A newspaper deliverywoman was killed along her route early Sunday morning in Hampton Bays when a car, whose driver was later charged with DWI, struck her along Montauk Highway while also slamming into her parked car.
It was about 4:20 a.m. when Donna Sartori, 55, of Middle Island was delivering that day’s edition of the New York Daily News when a westbound Ford pickup truck rear-ended a Honda parked in front of the John J. Doran’s bar. The truck then hit Ms. Sartori, who was standing near her car while it was parked outside Dunkirk’s Deli, according to the Southampton Town Police. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
When police arrived they arrested Joseph Perez, 30, of Flanders, the driver of the 2001 Ford, and charged him with DWI, a misdemeanor, and moving from his lane unsafely, a violation. He was the only person in his vehicle.
At the time of the accident, Ms. Sartori’s car, a 2002 Hyundai, was parked facing east in the westbound shoulder of Montauk Highway with the driver side door open so she could exit directly onto the sidewalk to deliver papers, Southampton Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa said. Her car was hit head-on.
Det. Sgt. Costa did not specify how Ms. Sartori was hit or where exactly she was in relation to her vehicle, but she said Ms. Sartori was not in the street.
According to Det. Sgt. Costa, detectives are still investigating and have not yet determined how fast Mr. Perez was going at the time, or how exactly Ms. Sartori was killed.
“We know she was a pedestrian, her car was parked, she was near her parked car and it was a very serious accident in which the collision was head-on and she was killed as a result,” Det. Sgt. Costa said.
Though responding officers did not administer a breathalyzer to Mr. Perez, Det. Sgt. Costa said they conducted other sobriety tests, including a blood test, which determined that he was intoxicated at the time.
Mr. Perez pleaded not guilty to both charges during his arraignment on Monday in Southampton Town Justice Court in Hampton Bays and is currently being held in Riker’s Island Correctional Facility in Queens because the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside is at capacity, his lawyer Lane Bubka said on Wednesday morning. Mr. Perez is being held on $250,000 cash bail or $500,000 bond, according to a Southampton Town Justice Court spokeswoman.
Mr. Perez did not try to leave the scene, according to Mr. Bubka. “He was found at the scene of the accident, he did not try to flee the scene at all,” Mr. Bubka said. He added that when police arrived, his client “was not in the vehicle involved, he was outside it.”
Det. Sgt. Costa said a nearby resident called 911 after the accident.
Ms. Sartori’s family and local community members are still searching for her dog, a 2-year-old, black-and-white shih tzu which had accompanied Ms. Sartori the morning of the accident.
Relatives of Ms. Sartori declined to speak with The Press, though multiple community members, including Leslie Kappel, a volunteer at the Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons, said the dog, named BamBam, was with Ms. Sartori at the time of the accident and has been missing since.
Signs with a picture of the dog have been posted along Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays. Anyone who finds the dog is asked to contact Ms. Satori’s family at (631) 721-6485.
Officials with the New York Daily News also did not return calls this week.
Meanwhile, multiple statuses and comments posted by Mr. Perez to his Facebook page on the evening of January 4, just hours before the fatal accident, indicate that he went with friends to the Dream nightclub on Canal Road in Hampton Bays. Det. Sgt. Costa said police are aware of the posts and investigating to see where Mr. Perez was coming from at the time.
Mr. Bubka, of the Bubka Law Group in Riverhead, said that prior to the arrest his client was on track to finish up a general arts associate degree this semester at Suffolk County Community College and was in the process of applying to Cornell University in Ithaca, where he hoped to obtain a premedical bachelor’s degree before applying to medical school.
Mr. Perez is a single parent and recently moved into his parents’ home in Flanders with his 10-year-old son, according to his attorney. Previously, they lived with Mr. Perez’s former fiancée in Aquebogue, Mr. Bubka added.
Mr. Perez is due back in court on Friday, at which time his bail could be reconsidered depending on whether or not he faces additional charges. “I hope to argue that if no further charges are brought against him then a lower bond should be set,” Mr. Bubka said.
A grand jury will investigate the evidence and decide if Mr. Perez should be charged in relation to Ms. Sartori’s death, according to a spokeswoman for the Suffolk County district attorney’s office.