HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It was a heart breaking scene Thursday as hundreds of mourners said final prayers for the young teen on Long Island who was killed by a hit-and-run driver.
As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, hundreds gathered at St. Ignatius Church in Hicksville to say goodbye to 13-year-old Bryanna Soplin, who had Down syndrome.
“Now she’s in heaven, she’s an angel,” the pastor said.
Bryanna’s mother, Jennifer Curuchaga, thanked her supporters.
“I just want to thank everybody who supported us through these hard times,” Curuchaga said.
Meanwhile, the driver accused of ending the girl’s life, retired NYPD officer Michael Elardo, faced a judge Thursday.
Elardo is being held on $1 million bond, an amount his attorney called unheard of for a person who turned himself in and only left the scene of the crash — he claims — because he didn’t know he hit anyone.
“No rhyme and no reason to it at all. I mean, you can just do the history in Nassau County and anytime a million bail has ever been set is when the act is so egregious and the person has a criminal record,” said defense attorney Michael Dergarabedian.
Elardo was behind the wheel on Hempstead Turnpike just after midnight Sunday when he claims he received an emergency call from one of his four children and in a panic, rushed home.
He claims he thought he hit a construction cone. However, it was actually Bryanna, crossing the busy roadway after wandering out of her home and toward her grandparent’s home.
Dozens of members of Elardo’s family were also in court Thursday, including his brother.
“He’s not a monster. He’s a great guy. He’s done nothing but dedicated his life to helping people,” Santo Elardo said.
A grand jury is now hearing the case against the retired officer and single father.
Elardo is charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Charges could be upgraded after the county has reviewed traffic camera video of the accident.
Elardo is scheduled to be back in court on Friday.
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