A former East Hampton man was brought back to Long Island 19 years after fleeing the country while facing a charge of killing his best friend in a drunken driving crash.
Wilson Pantosin, 44, pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with second-degree manslaughter and other charges resulting from a Jan. 28, 1999, crash in which his friend Wilson Illaisaca, 25, of East Hampton, burned to death.
Pantosin told first responders that no one was in the car while he watched it burn, Assistant District Attorney Maggie Bopp said.
State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho ordered Pantosin held with no bail.
Bopp said Pantosin was driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.20 percent — twice the legal threshold of 0.10, since lowered to 0.08 — when his Dodge Neon veered off Hog Creek Road and hit a tree and utility pole. The car flipped over and caught fire. Bopp said Pantosin told police he’d had four beers.
Rescue workers put the fire out and found unrecognizable, charred human remains in the car. Bopp said it took a DNA sample to identify the body as Illaisaca’s. Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini said Thursday that an autopsy later showed that Illaisaca was killed by the fire, not the crash.
After Pantosin’s arrest, Bopp said his bail was first set at $10,000 cash and then lowered to $1,000 if he turned in his Ecuadorean passport. That was the last anyone saw of him in Suffolk County until authorities in Harris County, Texas, realized he was there, she said. Officers from the Suffolk Police Fugitive Squad went there to arrest him where he was living. Sini said Pantosin had been in his native Ecuador.
Defense attorney Christopher Gioe of Hauppauge said his client maintains his innocence.
“The message here is very simple,” Sini said after the arraignment in Central Islip. “Justice will not expire in the Suffolk County district attorney’s office or in the Suffolk County Police Department.”