The driver in last month’s fatal hit-and-run crash in Greenport has been indicted on a second-degree manslaughter charge, court records show.
Denilson Eduardo Gomez Jolon, 20, of Greenport will be arraigned before Acting Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho on the new top charge Monday.
Mr. Gomez Jolon was initially charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle after he was spotted by police returning to Greenport 12 hours after the July 13 crash that claimed the life of 87-year-old Peconic Landing resident Elaine Schwartz.
Mr. Gomez Jolon said at his July arraignment that he is a native of Guatemala who had 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 his 2004 Honda Civic about five months before the crash, court records show.
Second-degree manslaughter is a class C non-violent felony carrying a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Mr. Gomez Jolon is also still facing a felony charge for leaving the scene of the crash and infractions for driving without a license or insurance.
Because he is now facing a manslaughter charge, Mr. Gomez Jolon, who was released without bail last month, will likely have to post bail following Monday’s arraignment. Manslaughter was among the charges included in a rollback of last year’s controversial New York bail reform package. Beginning in January, a judge could not set cash bail for someone awaiting trial on a manslaughter charge, but that was reversed in a new budget package that went into effect July 1.
Ms. Schwartz 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.”