Drugs may have played a role in the fatal hit-and-run-crash that led to the arrest of a Mattituck man, a prosecutor said at his arraignment Monday.
Keith Clancy, 32, of Mattituck told police that on the night before the crash he used suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction, assistant district attorney Lauren Michalski told Suffolk County Court Judge Eric Sachs. Witnesses also stated that he had been driving erratically shortly before leaving his lane of travel and striking Michael McDermott head on as he jogged on the opposite side of Lake Avenue in St. James, she said.
Mr. McDermott of Smithtown, a 37-year-old teacher and junior varsity baseball coach at Kings Park High School, was pronounced dead at the scene. He was the father of three young children, Ms. Michalski said.
Wearing a white Suffolk County Jail-issued jumpsuit Monday as he appeared alongside his attorney, Anthony La Pinta of Hauppauge, Mr. Clancy pleaded not guilty to the initial charges of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. The prosecutor said Mr. Clancy, who has two prior convictions for driving while intoxicated and had his license revoked in 2017, will likely face an upgraded homicide charge after the case is presented to a grand jury. Ms Michalski added that investigators are still awaiting a toxicology report from a blood test done on Mr. Clancy following the crash.
“The only appropriate comment at this time is to acknowledge the magnitude of this tragedy and to offer our genuine condolences to the family of Michael McDermott,” Mr. La Pinta said outside the courtroom Monday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this awful time.”
Judge Sachs ordered Mr. Clancy held on $250,000 cash bail or $500,000 bond, the amount recommended by prosecutors. While Mr. La Pinta had asked for lower bail, referencing Mr. Clancy’s deep roots in his community and his track record of never missing a court appearance, Judge Sachs said the Mattituck man’s past run-ins with the law gave him cause for concern.
“[His prior] court appearances are what led to his revoked license and unfortunately that did not prevent him from driving yesterday,” said Judge Sachs, who added that Sunday’s crash could “only be described as tragic.”
While police initially stated that Mr. McDermott was jogging on the southbound side of Lake Avenue north of Oak Street around 12:20 p.m. Sunday, Ms. Michalski stated in court Monday that he was, in fact, jogging in the northbound shoulder and upon impact his body was sent nearly 100 feet in the air to the southbound side of the road, nearest the next closest intersection at the corner of Roseville Avenue.
Among the evidence gathered at the scene was Mr. Clancy’s front license plate. When he was stopped nearly 30 minutes after the crash about 20 miles away near Exit 69 of the Long Island Expressway in Manorville, police saw that his plate was missing and much of the passenger side of his front windshield had been shattered.
“Blood was splattered” across the front of his car, Ms. Michalski said.
A drug recognition expert who evaluated Mr. Clancy Sunday reported poor balance, low blood pressure and bloodshot and glassy eyes, the prosecutor said.
Mr. Clancy’s most recent DWI arrest came in 2015, when he was charged with driving while intoxicated by drugs, Ms. Michalski said. He was also convicted of DWI following an arrest in 2007. Suffolk County court records also show Mr. Clancy, a 2005 graduate of Mattituck High School, is facing charges from earlier this year for criminal possession of a controlled substance and possession of a hypodermic instrument, for which he is due back in court later this month.
A candlelight vigil is scheduled for Monday evening in Kings Park, where Mr. McDermott was remembered as a respected member of the school community.
“Mr. McDermott was a wonderful man, talented teacher/coach, and beloved member of our staff, and this news will be shocking to all that knew him,” Kings Park superintendent Timothy Eagen said in a statement to district residents Sunday evening. Despite the summer break, the district made mental health support staff available to students and staff Monday.
Mr. Clancy is due back in court Friday.
Top Caption: Mr. Clancy speaks with police at the scene of the traffic stop in Manorville Sunday. (Credit: Stringer News)