Suspect in nun's hit-run death still at large

Sister Jacqueline Walsh, 59, was killed in Water Sister Jacqueline Walsh, 59, was killed in Water Mill by a hit-and-run driver, police say. Mourners gathered for a service that drew hundreds of people to St. Edward Confessor Church in Syosset. (July 10, 2012) Photo Credit: Handout ; Danielle Finkelstein

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The suspect in Monday night's hit-and-run death of a beloved Syosset nun is an employee of the man who owns the car, Southampton Town Police said Thursday.

Despite the police department's appeal for the suspect to turn himself in in the death of Sister Jacqueline Walsh, the man remained at large for a third full day Thursday, Police Chief William Wilson said.

Det. Lisa Costa said Thursday night that the suspect was an employee of Andrew Zaro, 58, the owner of the Volkswagen, who lives just hundreds of feet from the accident scene in Water Mill.

Police hope to arrest the suspect and are pursuing all leads, Costa said, before releasing the man's name.

"He's on the run," she said. "We don't want to do anything to jeopardize us arresting him."

Wilson said police may release the suspect's name and photograph to aid the search. "If there's not an arrest made in the very near future, we're going to enlist the public," he said.

Wilson said the man has an East End address, but may have just been staying there. "We don't know exactly where he is," the chief said.

Suffolk County police, New York State Police and the U.S. Marshals Service are involved in the search for the suspect, who is 30.

"He's not a person of interest," Wilson said. "This is the operator of the vehicle. He is the suspect."

Police said they found the Volkswagen with front-end damage about a half-mile from the scene.

Zaro, police said, was not driving the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg.

A man who answered the door at Zaro's Rose Hill home said, "No one here has anything to say."

Zaro, according to public records, is chairman of Hawthorne, N.Y.-based Cavalry Investments, which buys and collects consumer debt. He started that company after turning a modest family bakery in the Bronx into the high-end Zaro's Bread Basket, which by 1990 had grown to 15 stores, 800 employees and $30 million a year in sales, according to a 2003 Forbes article. He sold his stake in Zaro's at age 35, Forbes said.

Walsh, 59, served at St. Edward Confessor Church in Syosset and previously taught theology at Our Lady of Mercy Academy, a prominent Catholic girls high school in Syosset. She was killed as she took a walk along Rose Hill Road about 8:30 p.m. Monday, one house down from where she had been on a religious retreat.

The retreat was at the Sisters of Mercy Villa. The weeklong retreats involve a period of prayer and meditation, said Debbi Della Porta, a spokeswoman for the Mid-Atlantic Community of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

A wake for Walsh is expected to be held Friday from 2 to 8 p.m. at the Holy Family Room in the St. Edward Confessor Church in Syosset. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Syosset church. She will be buried in Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.

With Ellen Yan

You also may be interested in: