An Eastport man was sentenced Tuesday to the maximum 21/3 to 7 years in prison for fleeing from an accident last year after he struck and killed a neighborhood woman and badly injured a man.
Prosecutors said Peter Torrillo, 48, had a prior conviction for driving while impaired by drugs, and he might have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the accident happened. However, they said, he could not be charged with anything more serious than leaving the scene of an accident because he was not tracked down and arrested until three weeks later.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota released a statement before the sentencing calling on the State Legislature to increase the penalties for leaving the scene of an accident.
Before sentence was imposed in County Court in Central Islip, Judge Fernando Camacho allowed Torrillo, a father of four, to speak to about two dozen friends and relatives of the victims on one side of the courtroom, and to about a dozen members of his own family on the other side.
He said he had not publicly apologized until now, on the advice of his lawyer, and he's still haunted by dreams of that night.
"I'm sorry. I'm truly sorry," he said, crying and sniffling between deep breaths.
Prosecutors said Erika Strebel, 27, of Eastport, and her brother-in-law, Edward Barton, 26, of East Moriches, were standing next to Strebel's Jeep on Nov. 2 on Montauk Highway in Eastport after it had run out of gas.
Torrillo hit both people with his pickup, killing Strebel and leaving Barton, who is still in a wheelchair, with head and leg injuries. Strebel left behind a son, Ayden, who turned 6 in February.
Torrillo then fled home and hid the truck, changed clothes and went out to a bar -- passing the scene of the accident on the way. The next day, he drove to Queens to have his truck repaired by a friend who owned a body shop. He was arrested three weeks later after police matched paint chips from the scene to his truck.
He pleaded guilty in May to leaving the scene of an accident, and Judge Camacho said he would sentence him to 2 to 6 years in prison. However, the judge said Tuesday he was not bound by that promise because Torrillo had lied to the probation officer who prepared his pre-sentencing report by claiming he thought he had hit an abandoned car that night. He had admitted during his plea that he knew he hit a person.
Outside court, Strebel's mother, Maureen, 50, of Eastport, dismissed Torrillo's apology. "It's not sincere at all," she said. She said the sentence amounted to "a slap on the wrist for murder," and said she supported Spota's call for tougher laws.
In court, Maureen Strebel told the judge before the sentence was imposed that Torrillo should get the maximum, and, turning around to face Torrillo's supporters, she pointed her finger and said: "Not one of you came forward and said 'I'm sorry.' "
Assistant District Attorney Carl Borelli said outside court, "There's that belief that someone takes off essentially because they're drunk or high, just like this. This guy had a prior impaired conviction, for driving while impairing by drugs. He took off. We're never going to know. And we believe there should be enhanced penalties."