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Officer: Driver accused of fatally striking woman found sitting near her body

Donna Sartori, who was killed by a drunken

Donna Sartori, who was killed by a drunken driver, with her nephew in this undated photo. Credit: Sartori family

A man accused of driving drunk and striking a woman's car, killing her, last year in Hampton Bays was sitting quietly on a bench, just feet from the victim's body, when police arrived on the scene, an officer testified Tuesday.

Joseph Perez, 31, of Riverhead, refused to talk to police, except to complain about pain in his leg, Officer Nicholas Badagliacca of the Southampton Town Police Department said.

"I could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath," the officer testified in Suffolk County Court in Central Islip, where Perez is on trial for aggravated vehicular homicide and related counts.

The officer identified crime scene photographs showing Perez's pickup truck mashed into the front of the car owned by Donna Sartori, 56, of Middle Island, who was delivering newspapers to a rack on the sidewalk on Montauk Highway, just west of Ponquogue Avenue, at 4:24 a.m. on the morning of Jan. 5, 2014.

Prosecutor Carl Borelli zoomed in on the overhead projector to show Santori's body just a few feet from the bench where Perez had been sitting.

At that point, her husband, Anthony Guggino, put a hand over his face and walked out of the courtroom. He returned after a few minutes, eyes reddened.

Later in the proceedings, Borelli introduced close-up photos taken by State Police accident investigators that showed Sartori's injuries.

Defense attorney George Duncan of Central Islip said the photos should not be admitted into evidence because they were graphic and could inflame the jury, and because they were a repetition of the earlier photos.

Judge Fernando Camacho ruled against him and the jury saw the photos of Sartori's bloodstained body. Guggino put a hand over his face and turned away from the screen, but he did not leave the courtroom.

Two friends of Perez testified they had been part of a group of five men who went drinking at clubs in the hours before the crash. Lonnie James, 29, testified he never saw Perez with a drink in his hand; but Jeremiah Muller, 32, said in response to questions that everybody in the group had been drinking until club closing time about 4 a.m.

Prosecutors have said Perez's blood-alcohol level was nearly triple the legal limit. The trial resumes Wednesday.


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