo inset, bottom right), was originally charged with punching three fellow students in the face in separate attacks, as CLIFFVIEW PILOT reported last night.
No charges were filed in the third incident, authorities later said.
Each victim said he was walking alone early Sunday when he was approached by two men, one of whom doubled-back and punched him with a closed fist after he passed them.
The third reportedly sustained minor injuries.
DeStefano was charged with aggravated assault and battery and released on bail before the judge yesterday put him behind bars until next Thursday, as his family members looked on.
His lawyer entered a not-guilty plea.
DeStefano “didn’t even know (the students),” Endicott College President Richard Wylie told CBS Boston. “It was just a random act of violence.”
Other students at the school turned in DeStefano after hearing him bragging about the attacks, Wylie said. Two other students who were with him later surrendered, authorities said. All three were suspended and could all face expulsion.
Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease 10 years ago, DeStefano got to play hockey with Gretzky at The Great One’s childhood home in Brantford, Ontario, in 2006.
The lifelong New Jersey Devils fan, who was born 10 weeks premature and has played hockey since kindergarten, was flown with his parents and brother to Canada by the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
There he got to skate, pass and shoot with his idol before Gretzky took the family to his annual charity golf tournament in Brantford.
DeStefano’s parents later talked to reporters about their son’s battles with his illness — a chronic, inflammatory disease of the intestines — and how it made him a fighter since the day he was born.
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