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Teen charged in triple fatal crash arraigned

The crash scene at Middle Country Road and

The crash scene at Middle Country Road and Birchwood Park Drive in Middle Island late Saturday. Credit: Christopher Sabella

The Bellport teen accused of killing three people while fleeing from police was driving a stolen sport utility vehicle so fast that it split another car in half on impact, Suffolk County prosecutors said Wednesday.

Prosecutor Brendan Ahern said Nahriek Belford was driving a stolen Nissan Rogue westbound on Route 25 in Middle Island at a “deadly rate of speed” late Saturday when the SUV struck a 2009 Honda CRV attempting to make a left turn onto Birchwood Park Drive. Jerome Weingarten, 74, of Middle Island and his wife Randee, 71, were pronounced dead at the scene.

“The tremendous force of the crash literally sliced the CRV in half,” Ahern said Wednesday after Belford was arraigned in Stony Brook University Hospital’s burn unit, where he is recovering from injuries from l the crash. His right arm was in a cast, and he appeared to have suffered a burn on his forehead.

Suffolk District Judge James Saladino ordered Belford, 17, held on $500,000 cash bail or bond. Belford has been charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, but Ahern said he anticipated the charges would be upgraded after a grand jury investigation.

Ahern said a Suffolk County police officer attempted to pull over the Nissan after it drove through a stop sign at Main  Street and Yaphank Avenue in Yaphank. Belford fled, driving at dangerously high speeds through multiple stoplights and crossing into oncoming traffic, said Ahern, the bureau chief of the Suffolk County district attorney’s vehicular crimes unit.

“It was clear the defendant was intent on fleeing,” Ahern said.

Belford’s half-brother, Angelo Belford, 19, a passenger in the stolen Nissan, was also killed in the crash, police said. Another passenger in the Nissan, Jaquelle Funderburke, 16, was seriously injured.

Ahern said Belford, known on the street as “Rico,” is a member of the Bloods and is affiliated with the gang’s NBK — Natural Born Killers — set. Belford does not have a prior criminal record.

Investigators suspect Belford may have been smoking marijuana prior to the crash, Ahern said.

Authorities said the Nissan had been reported stolen Feb. 7 from Montauk Highway in East Patchogue. Its license plates were removed and replaced with stolen plates.

“We will continue to investigate and take all appropriate steps to hold the defendant accountable. At ths moment, we know he was a known gang member who was driving a stolen vehicle, and there is evidence to suggest drug use was involved,” Ahern said. “We will pursue justice.”

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