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An allegedly drunk driver from Whitestone killed an elderly Bayside woman Christmas Eve when he plowed into her as she stepped from her car on Francis Lewis Boulevard in Bayside, the Queens district attorney said.
Martha Russo, 76, of 50-32 206th St., was getting out of her Pontiac Grand Prix on Francis Lewis Boulevard near 38th Avenue around 4:35 p.m. on Dec. 24 when she was struck by a white Cadillac, which continued northbound without stopping, police said.
The driver, 61-year-old John Mauro of 157-20 Willets Point Blvd., came out of his house at 7:25 p.m. to turn himself into police after they had cordoned off the block surrounding his home, authorities said.
Mauro admitted he was drunk to a witness who asked why he left the scene when he caught up with him at a traffic light a few blocks from the crash site, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. But Mauro said he believed he had only hit the mirror of a parked car, the witness said.
Mauro was charged with vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, leaving the scene, reckless driving, operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and speeding, Brown said. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.
Russos husband Andrew, 79, said the 206th Street house he shared with his wife had been her parents home.
Shes lived here 73 years, he said Sunday. Everytime I look into the kitchen I think I see her. I cant believe this happened.
Andrew Russo, who buried his wife Saturday, said his car has been impounded and his sister-in-law has been coming to his Bayside home to help him.
Its a bunch of crazy people today when theyre driving, he said. For 39 years Ive been married to her she did everything for me.
Witnesses said the Cadillacs powerful impact sent Russo soaring through the air and tumbling over the red Toyota 4Runner parked directly in front of her before she landed on the pavement beneath a van that sat one car ahead. She was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
All of a sudden I feel an impact to my car, said Jonathan Lemus, 16, of Bayside, who was sitting in the front passenger seat of the 4Runner when Russo was struck. I saw a body fly over the car and skid and stop under the van.
One witness trailed the car all the way up Francis Lewis Boulevard onto Willets Point Boulevard, where it was parked across the street from Mauros building in front of a home festooned with Christmas lights.
Police eventually surrounded Mauros residence, a boxy two-story apartment house with a red brick face, where four officers guarded the front door as a police van sat in the rear. Yellow police tape was stretched across the white Cadillacits doors marred with streaks of redto delineate it as part of the crime scene.
Less than three hours after the deadly accident, Mauro was in police custody.
His female companion, Janet Stewart, 60 was also arrested and charged with obstructing governmental administration and hindering prosecution, police said. She lives at the same address as Mauro.
The violent Christmas Eve accident chilled Bayside residents who were thrust out of their holiday preparations when news of the accident brought them to congregate in the street as police conducted their investigation.
I couldnt believe it. I feel so bad for this ladyits Christmas Eve, said Kira Boyle, 15, a resident of 192nd Street. I hope they catch the dude.
She and her friend, 14-year-old Angie Ciampa, both said the accident made them reconsider the careless way they often cross the street.
Now I think were going to wait for the actual walk signs, said Ciampa, who lives across the street from the accident scene.
At Pizzarama, the restaurant in front of which Russo had parked to pick up an order, employees said they did not see the accident but heard a loud crash, which prompted them to look out the window and call 911.
One worker who did not give his name said Russos husband, who had not yet learned about the accident, kept calling to find out what was keeping his wife.
The elderly man could not remember his own phone number to give to the pizza parlor, so he kept calling back. But police advised the restaurant staff not to deliver the bad news over the phone.
We didnt know what to tell the guy, the employee said. Shes been coming here for years.
Reporter Kathianne Boniello contributed to this story.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
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