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Cops: Woman in fatal crash had fled cops

Suffolk County police said a Brookhaven woman was

Suffolk County police said a Brookhaven woman was killed and her young child injured in a crash in Yaphank just minutes after she fled a police traffic stop. (Sept. 3, 2012) Credit: James Carbone

A woman killed Monday night in a collision in Yaphank that left her 6-year-old daughter critically injured had just fled a police traffic stop, Suffolk County police said.

Police said Melissa Maher, 36, of Brookhaven, had "a strong odor of alcohol on her breath" when she was stopped minutes before the fatal crash.

A Fifth Precinct officer had spotted Maher driving her 2000 Honda Accord in "an erratic manner" north on Yaphank Avenue and stopped her at 7:55 p.m., police said.

Police said Capt. Dennis Sullivan directed Maher to stop her car on Mason Street, where she began pleading with the officer to "let her go" because her daughter was in the car and she feared her ex-husband, the girl's father, "would be upset with her."

Police said that Sullivan directed Maher to remain behind her vehicle, but that when the officer called for an assist unit to conduct a field sobriety test, Maher ran to her car and drove away. With no exit from a cul-de-sac, police said Maher came back and drove toward the police car that Sullivan had positioned to block her exit.

But, police said, Maher drove around the police car and through a stop sign onto Yaphank Avenue, where her car was broadsided by a 1999 Ford pickup truck driven by Matthew Petheram of Brookhaven.

Maher died at the scene.

Police said her daughter was taken by police Emergency Services officers to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue.

She was later transferred to Stony Brook University Hospital with what police described as "serious injuries to her head and extremities."

Police said Petheram and his wife, Kristy, both 26, were not injured in the crash.

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