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Cops urge suspect in nun's hit-run death to surrender

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) Credit: Handout ; Danielle Finkelstein

Southampton Town police Wednesday urged the suspect in a hit-and-run crash that killed a beloved Syosset nun on Monday to surrender.

Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson said the 30-year-old man they suspect in the death of Sister Jacqueline Walsh, 59, should "do the right thing and turn himself in."

That man "isn't making himself readily available to law enforcement," the chief said.

Walsh, who served at St. Edward Confessor Church in Syosset and previously taught theology at Our Lady of Mercy Academy, a Catholic girls' high school in Syosset, was killed as she took a walk along Rose Hill Road about 8:30 p.m. Monday, not far from where she had been on a religious retreat. Her body was found in a driveway on the east side of the road in lay summer clothes.

"We're dedicating all of our investigative resources into finding this person," Wilson said. "We will not rest until we take a suspect into custody. We're hoping that conscience gets the better of him."

Wilson declined to say whether he thinks the suspect is still on Long Island.

Wilson said Wednesday that there were no witnesses to the accident, but some residents of the street saw a "male who looked distraught" and then disappeared from the scene. Police also found a 2009 Volkswagen Touareg with front-end damage about a half-mile from the scene.

He said police do not yet know whether the car was speeding, but Wednesday obtained a search warrant to examine the vehicle. Wilson acknowledged it may be too late to tell if the suspect was intoxicated at the time of the accident.

Wilson, who responded to a 911 call from a passerby who saw Walsh's body, said he couldn't tell whether Walsh's body had been dragged into the driveway.

"You'd expect skid marks, grass to be disturbed," he said. "It was bizarre -- and I've been doing this for 27 years -- because of the lack of evidence. It was a bit of a whodunit."

Southampton Town police are investigating the case with the help of Suffolk County's crime lab, state police and U.S. marshals, he said.

Walsh had been at a retreat at the Sisters of Mercy Villa, a religious retreat center in Water Mill, since Saturday. 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.

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