No manslaughter for man who allegedly killed Riverhead cabbie

07/18/2012 1:02 PM |

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | The Chase bank in Hampton Bays, where Robert Levasseur was allegedly involved in a dispute with a woman earlier this year.

A Suffolk County grand jury has declined to indict a Hampton Bays man on manslaughter charges nearly three months after he allegedly killed a Riverhead taxi driver with a single punch to the head during an altercation in a Hampton Bays parking lot.

Kenneth Tofty-Forrest, 28, was not indicted on second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide after the grand jury heard testimony from witnesses and evidence from the incident.

He has claimed that he was defending a woman whom the taxi driver was attacking during a road rage incident.

Mr. Tofty-Forrest will still face a third-degree assault charge in Southampton Town Court, to which he has pleaded not guilty.

On April 21, Faith Miller of Hampton Bays got into a confrontation with Robert Levasseur, 53, of Riverhead, who worked for Four Ones Taxi Service, behind a Chase Bank in Hampton Bays, according to Ms. Miller and town police.

Ms. Miller said in an interview two weeks after the incident that she confronted the cabbie after he cut her off on Norbury Road, forcing her off the road to avoid a collision.

The woman said Mr. Levasseur got out of his taxi and punched her in the jaw.

Some eyewitness accounts reported that Mr. Levasseur shoved the woman, according to DA’s office.

Mr. Tofty-Forrest, who was an acquaintance of Ms. Miller’s and was returning from a convenience store, saw the argument and punched Mr. Levasseur once in the back of the head.

“He, out of all the witnesses [at the incident], did something,” Ms. Miller said. “[He] comes running across the parking lot, punches him once and [Mr. Levasseur] hits the ground.”

Mr. Tofty-Forrest then called police, according to Ms. Miller and the district attorney’s office. Ambulance volunteers at the scene treated Ms. Miller for a contusion to her left jaw.

Mr. Levasseur, who twice served in the Air Force, earning the rank of staff sergeant, was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment and later transferred to Stony Brook University Medical Center, where he died four days later of his injuries, police said.

A colleague of Mr. Levasseur’s interviewed near the scene the day after the alleged assault said he witnessed part of the incident.

He said Mr. Tofty-Forrest intervened on the woman’s behalf “but got a little overzealous.”

“And now Robert is dead,” he said.

“I had to do something,” Mr. Tofty-Forrest told police at the scene, according to the DA’s office. “After I hit him I called police to report it.”

He was released on $500 bail after the incident and is scheduled to return to Southampton Town Justice Court on July 18.

His attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.

 psquire@timesreview.com