A Central Islip man apologized Tuesday to the family of the man he hit and killed, moments before a Suffolk judge sent him to jail.
But the family of Lorenzo Fuentes, 64, of Central Islip said the apology wouldn’t bring back the hardworking father of seven.
Joseph Melendez, 31, pleaded guilty in June to leaving the scene of a fatal accident. He admitted hitting Fuentes as he walked to work before dawn on Nov. 9, 2014, on a Hauppauge street. State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho will sentence Melendez in December to no more than 1 to 3 years in prison, but he put him in jail Tuesday and allowed Fuentes’ family to speak in court.
Assistant District Attorney Marc Lindemann said his office had recommended a sentence of 1 1⁄2 to 4 1⁄2 years in prison. Fuentes was walking to a factory job when he was hit on Motor Parkway.
Police determined that pieces of a mirror and a headlight at the scene came from a 2014 Jeep Cherokee, and they eventually found such a Jeep — with a hole in the windshield and blood on it — at the home of Melendez’s girlfriend’s mother in Great River. Melendez told police he thought he’d hit a deer.
“It hurts me that this man took the life away from a man who was only dedicated to work,” Fuentes’ older brother, Porfirio Fuentes, said in tears through a Spanish interpreter. “My brother was a loving man.”
One of his daughters, Merliss Castellano, said, “I only ask God to help me every day.”
Defense attorney William Keahon of Hauppauge told the family: “I express my grief and prayers for each of you.”
Another daughter, Veronica Fuentes Reyes, replied, “Thank you so much, but that’s not going to change anything.”
Melendez acknowledged that was true, but said he was sorry and hoped they could find peace some day.