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Wheatley Heights man pleads guilty crash that killed friend

Brandon Charles, 21, at First District Court in

Brandon Charles, 21, at First District Court in Central Islip on Thursday, March 9, 2017, where he plead guilty to a fatal crash that killed his friend Carla Vanessa Flores in a 2014 crash. Credit: James Carbone

A Wheatley Heights man who admitted his reckless driving killed a friend in 2014 pleaded guilty Thursday in Central Islip to one count of second-degree manslaughter and is expected to serve 3 to 9 years in prison.

It was the second time that Brandon Charles, 21, admitted that he caused the death of Carla Vanessa Flores, 19, of Wyandanch, who was in the backseat of a Chevrolet Camaro when it flipped over in Melville on Nov. 1, 2014.

“The black box recorded him at approximately 105 mph,” Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Ray Varuolo said Thursday.

The Camaro skidded off the road and flipped over near Colonial Springs and Little Neck roads. The speed limit there was 40 mph, Varuolo said.

When Charles pleaded guilty the first time in September, he believed he was eligible for the Department of Corrections’ Shock Incarceration program, a boot-camp-like program for young offenders. Had he qualified, it would’ve taken Charles about nine months to complete it and then be released to a work program, Varuolo said.

But because his crime resulted in a death, Varuolo said, the corrections department deemed Charles ineligible.

State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho, who had sentenced Charles on Nov. 24, 2015, to 3 to 9 years in prison, allowed him to take back his guilty plea and start the case over.

On Thursday, Charles accepted the same plea deal, but this time he knows he has to serve a minimum of 3 years in prison, said his attorney, Peter Brill of Hauppauge.

“Mr. Charles is walking in with open eyes at this point,” Brill said. “There was not a specific program promised to him this time as it was the last time.”

When police arrived at the crash site, neither Charles nor the car’s owner, Joseph Dunn of Dix Hills, would say who was driving. The officers had no authority to test either of them for alcohol or drugs.

Later, the Suffolk County Crime Lab tested a spot of blood on the driver’s doorjamb and matched it to Charles, showing he was the driver. An investigator hired by Dunn’s family showed that a diagonal bruise on his chest proved Dunn was wearing the seat belt in the front passenger seat. Dunn was not charged with any crimes related to the deadly crash, Varuolo said.

Flores’ sister, Viviana Betanco, 29, of Wyandanch, said she and her mother are relieved that the legal proceeding is almost over so they can begin the healing process.

“It’s hard to move on. It’s hard to get closure,” she said Thursday. “Seeing his face every time he comes to court hurts because he’s still alive. Eventually he’ll get out of jail. We’ll never see my sister again.”

Sentencing is scheduled for May 4.


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