Suffolk prosecutors Wednesday added aggravated vehicular homicide to the list of charges against a Westbury man accused of driving with a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit in a July 19 accident that killed his 10-month-old daughter and injured his pregnant wife.
Escobar was charged with driving while intoxicated and endangering the welfare of a child. But prosecutors upgraded charges after his daughter, 10-month-old Helen Escobar, who had been in a car seat in the back, died last week from a brain injury suffered in the accident.
At arraignment Wednesday Escobar pleaded not guilty, and Suffolk County Court Judge John Toomey ordered him held on $750,000 bond or $500,000 cash bail. His Hauppauge-based attorney, Phil Solages, called the accident "tragic."
"My client and his family are in mourning over losing a child," Solages said.
Three women who appeared in court on behalf of Escobar declined to comment.
Escobar, a native of El Salvador, has no prior criminal record. Solages said he works as a janitor.
Assistant District Attorney Patricia Brosco said Escobar's wife, Maria Guillen Escobar, 27, who was eight months pregnant, had been rushed to Stony Brook University Hospital for an emergency Caesarean section. Prosecutors said the baby is in the custody of Suffolk County Child Protective Services.
She also underwent surgery for an injured ankle, Brosco said.
A Stony Brook University Hospital spokeswoman said she has been discharged but declined to comment on her or the newborn's condition.
The judge also issued an order barring Jose Escobar from having contact with his newborn daughter.
Brosco said in court that the couple had been on their way to dinner when Jose Escobar stopped and picked up a six-pack of beer, which he began drinking. The two then argued in the parking lot of the restaurant over his drinking, Brosco said.
When Maria refused to go into the restaurant with him, he started to drive the family home, hitting speeds of up 100 mph, Brosco said, adding that Escobar had an alcohol level of .26, more than three times the legal limit.
In addition to the original charges, prosecutors on Wednesday charged Escobar with three counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, second-degree manslaughter, two felony counts of aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child, one misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated with a child, reckless driving and speeding.
The felony aggravated vehicular homicide charge carries a possible sentence of 25 years in prison, a spokesman for the district attorney's office said.
With Gary Dymski