Driver admits to hit-run that killed LI couple on Thruway

Luis Munoz, 24, is expected to get 6

Luis Munoz, 24, is expected to get 6 to 18 years in prison when he's sentenced Nov. 8, said his attorney, Jaime Santana of Brooklyn. He pleaded guilty in Orange County Court in Goshen. (Credit: New York State Police)

An Ossining man pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of aggravated vehicular homicide in a June hit-and-run that left a Long Island couple dead on the New York State Thruway.

Luis Munoz, 25, is expected to get 6 to 18 years in prison when he's sentenced Nov. 8, said his attorney, Jaime Santana of Brooklyn. He pleaded guilty in Orange County Court in Goshen.

"He's accepted responsibility for his actions," Santana said. "He's extremely remorseful."


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Munoz pleaded guilty to the top charge of a 16-count indictment, but had faced 81/3 to 25 years if convicted at trial in the deaths of Rafaelito DeJesus, 23, of Valley Stream, and Melissa Rupa, 25, of Mineola. They were riding their motorcycle to an upstate weekend getaway when they were hit by Munoz in the town of Woodbury.

"This will be one of the most severe sentences that I recall in this kind of case," said Orange County District Attorney Frank Phillips, whose office prosecuted the case. "New York State law does not allow consecutive sentences when a single act, in this case the crash, causes multiple deaths."

Munoz was arrested by state police after an off-duty New Windsor police officer recognized the vehicle used in the hit and run, Phillips said.

At the time of Munoz's arrest, state police had said the Orange County medical examiner, who had just finished working at the crash scene, noticed an erratic driver and called police. Munoz's car was missing a plate and bumper, part of the debris found at the accident scene, state police said.

The couple had stopped in a "safety zone" of the thruway when Munoz "ran them over," Phillips said in a release. He had a .15 percent blood alcohol content, the prosecutor said, above the legal limit of .08.

Munoz may make a statement to the victims' families at sentencing, Santana said. There were circumstances in the case that warranted a plea deal, the attorney said, but he declined to elaborate. But the attorney said he and his client offer apologies to the victims' families and hope the guilty plea will help them heal.

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