The driver accused of killing four members of the same family in a Long Island crash was arraigned on a slew of charges after allegedly speeding at more than 120 mph while high on cocaine and fentanyl, the district attorney announced.
At his arraignment Wednesday, Michael DeAngelo showed no emotion as he faced more than 30 counts of a dozen different charges, the most-serious of which included aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter and assault.
DeAngelo was arrested back in August for the deadly Aug. 6 incident on Sunrise Highway in Massapequa that claimed the lives of a father, two of his children and his granddaughter. The 32-year-old DeAngelo plowed into the rear of the vehicle driven by 61-year-old Patrice Huntley that was stopped in the center lane at a red light outside a shopping center, police said.
Huntley, his 12-year-old daughter Hannah and his 11-year-old son Jeremiah were all killed in the crash that crushed the SUV like and aluminum can. Huntley and daughter Hannah were pronounced dead at the scene. Jeremiah was rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Chantel Solomon, 6, and Huntley’s 18-year-old daughter, Brienna Peoples, were both taken to the hospital in critical condition with what police called “extreme internal injuries,” including a brain bleed. Chantel died six days later; Peoples was left with critical injuries, from which prosecutors have said she may never recover.
“Patrice Huntley and three children – members of the same family – were killed due to the extraordinarily reckless actions of a defendant who was allegedly driving 120 miles an hour while impaired by cocaine and fentanyl,” said Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly. “No one was safe on Sunrise Highway that Sunday evening and tragically Patrice, Jeremiah, Hannah, and Chantel lost their lives while going to get ice cream. No family should ever have to bury four loved ones at the same time.”
Another of Huntley’s children, 14-year-old David, was in the front seat and miraculously survived, suffering back and rib injuries but is expected to survive. He walked away from the crash before collapsing on the road. He said that the car that struck them was street racing before the crash, according to his mother who spoke to NBC New York in the days immediately after the crash.
The children and Huntley had been out celebrating his new job and were on their way to get ice cream when the car crashed into them from behind. The DA’s office previously said the deadly crash was “one of the worst tragedies in recent memory on Long Island.”
Investigators have said the driver of the speeding Hyundai, DeAngelo, went into the back of Huntley’s SUV, which then crashed into the car in front of it before flipping over and smashed into another vehicle at the stoplight. First responders had to work on multiple cars, at one point cutting into the metal of one vehicle to get inside.
The driver of the Chevrolet Malibu that was in front of Huntley, an 83-year-old man, was injured and treated at the hospital. The driver of the third car struck, a 33-year-old, refused medical attention at the scene.
DeAngelo suffered compound ankle fractures and other injuries in the crash that sent his vehicle airborne and saw his car land upside down, and his attorney said, adding that he had undergone multiple surgeries as a result. Police in August said that just one second before the crash, he was traveling 120.5 mph; he didn’t hit the brakes until less than a half-second before the impact, and had only slowed down to about 95 mph before making impact.
It wasn’t made clear where DeAngelo was prior to the crash, but he had been arrested twice before, twice for DUI, prosecutors said. Another arrest occurred just days before the deadly crash, according to prosecutors, when DeAngelo was charged with drug possession.
The DA said Wednesday that DeAngelo had visible signs of recent drug use including track marks on his arm and hands, and was under the influence of fentanyl and cocaine the day of the crash. Needles and a pipe were said to have been found in and around his vehicle after the crash.
DeAngelo was remanded, with no bail was given during Thursday’s hearing; bail had previously been set at $500,000. He is next scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 19. If convicted of the charges, DeAngelo faces up to 25 years in prison.
“This guy was arrested two other times for the same careless recklessness. We need to put an end to it how many lives have to be lost,” said Empress Adama Kafentse Huntley, a cousin of Patrice.
The mother who lost her 12-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son in the crash spoke to NBC New York in the days after the horrific incident, sharing her unconscionable grief.
“This is so terrible, this is such a terrible tragedy,” Tasheba Hamilton told NBC New York over the phone. “It almost killed me to hold my son, his body was cold…I just couldn’t imagine how this could have happened?”
Tragedy doesn’t begin to describe the heartache she faces. Hamilton lost her daughter, Hannah, and her son, Jeremiah in the wreck. Her daughter Brienna and granddaughter Chantel were critically injured, and may never recover from their injuries.
“I will never be the same, my other children will never be the same,” said Hamilton.
Hamilton said she found out about the crash from a stranger who called her from the scene.
“I said ‘Who is this?’ He said ‘Your daughter and your family have been in an accident,’ and he said ‘I witnessed the whole thing, you have to come fast, it’s really bad,'” Hamilton told News 4.
It was her daughter Brienna who pleaded with the man to call her mother.
A photo from April shows all the family members together, at the funeral for Hamilton’s mother, and was one of the last times Hamilton was with all her children and their father.
Hamilton said Huntley, of Flushing, Queens, was a caring father and advocate for veterans, a retired Marine who helped veterans find employment (his new job they had been celebrating was for director of veteran services at Medgar Evers College). Their daughter Hannah loved to paint and make artwork, she said, and their son loved video games, like many others his age.
The grieving mother wants the driver to face consequences, but she knows that won’t bring her family back.
“That’s not going to bring my children back,” she said through tears. “There’s no words for the pain that I am feeling, I am breaking down in public everywhere I go. I still don’t believe my son and daughter are gone.”
The mother did have a message for Deangelo — as well as his attorney.
“I spent this morning having a screaming fit for the pain I’m going through,” said Hamilton. “I want that lawyer of his when you’re thinking of defending someone think of your own family, this is just disgusting…Can you imagine what we are going through and then going home every day to an empty house and all the noise and chatter there is gone? I’m just going through a lot.”