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Uncle of teen killed in hit-and-run asks driver to surrender

Jenna Perez, a student from Selden, was killed

Jenna Perez, a student from Selden, was killed by a hit-and-run driver Saturday night in Port Jefferson Station. Credit: Perez family

The uncle of a Jenna Perez, the Selden teen who was struck and killed Saturday in a hit-and-run crash in Port Jefferson Station, pleaded Tuesday evening for the driver to surrender to authorities.

José Ortiz of the South Bronx said his niece was well loved by her family and had a bright future ahead of her. The teen was entering her senior year at Newfield High School and planning on attending college and starting a career in day care.

Perez and her twin sister Janell, both 17, grew up in the Bronx but had been living with their guardian, Donna Austin, in Selden for the past three years.

"I want people to know that these girls were loved and well taken care of," said Ortiz, who has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the funeral. 

Perez was struck and killed by a car on Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station after working a double shift at two different Five Guy chain restaurants. Austin said that Perez was walking to Taco Bell, across Nesconset Highway, when she was struck. 

Suffolk police are investigating the crash but have not made an arrest.

Ortiz, who met with detectives Tuesday, was planning to hold a news conference Tuesday evening in the South Bronx to draw attention to the case. The teen's mother, Jannie Bonilla, was expected to attend the news conference.

The teens were raised on 141st Street in the Bronx and attended P.S. 65 Mother Hale Academy, Ortiz said. He concedes the teens had a "messy" upbringing and the girls' father lives in Florida. 

Austin met the girls in 2008, when she went to the Bronx to care for one of her relatives. Austin, a social worker, ended up running a community center in the building where the girls lived with their grandmother. When the grandmother died, Austin volunteered to become their guardian.

Ortiz said the family, including Janelle, were coming together to get through the tragedy. He encouraged the driver who struck his niece to surrender to police. 

"It's unconscionable and sad," Ortiz said. "She needs justice. Someone needs to be held accountable."

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