DWI arraignment delayed for Coram man charged after cops say his SUV that struck, killed friend

Lawrence Pagano, 23, of Coram, has been charged with driving while intoxicated after he accidentally struck and killed 21-year-old Krystal Berkowitz, of Stony Brook, as he tried to flag her down on Nesconset Highway in Setauket about 4 a.m. Saturday, July 26, Suffolk police said. Berkowitz had left Pagano's car earlier fearing he was too drunk, police said. (Credit: Jim Staubitser)

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A Coram man's arraignment Sunday on a driving while intoxicated charge after police said his sport utility vehicle struck and killed a close friend early Saturday was postponed while he underwent a psychiatric evaluation, according to a court official.

Lawrence Pagano, 23, was scheduled to be arraigned Sunday at First District Court in Central Islip after his DWI arrest on Nesconset Highway. Pagano's friend, Krystal Berkowitz, 21, of Stony Brook, was pronounced dead at the scene of the 4:11 a.m. accident near the corner of Old Town Road in Setauket, police said.

Pagano's arraignment was postponed after he was taken to the psychiatric ward at Stony Brook University Hospital for 72 hours for observation and evaluation, court officials said. It was unclear what led to the hospitalization. The arraignment has not yet been rescheduled, the court official said.

Police said that shortly before Pagano's 2006 Jeep Liberty struck Berkowitz, the pair were inside the SUV in a parking lot on Nesconset Highway. Berkowitz expressed concern that Pagano was drunk and got out, police said. She had walked about a half-mile along the westbound shoulder when the SUV, with Pagano behind the wheel, hit her, police said.

Detectives from Suffolk's Vehicular Crime Unit, the Suffolk district attorney's office and the county crime lab are investigating the death, police said.

Berkowitz suffered a serious head injury, police said. Pagano called 911 and was trying to help her when officers arrived, police said. Police said Berkowitz and Pagano had been together Friday night, but no other details were released.

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A friend, Jay Fischetti, 21, of Stony Brook, said the pair remained close after breaking up about a year ago after several months of dating. Berkowitz lived with Pagano's family in Rocky Point until the family moved earlier this year, he said.

With Robert Brodsky,

Will James and Khloe Meitz

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