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Long IslandCrime

Judge sentences Wheatley Heights man to prison for fatal crash

Brandon Charles, of Wheatley Heights, is pictured before

Brandon Charles, of Wheatley Heights, is pictured before his sentencing on Thursday May 4, 2017 in the fatal 2014 crash that killed his friend Carla Vanessa Flores, 19, of Wyandanch. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

A judge yesterday sentenced a Wheatley Heights man to 3 to 9 years in prison for a 2014 Melville crash where he didn’t tell police at the scene that he was driving the car in which his friend died.

Brandon Charles, 21, had pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter for causing the death of Carla Vanessa Flores, 19, of Wyandanch, who died in the Nov. 1, 2014, crash.

Charles was driving approximately 105 mph, more than twice the speed limit of 40 mph, when the Chevrolet Camaro skidded off the road and flipped over near Colonial Springs and Little Neck roads in Melville, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Ray Varuolo had said.

At the scene, neither Charles nor the car’s owner, Joseph Dunn of Dix Hills, would say who was driving, so police had no authority to test either of them for alcohol or drugs. But the Suffolk Crime Laboratory tested a spot of blood on the driver’s doorjamb and matched it to Charles, showing he was the driver.

Before State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho in First District Court in Central Islip imposed sentencing yesterday, Flores’ sister, Viviana Betanco of Wyandanch, read from a statement. Her mother, she said, did not get out of bed for months after her younger sister was killed. During that time, Betanco said, she had to look after her mother around-the-clock to make sure she didn’t hurt herself.

“My mother now has to take medication to function daily because you took a big part of her away,” Betanco said through tears. “She is not the same person and will never be the same.”

Betanco’s mother, Maria Rubio, 50, also of Wyandanch, sobbed throughout the court proceeding.

Yesterday was the second time Charles was sentenced. He pleaded guilty in 2015 because he mistakenly believed he was eligible for early release. He then took back his plea and requested a trial, only to again plead guilty to the same charge in March.

Flores, who was a sophomore at Suffolk County Community College, had wanted to become a social worker, Betanco said. When her sister was unable to get a ride to school, Betanco said she would take the bus so she would not miss class.

On the night her sister was killed, Betanco said Charles didn’t call her family to let them know that Flores had been in the crash. She said the family had to find out from two detectives the following day.

Three years, nine years, no matter how much prison time Charles serves, Betanco said, it will not ease the pain of living a life without her sister.

“I will be at your parole hearing because no matter what sentence they give you, you will never take full responsibility for what you did,” she said.

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