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Court records: Driver took drugs before fatal Commack crash

James Murphy, 19, of Huntington, is led out

James Murphy, 19, of Huntington, is led out of the Second Precinct in Huntington to go to Suffolk County First District Court in Central Islip on Jan. 1, 2014, where he faces arraignment on a charge of driving while ability impaired by drugs, police said. Credit: James Carbone

A Huntington man told police he took controlled substances and mood-altering drugs in the hours and days before he crashed into two cars on New Year's Eve, killing the woman driving one of the vehicles, according to a court document.

James Murphy, 19, of 14 Highland Ct., admitted to inhaling a mood-altering substance just before the accident, taking a prescription anti-anxiety drug the night before, and smoking "some strong hash" a couple days earlier, according to a criminal complaint filed in First District Court in Central Islip.

The criminal complaint said Murphy struck the 2003 Hyundai of Herta Palma, 63, of Commack, "causing injuries to Herta Palma which resulted in her death." But Murphy has not been charged with her death.

Murphy was arraigned yesterday on a single count of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs, a misdemeanor, and ordered held on a bail of $150,000 cash or $450,000 bond. He is due back in court Monday.

Palma was pronounced dead at Huntington Hospital shortly after the crash. Her Hyundai sedan was broadsided by Murphy's 1998 Chevrolet Blazer as she drove west on New Highway, police said.

Murphy and his passenger, who was not identified, were treated for minor injuries at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown and released, police said.

In the document, the officer also quoted Murphy as telling him: "I was driving the white Blazer. I'm not going to lie to you officer. I just inhaled a can of Dust Off and threw it in the back of my truck. I took Alprazolam last night and I smoked some strong hash a couple of days ago."

Murphy's lawyer, Christopher Cassar of Huntington, said later Wednesday that he would not comment directly on his client's alleged statements until prosecutors turn over all their pretrial material, including the full statement.

"At his point, we are looking at this as an accident. He is very remorseful and our thoughts are with the Palma family," Cassar said.

Dust Off is a brand of computer keyboard cleaner. When inhaled, it creates a feeling of euphoria but is extremely dangerous. Alprazolam is a prescription anti-anxiety and anti-pain medication.

Murphy was driving north on Commack Road about 3:25 p.m. Tuesday when his Blazer sideswiped a northbound 2003 Mercedes just before New Highway, said Det. Sgt. James Madden of the vehicular crimes unit. The Mercedes driver, Andrea Linton-Parkes, 50, of Dix Hills, was not injured, police said.

Then at the intersection, the sport utility vehicle broadsided Palma's car, police said.

Madden said the intersection, where New Highway turns into Hauppauge Road, has a red-light camera that detectives are checking.

Detectives said anyone with information could call the vehicular crimes unit at 631-852-6555.

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