Driver who killed five in high-speed crash in Ridge sentenced after delay in coming to court
A convicted Bellport drug dealer who rocketed down Middle Country Road in Ridge at 154 mph in a stolen car was excoriated Tuesday by a Suffolk judge and prosecutors for lacking the courage to come to court to be sentenced for killing five people in a crash last year.
More than four hours late, Jamel Turner, 24, of Bellport, agreed to leave his Suffolk County jail cell Tuesday and appear before state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho, who sentenced him to 27 years in prison.
Turner, who had been charged with second-degree murder, pleaded guilty in March to five counts of first-degree assault and five counts of aggravated vehicular homicide for each of those killed, another count of first-degree assault for another motorist whose spine was broken in the crash, driving while ability impaired by marijuana, and cocaine possession from a separate arrest.
Killed in the crash were Turner’s friend and passenger, Lonidell Skinner, 19, of Bellport, and four people in a car he hit at high speed on Feb. 14, 2018 — Jacquelyn McCoy, 55, her daughter Mary Alice Booker, 36, and son Anthony McCoy, 33, and his girlfriend, Tameka Foster, 42.
But before Camacho could impose the sentence, he had to deal with Turner’s non-appearance in his Central Islip courtroom and Turner’s written request to withdraw his guilty plea. Camacho called both actions “a ploy to avoid the consequences of his heinous crimes. It’s not going to work.”
When Turner finally appeared in court, Camacho read the minutes of the plea proceeding, in which the judge had warned Turner he would not be able to withdraw his plea once it was entered. In Turner’s motion to do just that, he accused his attorney, Scott Gross, of failing to pursue various defenses. Camacho said those claims were false and told Turner that Gross consulted with experts and was prepared to try the case.
“Mr. Gross is an incredibly able attorney, and is one of the best attorneys in the county,” Camacho told Turner. “He spared his client a life sentence.”
Assistant District Attorney Brendan Ahern said Turner’s behavior before, during and after the crash showed what kind of person he is.
“He blames everyone else and everything else but himself,” Ahern said, describing him as a convicted drug dealer, “habitual abuser of women,” and a trafficker of women, an activity that Ahern said continued even while Turner was in jail.
Afterward, District Attorney Timothy Sini said, “He’s an absolute menace, and a disgrace of a human being.”
Sini said Turner’s attempt to avoid his sentencing showed that “he’s not a true man. … The narcissism, the lack of character and morality is appalling in this case.”
Ahern told Camacho that Turner had a shocking amount of marijuana in his blood after the crash — the second highest level ever seen in a living person, according to the Suffolk Medical Examiner’s office. That was a sign that he likely was smoking as he fled from police in a stolen Chevrolet Camaro SS with crack cocaine and other drugs in the car. The Camaro plowed into the back of the car with the four victims, causing them all to burn alive, Ahern said.
Skinner — who had been begging Turner to stop — and Turner’s Pomeranian dog, Prince, were ejected from the Camaro at 139 mph, Ahern said.
After hitting the car, the Camaro smashed into a delivery truck. The truck’s driver, Vito Milillo, suffered a broken neck and spine and still walks with a cane, Ahern said.
He said Turner was sorry for none of it.
Turner spoke briefly in court. “I want to say I’m sorry to all the families,” he said. “I lost my best friend in this.”
Camacho replied, “You know, Mr. Turner, I wish I could believe you, but I don’t.”
The judge said this crash is part of a “disturbing pattern” of young men initiating high speed chases on public roads, without caring who gets hurt or killed. He told Turner that “you and you alone” are responsible for the lives lost. “You care for no one but yourself,” Camacho said. “You are morally depraved.”
By Andrew Smith