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Baldwin man pleads guilty to manslaughter in crash that killed retired priest

A Baldwin man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter seven months after police said he was driving a car while high on alprazolam and fentanyl and caused a crash that killed a 69-year-old retired priest, authorities said.

Christopher Gomez-Almendarez, 24, entered the plea Friday before Nassau County Court Judge Patricia Harrington to charges of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault, and driving while ability impaired by a combination of drugs, according to a news release issued by Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas.

On Jan. 24, Gomez-Almendarez is expected to be sentenced to six years in prison on the assault charge, concurrent to 2½ years to seven years on the manslaughter charge and 364 days on the driving while ability impaired charge for the April 19 crash that killed the Rev. T. Chacko Mammen of North Bellmore.

“Reverend Mammen was a father of five children and a cherished community and church leader when his life was tragically cut short by this defendant,” Singas said in the release. “The combination of the defendant’s speed and his drug impairment was lethal to anyone in his path. Our condolences remain with his family, friends and parishioners.”

Gomez-Almendarez’s attorney, Brian J. Griffin of Garden City, declined to comment.

At the time of the crash, State Police said Mammen was driving west at about 12:10 a.m. on the Southern State Parkway in his GMC sport utility vehicle near Exit 30 in North Massapequa — hours after giving a Good Friday sermon — when Gomez-Almendarez’s car struck the SUV from behind, forcing it onto the shoulder, where it struck a tree.

Investigators said Gomez-Almendarez was driving 86 to 91 miles per hour in the seconds before the crash, and that the vehicle did not slow up or brake before impact.

Mammen, a popular priest at Long Island Mar Thoma Church in Merrick, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

His wife, Wilsy Mammen, 65, was treated for pain and bruising, authorities said.

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