A Northport man charged in a hit-and-run crash that killed a highway worker in Fort Salonga feels "horrible" about it, the man's attorney said Thursday.

Central Islip attorney Eric Naiburg said John Pappias, 46, cooperated with police after he was charged Jan. 14 in connection with the Oct. 28 death of Victor Schultz.

Prosecutors say Pappias, a manager at his family's Northport luncheonette, fled after striking Schultz, 49, of Massapequa Park, who was on a paving crew working on Route 25A near Sunken Meadow Parkway.

Pappias pleaded not guilty yesterday in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead to a felony charge of leaving the scene of a fatal motor vehicle crash.

Judge Martin Efman ordered him held on $50,000 cash bail. Pappias is to return to court Feb. 16.

"If he did this, he did a terrible thing," Naiburg said in court. If convicted, Pappias faces a maximum sentence of 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

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Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Santomartino said in court that Pappias ordered parts online after the incident and repaired damage to his black 1996 Chevrolet Tahoe.

Police say they linked the Tahoe to vehicle detritus left at the crash scene. That, combined with tips called in to a police hotline, led them to Pappias, police and prosecutors said.

Pappias gave police a five-page statement in which he acknowledged that he may have hit Schultz, prosecutors said. His sister and employer, who were in court, declined to speak to reporters.

Naiburg said Pappias is separated from his wife and has four children, ages 11 to 18.

John Duffy III, who said he was Schultz's cousin, said the family was grateful to authorities for the arrest and prosecution.