Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota called upon Albany lawmakers in June 2014 to toughen the penalties for hit-and-run drivers. Spota stated that many drivers who are drunk or impaired by drugs often flee the scene of accidents because they know that hit-and-run penalties are not as severe as sentences for DWI charges. Spota remarked, "A drunk or drug impaired driver who kills someone may face up to 25 years in prison. But fleeing the accident scene allows the wrongdoer a chance to sober up, and under the current law, any driver guilty of a hit-and-run faces a maximum prison sentence of seven years--even when someone dies or even if the defendant has a prior felony record."
Spota's remarks came the day before an Eastport man, Peter Torrillo, a married 48-year-old man with four children, received a sentence of 28 months to seven years after leaving the scene of an accident that killed a young mother and seriously injured her passenger. On November 2, 2013, Torrillo was driving on Montauk Highway in Eastport when he hit Erika Strebel, 27, and Edward Barton, 26. Strebel and Burton were pulled over on the side of the road to fill up their jeep which had run out of gas. Strebel, a mother of a 5-year-old boy, was rushed to Peconic Bay Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead a short time later. Burton was airlifted to another hospital for sustaining serious injuries that have left him in a wheelchair.
According to prosecutors, Torrillo, who was convicted of driving while ability impaired in 2012, knowingly fled the scene of the fatal accident. When Torrillo got home, he showered, shaved and headed back out to a local bar. While driving to the bar, Torrillo passed the scene of the accident. The next day, he took his car to a repair shop in Queens in an attempt to cover up the crime. Relying on a witness who saw Torrillo flee the scene, investigators were able to match paint chips left at the accident with paint on Torrillo's repaired car. Three weeks after the accident, he was arrested and charged with a fatal hit-and-run.
Assistant District Attorney Carl Borelli stated that police investigators believe that Torrillo was impaired at the time of the accident and fled the scene in order to avoid harsher penalties. Borelli stated, "It is that belief that someone takes off essentially because they are drunk or high. Just like this--you know, this guy had a prior impaired conviction for driving while impaired by drugs."
While reading a victim impact statement at Torrillo's sentencing, Tammy Barton, Edward Barton's sister-in-law, stated that Strebel's death has had a profound impact on Strebel's young son Ayden. On Mother's Day, she brought the boy to visit his mother's grave. The boy laid down at the foot of his mother's tombstone and began talking to her. Barton looked over at Turrillo and remarked, "Picture this, Peter, okay? I hope you have this image in your head, because it's burned into mine."
Website Resource: L.I. Man Sentenced For Hit-And-Run Crash That Killed Young Mother, CBS News
Maximum Sentence For Driver In Fatal Eastport Hit-And-Run Accident, The Southampton Press, Kyle Campbell, June 10, 2014