In court, prosecutors said the driver who caused the crash used Hicksville Road as “her own personal raceway.”  Credit: Photo Credit: James Staubitser;Howard Schnapp; A.J. Singh; Mitchell Family;

A Georgia woman accused of fatally slamming into the car of the South Hempstead Baptist Church's clerk in an April crash on Sunrise Highway in Massapequa, then stealing a public safety vehicle to flee the scene, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to second-degree manslaughter and other felony charges.

Rachel Lodice, 21, made a brief appearance to enter her plea around noon before Supreme Court Justice Tammy Robbins. She was held on $250,000 cash bail.

Lodice was charged with killing Cynthia Mitchell, of Jericho, who led the church band and singers, just days before her 65th birthday.

Lodice had previously said she was suffering from a reaction of her medication to alcohol, but a blood test administered by authorities found marijuana, not alcohol, in her system, officials said.

A Nassau County grand jury indicted Lodice on May 21 on the top charge of manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, second-degree assault, leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, and grand larceny — all felony charges — along with several misdemeanor charges, including driving under the influence of drugs, reckless driving and third-degree assault.

Rachel Lodice, right, leaves the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola on...

Rachel Lodice, right, leaves the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola on Tuesday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

According to Nassau Assistant District Attorney Tara DePalo, Lodice, who was staying with family in Jericho on April 23 when the crash happened, was “using Hicksville Road as her personal raceway,” barreling down the road in her 2023 Kia Rio going 75 mph in a 35 mph zone.

Prosecutors said they have video footage of Lodice going south, weaving in and out of traffic, crossing the double yellow line and blowing several red lights.

“Her driving was so treacherous, so utterly unpredictable. It is an absolute miracle that more drivers were not hurt in the chaos,” Nassau District Attorney Anne Donnelly said.

Mitchell and her friend Melinda Ward were headed to the Hobby Lobby store in Massapequa when Lodice T-boned her 2022 Nissan Altima at Sunrise Highway and Hicksville Road, officials said.

Both women were taken to Nassau University Medical Center, where Mitchell died of her injuries. Ward suffered several broken ribs and a bruised spleen.

Theodore Mitchell, husband of Cynthia Mitchell, and their daughter Charlese...

Theodore Mitchell, husband of Cynthia Mitchell, and their daughter Charlese leave the Nassau County Courthouse in Mineola Tuesday afternoon. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Lodice took off in a Town of Oyster Bay Public Safety car after an officer arrived at the scene, prosecutors said. Lodice  went several miles until she ended up at a dead-end road in Seaford, according to Donnelly.

Authorities tracked her down using the safety car’s GPS and shut off the engine using a remote “kill switch,” prosecutors said.

“Once the car was disabled, officers took the defendant into custody,” Donnelly said. “She was sitting in the car, wearing the town official’s jacket and eating a sandwich from his cooler.”

After the hearing, Mitchell’s husband, Theodore, standing with the couple’s 18-year-old daughter, Charlese, spoke about what a big presence she was in the church.

“This was a traumatic shock,” he said. “Cynthia was beloved in the church. She was a big-time servant there.”

He said his wife celebrated every day of April in anticipation of her birthday. “This was a happy time for her,” he said.

His daughter was too emotional to speak.

Mitchell said he wants to see justice served.

“We want to make sure that young lady gets everything she deserves,” he said, referring to Lodice.

Lodice returns to court July 8.

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

LI unemployment rate up . . . Day trip to Ocean Beach . . . Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

LI unemployment rate up . . . Day trip to Ocean Beach . . . Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV

Latest videos

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME ONLINE