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Fatal crash trial opens in Central Islip

A female passenger in a car that was

A female passenger in a car that was struck by another vehicle being chased by a deputy Suffolk sheriff on Sunrise Highway has died, authorities said. (June 27, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

By the time a Brooklyn man ran a red light in Holbrook, plowed into a car and killed the passenger inside, he had left a 26-mile trail of chaos stretching back to the Tanger Outlets in Riverhead, a Suffolk prosecutor told jurors Wednesday.

Cordell Tucker's trial on charges of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree assault, third-degree grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, reckless endangerment and numerous traffic counts began Wednesday before State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho.

Shortly after stealing 41 pairs of jeans worth more than $5,900 from the True Religion store on June 27, 2011, Tucker, 26, led sheriff's deputies on a chase that ended only when he hit a car driven by Alan Sacher, 63, of Holbrook, and killed his wife, Gail Sacher, 62, Assistant District Attorney Laura Newcombe said.

"Their worlds collided that day, because of Cordell Tucker," Newcombe said in her opening statement. "His decisions cost the Sacher family their wife, their mother, their grandmother. . . . Nobody was going to stop him."

Defense attorney Michael Gajdos of Nesconset cautioned jurors that the crash may have been just an accident.

"The question is, were his actions at that day and at that time reckless?" he said. "He didn't mean to hit that vehicle."

He suggested that Tucker's actions that led to the crash may have been careless or even negligent, but not reckless, which is the standard to sustain the manslaughter charge.

Newcombe said Tucker drove to Riverhead without a license in a black Lincoln Town Car with New Jersey license plates to case the store.

Shannon Holm, a store clerk at the time, testified that a man dressed all in red with two other people was sweating profusely as he looked at jeans in the front of the store. She narrated a security video that showed the three sweeping pants off tables and bolting out the door. Holm said she saw the three leave in a Town Car.

Lt. John Rung of the Suffolk sheriff's department testified that shortly after his dispatcher warned officers to be on the lookout for the car, it passed him on the Long Island Expressway heading west. He said he followed it to just before Exit 64 and pulled it over. As he walked toward the car, he said, "The driver put it in drive, gunned it and took off."

Rung said he chased the car off the exit to Route 112, where it turned north and then did a U-turn over the concrete median. "It looked like a tank going over," Rung said. "Debris was flying everywhere."

The car ran two red lights and then cut over to the northbound lanes, still going south. Then Tucker drove on the median, Rung said. After the car went on the sidewalk, Rung said he backed off, hoping the driver would get into the correct lane.

Deputies caught up with the car at the crash scene at the intersection of the service road and Lincoln Avenue, Rung said. He identified Tucker as the driver.

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