A maintenance worker from Queens was convicted Thursday of killing a father and his two children while driving drunk and then leaving the scene of the fiery crash a year and a half ago on the Southern State Parkway in Bay Shore.
Oniel Sharpe Jr., 26, of Springfield Gardens, was found guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide, three counts of second-degree manslaughter, leaving the scene of a fatal accident and tampering with physical evidence.
The July 12, 2015, crash killed Ancio Ostane, 37, and his children, Andy, 8, and Sephora, 4, all of St. Albans. Prosecutors said Sharpe was drunk and reckless when his BMW X5 rear-ended the Ostanes’ Toyota RAV4 at more than 80 mph.
The only survivor in the RAV4 was Lucnie Bouaz-Ostane, Ostane’s wife and the children’s mother. As the Toyota erupted into an inferno at Exit 41S, she tried in vain to save her family.
“The early seconds that matter — he could have made a difference,” Assistant District Attorney Patricia Brosco said after the verdict in Central Islip. “He was thinking only of himself, trying to get rid of evidence, while the family burned to death.”
Witnesses’ cellphone video, presented during the three-week trial before state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho, showed Sharpe heaving a bottle of tequila into the woods while the Ostane vehicle burned in the background.
Then he left in a friend’s car, not making himself available to police until almost four hours later. By then, his blood-alcohol level had dropped to 0.05 percent, but a forensic toxicologist testified that it would have been 0.12 percent at the time of the crash.
Sharpe was impassive as he heard the jury foreman announce, “We, the jury, find the defendant guilty” for each count.
Bouaz-Ostane was not in the courtroom. Her emotions are still so raw that she was unable to testify at the trial.
“In her words, it’s like someone taking a knife and stabbing her in the stomach to talk about this,” Brosco said.
Jurors reached their verdict on their third day of deliberation, shortly after having testimony read back to them from the one witness who described Sharpe weaving in and out of traffic and from the toxicologist on how he estimated Sharpe’s blood-alcohol level.
Defense attorney Jonathan Manley of Hauppauge called the toxicologist’s testimony “junk science,” noting that the witness did not consider what or when his client ate, and provided jurors nothing more than a guess about whether Sharpe was intoxicated.
Manley did not contest evidence that his client was driving at more than 80 mph before the crash, but he said there was no credible evidence that Sharpe was driving recklessly.
He said Sharpe had a legitimate reason to leave the scene — two people in his crashed BMW were injured and needed to go to the hospital.
But Brosco noted that Sharpe passed several hospitals to go to Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream, more than 20 miles away.
“The case was a terrible tragedy. He’s always been very, very remorseful,” Manley said of his client after the verdict.
Prosecutors say they will ask Camacho on March 23 to sentence Sharpe to the maximum of 12 to 36 years in prison. Sharpe also faces an unrelated 23 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument for having almost two dozen fake credit cards hidden in the BMW.