Middle Island man recounts wife's death in crash with allegedly drunken Setauket cardiologist

Russell Peterman speaks on Monday, June 23, 2014

Russell Peterman speaks on Monday, June 23, 2014 about his wife Monica, a Middle Island dialysis technician killed, allegedly, by Thomas Stavola, a Setauket cardiologist who authorities said was drunk. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Russell Peterman's wife, Monica, left their Middle Island home for her 4 a.m. hospital shift early on June 14 just like she did many days.

That morning she was killed when her car was broadsided in Smithtown by an allegedly drunken driver, identified by authorities as Setauket cardiologist Thomas Stavola.

"Not in a million years I would expect this to happen," Russell Peterman, 54, said Monday, tearfully. "I can't even describe to you the amount of pain that we got to go through and deal with."


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Russell Peterman and other family members recounted their grief Monday in the offices of their Mineola attorney, E. David Woycik Jr.

Stavola was charged with one count of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated after the crash.

Monica Peterman was pronounced dead at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, where she worked as a dialysis technician.

Monday, her mother, Barbara Sims, said she still finds it difficult to accept that her daughter is gone. "There is a pain in my heart. I can't really describe it," said Sims, pastor of Holy Church of Christ in Central Islip. "I'm waiting to wake up and maybe this is not real, maybe this is a dream."

Authorities said Peterman, 45, was traveling west at 3:55 a.m. through the intersection of East Main Street and Route 111 when Stavola's Audi A4, heading north on Route 111, slammed into her driver-side door.

Prosecutors said Stavola left the scene on foot after the crash and was found blocks away by Suffolk police. The cardiologist slurred his speech, smelled of alcohol and "was unsteady on his feet," according to prosecutors and court papers.

Stavola is scheduled to be back in court Aug. 26 in Suffolk District Court in Central Islip.

Russell Peterman Monday recalled falling in love with "this pretty girl singing in the choir" at her family's church. The two married on July 4, 1999, and had a son, Jordin, now 13. Monica Peterman has two sons, ages 25 and 22, from a previous marriage.

"I was very immature for my age. She coached me into becoming the man that I am today," Russell Peterman said.

Jordin saw his mother when he went to movies the night before she left for work, but not when he got home later that night. "From his bedroom, she asked him to turn the light off, and he turned off the light and he went to bed," Russell Peterman said.

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