CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A driver who was behind the wheel in what officials call one of the most horrific crashes in Suffolk County history was sentenced Tuesday, but only after an ultimatum from the judge.
Jamel Turner refused to leave his jail cell for sentencing, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports.
He was behind the wheel of a speeding stolen car and ended up causing a fiery crash and deadly chain reaction on Valentine’s Day in 2018.
The judge threatened to withdraw the plea deal and replace it with life in prison, calling Turner’s absence “a ploy to avoid consequences of his heinous crimes.”
By afternoon, Turner appeared in court, trying to take back his plea. He blamed the crash on a faulty car and his overuse of marijuana.
The four-car crash killed a family of four. They were rear-ended and trapped in a burning car. Fifty-five-year-old Jackie McCoy died, along with her daughter, her son and her son’s girlfriend.
A passenger in Turner’s vehicle and Turner’s dog were also killed in the crash.
Turner was driving 150 mph before the crash. Police were on his trail through Ridge when he crashed into a tanker truck and two cars.
“Turner was also driving high on marijuana, so high that the medical examiner said it was the second-highest level of marijuana that they’ve ever seen in a living specimen,” Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said.
Turner, in court, stated he is “sorry to all the families” and “sorry for what happened.”
“He has been remorseful by his plea. He showed his remorse and he did articulate that today in court,” defense attorney Scott Gross said.
The judge sentenced Turner to the previously-agreed-to 27 years and telling Turner, “You wiped out an entire family.”
He added he’s seeing a disturbing pattern of young men speeding and hopes the sentence sends a message.