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Cops: Manslaughter charges in crash that killed engaged couple

Rahmel Watkins, 35, Brooklyn, faces manslaughter charges in

Rahmel Watkins, 35, Brooklyn, faces manslaughter charges in a fatal crash, police said Monday. Credit: NCPD

A Brooklyn man previously charged with DWI in a five-car crash that killed an engaged couple earlier this month in Inwood also will face two counts of second-degree manslaughter, police said.

Rahmel Watkins, 35, of Quincy Street, had previously pleaded not guilty to DWI at a bedside arraignment, with bail set at $50,000 cash or bond, authorities said. Monday, his bail was raised to $500,000 bond or $250,000 cash and he was held on the upgraded charges, according to online records.

Watkins and Zakiyyah Steward, 25, of Park Avenue, Brooklyn, were arrested after the April 4 fatal crash on the Nassau Expressway that also injured five others.

Yisroel Levin, 21, of Brooklyn, and Elisheva Basya Kaplan, 20, of Far Rockaway, a couple who had announced their engagement barely a week earlier, were killed. They were to be wed in June.

Steward is charged with driving while ability impaired by the combined influence of drugs and alcohol and any drug or drugs, driving while ability impaired by drugs, DWI and unlawful possession of marijuana. Steward, who is due back in court on Friday, also pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Steward’s bail was set at $25,000 bond or $12,500 cash and she remained in custody Monday, according to online court records.

A spokeswoman for Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said the crash is still under investigation, so it was unclear Monday whether Steward would also face upgraded charges. Watkins is represented by Legal Aid, which does not generally comment on cases.

According to detectives, the five cars, with nine total occupants, were involved in the crash about 1:40 a.m. on the Nassau Expressway between Burnside Avenue and Peninsula Boulevard. Levin and Kaplan were trapped in their vehicle, which caught fire, police said.

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