Red-light camera videos and a Crime Stoppers tip helped lead detectives to the driver who struck and killed a blind man in a hit-and-run crash Sunday in East Patchogue, authorities said Thursday.
Ruddy Velasquez-Morales, 27, of Bellport, surrendered to police Wednesday night and was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, a felony.
Westbury defense attorney Sanford Pirotin entered a not guilty plea for his client in First District Court in Central Islip. District Court Judge Pierce Cohalan set Velasquez-Morales’ bail at $75,000 cash or $150,000 bond.See alsoRecent LI mug shotsDataLI crime stats
If convicted, he faces up to 7 years in prison.
Police said the pedestrian, Warren Karstendick, 64, of East Patchogue, was walking along Main Street just before 7 a.m. Sunday when he was struck. The victim’s brother has said Karstendick was blind and shouldn’t have been out on his own.
Surveillance videos showed the vehicle hitting Karstendick, who then rolled off the hood, police said. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The vehicle sought in the crash was described by police earlier this week as a dark blue 2002-2005 Ford Explorer. Surveillance footage showed front-end damage to the hood and grill, police said.
On Wednesday, police found the SUV in a Manorville commercial parking lot. It is registered to the suspect’s sister, police said.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said Thursday that a call to the Crime Stoppers “put the bow on this case” by leading investigators to the suspect.
After his arrest, prosecutors said Velasquez-Morales told police: “It was me.”
But Pirotin said: “There is really absolutely no indication that my client was driving, and you want to avoid a rush to judgment here.”
Pirotin said his client’s correct name is Rudy Velasquez Morales. He works in construction and is a married father of two young children, the lawyer said.