A 20-year-old Greenport man has been charged in the fatal hit-and-run crash on Front Street Monday.
Denilson Eduardo Gomez Jolon was arrested about 12 hours after the crash, when he was spotted by police re-entering the village in the same vehicle.
Mr. Gomez Jolon was charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. He was arraigned via Skype in Southold Town Justice Court. He was released without bail on supervised release and will be required to report to a probation officer.
The case will be sent to a Suffolk County Grand Jury to consider upgraded charges, prosecutor said.
Mr. Gomez Jolon said he is a native of Guatemala who has lived in the United States for 14 months. He works on a landscaping crew and said in a statement to police that he is “here illegally.” Unlicensed, he said he bought a 2004 Honda Civic about five months ago, court records show.
The crash claimed the life of 87-year-old Peconic Landing resident Elaine Schwartz, who was struck while crossing at the corner of Front and Third streets, police said. Mr. Gomez Jolon was making a right turn onto Front Street from Third Street.
The vehicle continued driving westbound on Front Street following the 7:20 a.m. crash, police said.
Ms. Schwartz was transported to Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital where she succumbed to her injuries, police said.
Mr. Gomez Jolon said in a three-page statement to police, written with the assistance of a translator, that he was driving to a dentist appointment at the time of the crash.
“As I make the turn I see a woman stepping out into the street,” his statement reads. “I tried to stop, but I couldn’t. It was too late …. I got scared, I thought I killed her. So I drove away.”
Mr. Gomez Jolon said that as he looked in the passenger side view mirror he saw Ms. Schwartz standing up and “thought she was OK.”
“I felt relieved,” his statement continued. “I thanked God and went to my appointment. I never stopped the car to see if she was OK.”
Of returning to Greenport and facing likely arrest, Mr. Gomez Jolon said “I had to go home and I knew I was going to get stopped. I know what I did.”
Two women present to show support for Mr. Gomez Jolon sat in the courtroom where Town Justice Eileen Powers held the virtual arraignment, one could be seen sobbing throughout the proceedings.
For 41 years, Ms. Schwartz was a special education curriculum consultant for schools in Dix Hills and taught in Adelphi University’s graduate program in special education. She lived at Peconic Landing in Greenport.
In 2017, “she went kayaking literally at both ends of the globe, in Antarctica in January and the Arctic in August,” according to the profile.
“Exploring and going into the wilderness just gives you a wonderful feeling,” Ms. Schwartz said in a 2018 interview.
Peconic Landing CEO Robert Syron said in a statement that Ms. Schwartz was a “vital part of our community.”
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our beloved member, Elaine Schwartz,” he said. “Ms. Schwartz was a champion of our Successful Living initiative and was involved in many programs offered within our community to engage our members and provide them with purpose and opportunity. She believed in living life to its fullest and our community will feel her loss for some time to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and loved ones.”