ADA: Upgraded charges expected in fatal crash

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said Wednesday the driver who fatally struck a Lindenhurst teen on her way home from work had a blood-alcohol level nearly four times the legal limit and was speeding up to 100 mph before crashing into the victim's car, causing it to flip and hit a utility pole. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (June 27, 2012)

A Babylon man had a blood-alcohol level nearly four times the legal limit when his speeding car rear-ended a vehicle, killing a Lindenhurst teen, authorities said Wednesday.

Minutes before the fatal Sunday night crash, another driver yelled at Michael Grasing, 31, to "stop driving before he kills someone," Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.

Spota said Grasing ran two red lights in his 2004 Nissan Maxima, drove on the sidewalk, and wove in and out of traffic, even into oncoming lanes, before ramming the Kia Sportage driven by Brittney Walsh, 18.

The recent high school graduate had gotten off work at Kmart and was headed home on Montauk Highway in Lindenhurst.

Judge Patricia Filiberto set bail at $100,000 cash or $200,000 bond at Grasing's arraignment Wednesday in First District Court in Central Islip. He pleaded not guilty to driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor.

Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcomb said upgraded charges are expected to be filed as new evidence is developed.

Witnesses told investigators that Grasing was driving at speeds of up to 80 to 100 mph before slamming into Walsh's sport utility vehicle and made no attempt to stop, Spota said.

A blood sample taken 11/2 hours after the crash showed Grasing had a 0.30 percent blood-alcohol level, Spota said. The legal limit is 0.08 percent.

Spota said he talked to Brittney's father, Tom Walsh, Wednesday to inform him of the findings. The Walsh family could not immediately be reached for comment.

Grasing was charged with DWI in upstate Albany County in 1999, and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of driving while impaired, officials said.

Newcombe said in court that Grasing has been "in and out of rehab, and he's gone on benders where he's disappeared for days."

Defense attorney William Keahon disputed that assertion. He said Grasing has worked as a contractor for 10 years with his father.

The defendant has a 3-year-old daughter and lives with his wife, Keahon said.

"The prosecution thinks they have a strong case. I do not," Keahon said in court.

The attorney said afterward that Grasing's family is "devastated at the death of a young girl."

Officials are asking anyone who may have seen Grasing's vehicle or the crash to call police at 631-854-8152.

Spota said investigators are especially interested in talking to the driver heard yelling at Grasing by witnesses.

Walsh graduated from Walter G. O'Connell Copiague High School on Friday.

Her social studies teacher, Peter Casale, 42, of Lake Ronkonkoma, went to her wake Wednesday at Claude R. Boyd/Spencer Funeral Home in Babylon.

"Any father would be lucky to have her as a daughter. Any teacher would be lucky to have her as a student," Casale said.

Liz Gusmano, 46, of Copiague, who also attended the wake, said her son Rocco, 17, graduated with Walsh.

"We hugged her on Friday, and we have to bury her this Friday," Gusmano said. "My son is angry. The feeling I'm getting from everybody is that everybody's very angry. It's senseless."

Walsh was also remembered for her efforts to keep alive the memory of her best friend and classmate, Christopher Urban, who died in October 2010 from a congenital brain condition.

With Joseph Mallia,

John Valenti, William Murphy and Nathaniel Herz

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