College dean pleads not guilty to upgraded charges in Meadowbrook crash

Robert Beodeker, 50, of Aquebogue, charged with reckless Robert Beodeker, 50, of Aquebogue, charged with reckless driving and aggravated unlicensed operation in connection with a fatal crash on the Meadowbrook Parkway, leaves Nassau police headquarters in Mineola. (March 5, 2013) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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A college administrator wept Friday as he was led away in handcuffs after being arraigned on new charges that he struck and killed two men while driving under the influence of drugs on the Meadowbrook Parkway.

Prosecutors upgraded the charges against Robert Beodeker after blood tests came back positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine.

Beodeker, 50, of Aquebogue, originally charged with driving with a suspended license and reckless driving in the March 4 crash -- both misdemeanors -- now faces aggravated vehicular homicide and other felonies.

Beodeker's lawyer, N. Richard Wool of Plainview, said outside First District Court in Hempstead that his client is deeply remorseful.

"This is a terrible accident, but that doesn't mean it's manslaughter," Wool said.

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Nassau District Court Judge David McAndrews set bail at $1 million bond or $500,000 cash bail. Beodeker, who pleaded not guilty, is due back in court March 19.

If convicted of the top charge against him, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

Beodeker was first arrested after allegedly striking and killing John Elder, 76, of Freeport, and Edward Ross, 65, of North Bellmore, as they stood next to their disabled vehicle on the shoulder of the Meadowbrook just south of the Southern State Parkway.

Beodeker, who had been out on $1,000 bail, was arrested again Friday morning based on the results of drug tests that showed he had levels of 0.17 percent methamphetamine and 0.12 percent amphetamine in his blood at the time of the crash, according to court papers.

Prosecutors said the substances detected were illicit drugs at levels high enough to cause impairment.

Wool said he hadn't seen the toxicology report and could not respond to those allegations.

Ross' son, Edward Ross of Omaha, said Friday he had not been informed of the new charges.

"I'm just glad that justice is being served," he said. "We buried my father on Wednesday . . . his birthday. He would have been 66. There's a family behind this tragedy. I don't have a father; my two kids don't have a grandfather."

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Beodeker is associate dean of student services at Suffolk County Community College's Riverhead campus, responsible for counseling, financial aid and more. The recently divorced father of three has a doctorate from Columbia University.

SCCC spokeswoman Mary Lou Araneo said in a statement Friday that the school is monitoring the case "and we continue to assess the circumstances as they unfold."

Prosecutor Gene Kang said in court that he believes Beodeker has been suspended.

After his arraignment nearly two weeks ago, Beodeker expressed his grief over the victims' deaths. "This was an accident; a tragic accident," he said.

Beodeker also said he was returning from Queens, driving south on the Meadowbrook when two lanes merged near the top of an incline. At the last moment, he said, he noticed the two men. "There was almost nothing I could do," he said.

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In addition to aggravated vehicular homicide, Beodeker faces two counts of second-degree vehicular manslaughter and two counts of criminally negligent homicide, all felonies; and driving while ability impaired by drugs, a misdemeanor.

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