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DA points to 'scourge' of drugged driving

Suffolk County DA Thomas Spota points to photos

Suffolk County DA Thomas Spota points to photos of a horrific crash that claimed the life of a 5-year-old boy during a press conference at Riverhead Criminal Court. (Jan. 30, 2012) Photo Credit: James Carbone

Two drivers allegedly high on prescription drugs at the time of fatal car accidents last month were indicted Monday in the deaths of a 5-year-old West Islip boy on his way to buy a Christmas tree with his family and a 40-year-old Medford woman helping her mother with her laundry.

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota announced the indictments of Steven Kinalis, 30, of Ronkonkoma, and Elizabeth Peacock, 45, of Medford, citing them as examples of the "rising scourge" of drugged driving on Long Island.

He said the number of drivers whose blood was tested for drugs in Suffolk has nearly doubled in the past five years, from 366 in 2006 to nearly 700 in 2011. The majority of those tests have come back positive, he said.

Spota also singled out an unidentified doctor who he said wrote four prescriptions for more than 600 pills on a single day for Kinalis. Spota said the doctor is being investigated by a special grand jury in Suffolk.

In November, Spota announced that he was convening a special grand jury to investigate doctor shopping and the possible criminal conduct of physicians prescribing painkillers.

His announcement came after Newsday reported that David Laffer and his wife, Melinda Brady, filled prescriptions for nearly 12,000 pain pills in the four years before Laffer walked into Haven Drugs in Medford and murdered four people.

Suffolk police said Kinalis was arrested Dec. 10 after rear-ending a pickup truck eastbound on Sunrise Highway in Mastic, sending it crashing into a tree. Kevin and Teri Gaffney were in the truck with their three children -- Emma, 7, John 5, and Ryan, 2 -- on their way to buy a Christmas tree. John, who was strapped in a booster seat, died of neck and head injuries. Both parents also suffered injuries, Spota said.

The Gaffneys did not return a call for comment Monday.

Kinalis is to be arraigned Tuesday on charges of aggravated vehicular homicide, second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter, driving while under the influence of drugs and reckless driving. He tested positive for Oxycodone, Xanax, and Soma. He faces up to 25 years in prison on the top charge.

His lawyer, Jason Russo, did not comment Monday.

Peacock was arrested on New Year's Eve after her car hit and killed Maria Galeas as she was loading her mother's laundry into the trunk of her car, which was stopped on the shoulder of Horseblock Road, police said. The impact severed Galeas' legs, Spota said. Galeas' 62-year-old mother and 4-year-old daughter were sitting in the car and were not injured.

Peacock pleaded not guilty in Riverhead Monday to charges of vehicular manslaughter and driving while impaired by drugs and was held on $150,000 cash bail.

Her attorney did not return a call for comment, and the Galeas family could not be reached Monday.

Peacock had Xanax and other drugs in her system, according to lab tests, and admitted to taking Oxycodone previously.

She was "totally confused," at the scene, Spota said, and thought she was on the Long Island Expressway headed to Florida.

"She had no idea where she was," he said.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced Monday that a Glen Cove man has been sentenced to the maximum of 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison for vehicular manslaughter and drunk and drugged driving after he caused a three-car crash in East Hills that killed a 19-year-old motorcyclist.

Rice said that about 2:30 a.m. on May 1, 2010, Juan Uribe, 37, was driving his Nissan SUV northbound on Glen Cove Road when he crashed into a tree at Midwood Cross in East Hills. A taxi and a motorcycle heading north on Glen Cove Road then crashed into Uribe's SUV. The motorcyclist, Pietro Gaudesi, 19, of Glen Head, was thrown off and pronounced dead at the scene.

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