Mother Of Victim Bryanna Soplin Says She Does Not Forgive Michael Elardo


MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A retired NYPD officer who pleaded guilty in the hit-and-run death of a 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome in Levittown was sentenced to 1 1/3 to four years in prison on Tuesday.

Michael Elardo, 48, of Syosset, pleaded guilty in August to leaving the scene of an accident. He originally pleaded not guilty in connection with the June 15 death of 13-year-old Bryanna Soplin.

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.

Elardo appeared to hold back tears as he spoke in court in front of his four daughters and Soplin’s family, CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.

“I can’t tell you the remorse I have,” he told a packed courtroom. “What I have done is wrong and I accept full responsibility for my actions.”

“He’s never going to be released from the guilt that he’s feeling,” added Elardo’s attorney, Michael Dergarabedian. “I know that the only thing that he wants, genuinely wants, is to be forgiven by the victim’s family.”

Elardo claims he didn’t know he hit a person, but the victim’s mother, Jennifer Curuchaga, said she would not accept the retired cop’s apology.

“I want him to know that even though he could apologize 100,000 times; it’s not going to cover up for what he did,” Curuchaga said outside the courthouse. “Leaving my baby to die was not something … I don’t even think an animal should die like that.”

Judge Jerald Carter said there will always be questions about whether Elardo was drunk the night of the incident and scolded the former cop for fleeing the scene and avoiding sobriety tests, 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported.

So did the victim’s uncle, Carlos Curuchaga, who is police officer.

“No matter how drunk he was or whatever he says he was, he should have stopped because that’s what we police officers do. We help those in need,” Carlos Curuchaga said.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, Soplin’s family and others said higher penalties are needed in hit-and-run cases.

“It’s not enough for drivers to apologize after leaving the scene — the law needs to change to discourage drivers from fleeing in the first place,” Rice said in a statement. “A driver who flees the scene of a collision should not benefit from that flight. Right now, a driver may face lower charges because he has prevented a full investigation and I support Bryanna’s family’s call to increase these penalties.”

Elardo will be eligible for parole in 15 months.

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