The Chili's restaurant on Route 31 in Clay where a waiter spit into a patron's soda last year, according to state police
Police use DNA to solve murder mysteries and rapes.
They used it last year to determine who spat into a customer's soda at a Chili's restaurant in Clay.
The state police crime lab compared DNA from some spit that Ken Yerdon found inside his soda with a swab of saliva from the man who had waited on Yerdon at Chili's – Gregory Lamica.
The DNA was a match, according to court papers. Lamica was charged with disorderly conduct and pleaded guilty.
Yerdon and his wife, Julie Aluzzo-Yerdon, had dinner at Chili's on Route 31 on July 28, as they did about once a week. Lamica, then 24, was their waiter.
"They were busy -- we understood," Julie Aluzzo-Yerdon said. "We were patient with him, but we could tell he was annoyed with us. All Ken said to him was, 'Are you OK? Have we done something to offend you?' And he said, 'Oh, no, no."
When they were getting ready to go, the Yerdons told Lamica they wanted to get their drinks refilled and to take them in to-go cups. Lamica brought them the cups, as if he'd expected them to pour the remains of their drinks into the cups, according to a police report.
Ken Yerdon told Lamica they wanted him to refill the cups, since the drinks on their table were almost gone, he said. Lamica seemed annoyed again, and took the cups to the back of the restaurant, Yerdon said.
On their way out, they Yerdons saw Lamica and noticed that he wouldn't make eye contact, the police report said.
Ken Yerdon took two sips from the cup. He wasn't able to see inside because it had a lid and was Styrofoam. As they were driving home, the lid popped off.
"I saw the spit in the cup," Ken Yerdon told Syracuse.com. "It wasn't regular spit either. It was definitely a loogie."
Yerdon took a picture of it, dropped his wife and 12-year-old son off at their home in Clay and drove back to Chili's.
The managers apologized but did not admit anyone at Chili's was responsible, Yerdon said. They kept the waiter in an office, he said.
The managers gave Yerdon coupons and a refund for the meal, he said. But they didn't fire the waiter, the Yerdons said.
"We just felt like he needed to be terminated immediately," Julie said. "To do something like that was so vile and beyond the pale. We couldn't believe it."
As he left, Yerdon saw Lamica in the parking lot, according to a state police report.
"I said, 'Why did you spit in my drink?'" Yerdon's statement to police said. "He was bawling. He just kept walking with his apron in his hand and he didn't answer me. I said to him, 'You wouldn't be crying if you didn't spit in my drink.' He said, 'I don't want to lose my job.' "
The Yerdons called the state police. An investigator questioned Lamica at Chili's and he denied spitting in the cup, the Yerdons said. But he agreed to let the trooper take a swab of saliva, they said.
Three months later, the DNA results came back. The troopers called Lamica into their barracks and he again denied spitting into Yerdon's drink, according to the Yerdons. Then the troopers confronted Lamica with the DNA results and he confessed, the Yerdons said.
Lamica, of Central Square, was charged with disorderly conduct, a violation. He pleaded guilty in February and was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge and a $125 surcharge, according to Clay Town Court.
Lamica no longer works at Chili's, the Yerdons said. But he continued working there for at least three months after the incident, they said.Lamica refused to answer a reporter's questions today. A manager at Chili's could not be reached for comment.
The Yerdons plan to sue Lamica and the owners of Chili's this week. They want compensation for the psychological trauma they endured not knowing whether Yerdon had contracted HIV or hepatitis because he'd sipped from the cup twice before seeing the spit.
Ken Yerdon, 45, a traveling operator for a power company, tested negative for HIV and hepatitis immediately after the incident. But he had to wait six months to be tested a second time to ensure he was in the clear.
"It was a long six months of anxiety," Julie Aluzzo-Yerdon said.
Marissa Rice, director of youth services at ACR Health in Syracuse, said today that saliva is not one of the four bodily fluids through which HIV can be transmitted. Even if someone had blood in his or her saliva, swallowing that person's saliva would not transmit the disease because it has to get into someone's bloodstream, said Rice, who's trained by the state in AIDS prevention education.
The Yerdons' lawsuit, which will be filed by lawyer Robert Lahm in state Supreme Court, claims the company that owns the Chili's restaurant should be held responsible because it took no action against Lamica before he quit in October.
Pepper Dining Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., is the franchisee of the Chili's at 3954 State Route 31, court papers said. Brinker Restaurant Co. of Dallas, is the franchisor of the restaurant chain, court papers said. Both companies were named as defendants.
A spokesman for Brinker could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for Pepper Dining referred questions to Brinker.