Suspect's boyfriend also charged in Hempstead van death

Brian Steele, 29, of Oceanside has been charged Brian Steele, 29, of Oceanside has been charged with two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, seventh degree, driving while ability impaired by drugs, DWAI-impaired combined influences and driving without a seat belt. (June 3, 2010) Photo Credit: NCPD

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The boyfriend of the Freeport teenager charged with running down a Hempstead woman on her front lawn while high on drugs was charged with second-degree manslaughter in a grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday.

Brian Steele, 29, of Oceanside, was not originally charged in the April 20 crash that killed Rebecca Twine, 69, as she cut the lawn at her home on Cathedral Avenue.

Kayla Gerdes, 18, was driving the van while high on drugs, Nassau County police said, and pleaded not guilty to initial charges of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter and other charges.

The indictment against Steele, dated June 7, charges him with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and unlawful possession of marijuana. Police said Steele allowed Gerdes to drive the van. County Judge John Kase set his bail at $50,000 cash or bond.

Steele had been scheduled to surrender to police Tuesday. But attorney Michael DerGarabedian of Rockville Centre said his client was in a mental hospital and could not appear.

DerGarabedian has said Steele was involuntarily committed to an unnamed psychiatric ward by his parents last Thursday because he was acting "paranoid, delusional and schizophrenic" from the "pressure the government has been putting on him."

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Steele pleaded not guilty Wednesday in County Court in Mineola. His father, Brian Steele Sr., declined to comment after the arraignment.

DerGarabedian called the indictment lacking in "common sense" and emphasized that Gerdes has told police she was driving the van.

"How could he be aiding and abetting someone doing something reckless?" DerGarabedian said.

Chauncey Twine, 31, Twine's son, told reporters that he trusted the district attorney to prosecute the case successfully.

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"I have 100 percent confidence in them and in the case they're bringing against Brian Steele Jr., and I'm confident he will be convicted," the son said.

"If there's anyplace where you should be safe, it should be on your own property, in your own front yard," he said. "The fact that my mother was killed in this way - I can't think of anything more horrific."

Steele is due back in court Oct. 18.

With John Valenti

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