MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A retired NYPD officer accused in the hit-and-run death of a 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome in Levittown pleaded guilty Wednesday.
Michael Elardo, 48, of Syosset, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office said.
The judge said he would sentence Elardo to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported. Elardo is scheduled to be formally sentenced Oct. 14.
After the guilty plea, Elardo approached Bryanna’s mother to say he was sorry.
“I just wanted to tell her my regret, and I apologized to her,” Elardo told D’Auria. “And her mother was showing me photos of the baby, and I just couldn’t imagine losing a child of my own.”
Bryanna’s mother, Jennifer Curuchaga, said the apology is too late.
“It would have mattered if he was there when she died — at that moment, not two months later,” she said.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who has pushed for tougher sentences in hit-and-runs, said in a new release the case highlights the “serious nature” of such crimes.
“It is unthinkable that a child was left to die in the street,” Rice said. “Nothing can bring Bryanna back; it’s a terrible tragedy for her family and our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Elardo originally pleaded not guilty in connection with the June 15 death.
Police said Elardo fled the scene after he blew a red light and hit Soplin as she crossed Hempstead Turnpike just after midnight. Her family believes she sneaked out of a back door and was trying to walk to her grandfather’s house nearly two miles away.
His attorney said Elardo, who claims he didn’t know he hit a person, was inconsolable over what happened.
“He’s not concerned about prison time,” defense attorney Michael DerGarabedian said last month. “He is just concerned about how he is going to live for the rest of his life knowing he took someone off of this earth.”
Safety upgrades are underway on Hempstead Turnpike, but may take years to implement.
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