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Prosecutors will tie prior DWI charge to charges in accident that killed Zachary Ranftle

Two months after a Valley Stream accident that

Two months after a Valley Stream accident that left a 12-year-old boy dead, police released a photo of the vehicle involved in the accident. Nassau County police arrested the driver of a sport utility vehicle, Austin Soldano, 29, of Seaford, at the scene, charging him with driving with a suspended license. Photo Credit: NCPD; Howard Schnapp

Prosecutors will present a felony drunken-driving case against a Seaford man to a grand jury along with charges stemming from a driving accident he had that killed a 12-year-old boy, authorities said.

Nassau County prosecutors previously said in court that they believe the two cases against Austin Soldano, 29, are "irrevocably intertwined" and, therefore, should be covered by a single indictment.

In an unrelated third case, Soldano faces sentencing March 11 after pleading guilty Tuesday to third-degree unlawful fleeing of a police officer and reckless driving, both misdemeanors.

The developments in all three cases come as Nassau County police issued a Crime Stoppers alert Wednesday seeking more witnesses and information about the accident Dec. 11 that killed Zachary Ranftle, 12, of Valley Stream, as he crossed South Franklin Avenue at West Merrick Road, walking to Memorial Junior High School.

Police also Wednesday released a photo of the sport utility vehicle Soldano was driving when he struck and killed Ranftle just after 7:15 a.m.

Soldano, who remained at the scene after the fatal crash, was charged with second- and third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle, both misdemeanors, as well as operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, a violation.

Prosecutors said Soldano's license had been suspended as the result of his arrest in Long Beach on Aug. 10, when he was charged with felony driving while intoxicated.

Soldano's attorney, Robert J. Brunetti, said in December that his client was unaware his license had been suspended as a result of the DWI case.

Prosecutors said, however, the Seaford man had "physically turned over his license."

Prosecutors pushed to have the DWI and fatal pedestrian accident cases covered by one indictment in December, saying: "These two incidents are irrevocably intertwined. He was driving with a license that was suspended due to the other incident." Now the DWI case will be presented to a grand jury to do just that, prosecutors said.

At a December hearing, Soldano said he was "very sorry" when asked by a County Court judge if he had anything to say to the victim's family.

But Brunetti argued that merging the cases would be "very prejudicial" to Soldano.

Callers can reach Crime Stoppers at 800-244-TIPS or Homicide Squad Det. David Nystrom at 516-573-7788. All calls remain confidential and callers may be eligible for a cash reward.


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