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Driver responsible for fiery crash that killed Riverhead family pleads guilty

03/27/2019 5:54 PM |

The driver responsible for a fatal crash in Ridge that killed four members of a Riverhead family last year pleaded guilty Wednesday to five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, among other charges, according to District Attorney Timothy Sini.

Jamel Turner, 25, of Bellport faces a sentence of 27 years in prison and will be formally sentenced by Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Fernando Comacho on May 7, according to the DA.

“Our job is to deliver justice on behalf of the victims and their families; this is a significant sentence that does just that,” Mr. Sini said in a statement. “This is a dangerous individual, and he will now be off the streets for a very long time.”

The Feb. 14, 2018, crash occurred when Mr. Turner was driving a stolen 2018 Chevrolet Camaro while impaired by marijuana and struck a 2012 Mazda on Middle Country Road in Ridge. The Camaro then struck an oil truck traveling westbound and the Mazda struck a 1999 Infiniti traveling eastbound, prosecutors said.

Mr. Turner was driving 154 mph, the DA said.

Four occupants of the Mazda — Jacquelyn McCoy of Calverton, her daughter MaryAlice Booker, her son Anthony McCoy and his girlfriend, Tameka Foster — were killed in the crash. All four had lived in the Riverhead area.

Jamel Turner

The DA said the cause of death for all four victims was determined to be blunt force trauma and thermal injuries, indicating that they were still alive following the impact.

“The passengers in the Mazda suffered blunt force trauma that’s beyond imagination, however those individuals did not die from the impact,” Mr. Sini said at a press conference announcing the upgraded charges last April. “Instead the crash was so intense that the car literally exploded and those four individuals burned to death.”

A fifth person was also killed in the crash. Lonidell Skinner, 19, of Bellport was a passenger in the Camaro and was ejected on impact and pronounced dead at the scene. Mr. Turner’s dog, Prince, was also ejected from the Camaro and died.

The DA said Mr. Turner was in possession of crack cocaine at the time of the crash.

Last April, prosecutors outlined a top charge of depraved indifference murder against Mr. Turner. He faced a total of 37 felony charges. He had originally pleaded not guilty.

His guilty plea Wednesday also includes six counts of first-degree assault, one count of driving while ability impaired by drugs, one count of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance.

Mr. Turner appeared in court Tuesday and was given the night to contemplate whether to accept a plea deal, according to Newsday. Prosecutors had revealed to Mr. Turner that evidence in the case would include testimony from a friend of his passenger in the vehicle, Newsday reported. The friend had been on the phone with Mr. Skinner, who reportedly was pleading for his life before the crash occurred.

Mr. Turner initially declined the plea deal, but reconsidered later Wednesday. Had Mr. Turner not accepted the plea deal, the case would have been headed to trial.

Photo caption: Jamel Turner was arrested after a four-car crash in Ridge that left five dead. (Credit: Stringer News)

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