LEVITTOWN - A retired NYPD officer pleaded guilty today and apologized to the victim’s family for a hit-and-run that killed a girl with Down syndrome.
Police say Michael Elardo struck and killed 13-year-old Bryanna Soplin on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown two months ago. Police believe the teen was trying to walk to her grandparents’ house.
The 48-year-old says he believed he hit a traffic cone when driving on Hempstead Turnpike at Gardiners Avenue in June. Elardo pleaded guilty in court to the charge of leaving the scene of an incident and agreed to 1 1/3 to 4 years behind bars.
“I hope and I pray that they can find some closure today with me admitting I'm guilty,” Elardo said in court.
Soplin’s family said they would have liked a harsher punishment, but they are glad Elardo took responsibility.
Prosecutors say red-light cameras proved the traffic light was yellow when the accident happened. However, they say Elardo’s blood alcohol level can never be known.
Both Nassau and Suffolk district attorneys are working for tougher punishments in hit-and-run cases. They believe a person should not get the benefit of a lesser charge if the driver's blood alcohol level cannot be proven.
Elardo will officially be sentenced on Oct. 17.