Four hours after a Queens man caused a crash that left a man and his two children burned to death, he still smelled of alcohol and couldn’t explain why he left the scene, a New York State Police sergeant testified Thursday in a pretrial hearing.
Sgt. Randy Smith was one of several troopers who were trying to find Oniel Sharpe Jr., 25, of Springfield Gardens after an early morning crash on the Southern State Parkway killed Ancio Ostane, 37, and his children, Andy, 8, and Sephora, 4, of St. Albans, Queens. Lucnie Bouaz-Ostane, the victims’ wife and mother, survived, only to watch her family die.
Smith and other investigators have been testifying at a pretrial hearing before state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho in Central Islip. The hearing is to determine whether police had probable cause to arrest Sharpe and whether statements he made will be admissible at his trial.
Sharpe is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide and other charges. He faces 8 1⁄3 to 25 years in prison on the top count.
Smith said he and other officers had been told by family members that Sharpe was either returning to the crash scene near westbound Exit 41S, going home or going to his mother’s house in Rockville Centre. Sharpe finally showed up in Rockville Centre, Smith said during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Patricia Brosco.
“I asked him why he left the scene,” Smith said. “He shrugged his shoulders, as if he didn’t have answer.”
Smith said that while he was talking with Sharpe, “I detected what I perceived to be a combination of mouthwash and an alcoholic beverage. His eyes were slightly red.”
During the hearing, there appeared to be some confusion about who actually arrested Sharpe, and for what. Investigator Richard Esposito testified he told Smith to put Sharpe under arrest for leaving the scene of a fatal accident, but Smith said he recalled no such conversation.
Another witness, Trooper Stephen Schawarock, said that after Sharpe was taken to the Valley Stream barracks, he told Sharpe he was under arrest for driving while intoxicated while asking him to take a breath test. But that was not yet true, Esposito had testified.
During cross-examination by defense attorney Jonathan Manley of Hauppauge, Schawarock said no field sobriety test had been performed on Sharpe. He also said he made no notes or record that Sharpe had waived his right to refuse the test or his right to remain silent.
The test showed a blood-alcohol content of 0.06 percent. That’s under the legal standard of 0.08 percent, but police determined it would have been 0.12 percent at the time of the crash.
After the test, Schawarock said he brought Sharpe to talk in a “dark room,” to keep the mood light. There, he said Sharpe told him he’d gone to a barbecue in either Brentwood or Bay Shore, had a few beers and then left because his cousin had gotten drunk and was feeling sick.
Esposito, the lead investigator, testified Sharpe later told him he’d had just one Heineken before leaving with his drunk cousin in his mother’s BMW X5. Sharpe told him he tried to go around a slower car — the Ostanes’ Toyota RAV4 — but couldn’t and hit it from behind.
“I saw the car smoking and people screaming,” Sharpe said, according to Esposito, but his cousin was hurt in the crash so he got a friend to take them to Franklin Hospital in Valley Stream, 25 miles and several hospitals west.