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Long Island man charged in crash that killed teen with Down syndrome

A Long Island man is facing felony charges after he allegedly fatally struck a 13-year-old girl with Down syndrome who was crossing Hempstead Turnpike and then fled the scene, Nassau County police said Tuesday.

Michael Elardo, 48, of Syosset, is escorted out of Nassau County police headquarters on June 17 after being charged in connection with a fatal hit-and-run crash that killed a teen with Down syndrome.
Photo Credit: Mike Balsamo

Michael Elardo, 48, of Syosset, was charged with a felony count of leaving the scene of an incident involving a death. He was arraigned Tuesday morning and ordered held on $1 million after an appearance before Judge Douglas Lerose at First District Court in Hempstead. If convicted, Elardo faces up to 7 years in prison.

According to court documents, Elardo was behind the wheel of a 2011 Chrysler Town and Country minivan traveling east on Hempstead Turnpike when he struck the 13-year-old girl at the intersection of Gardiners Avenue. Police said the teen, Bryanna Soplin, who has Down syndrome, was struck as she crossed the turnpike in a crosswalk. Soplin had made it across two lanes of traffic when she was hit in the left lane, investigators said.

Investigators said Elardo fled the scene and continued east on Hempstead Turnpike before entering an on-ramp to the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway. Soplin, who was left seriously injured in the roadway, was rushed to Nassau University Medical Center with traumatic head and body injuries, police said. She was pronounced dead when she arrived at the hospital’s emergency room. Soplin’s family has told reporters the teen snuck out of her home late Saturday night to go visit her grandparents at their home in Hicksville.

At a police news conference Tuesday morning, Det. Lt. John Azzata, the commanding officer of the homicide squad, said detectives were still waiting to review video from traffic cameras at the intersection. He said investigators are unsure at this point whether alcohol played a role in the crash because the video had not yet been reviewed by police. He said there is a possibility Elardo could face additional charges after the video is analyzed, though at this time, he said only one charge – leaving the scene of an accident – “could be substantiated.”

Azzata said police recovered Elardo’s minivan on Sunday “within the confines of the Second Precinct,” but declined to identify a specific location. He said the vehicle had not been found at Elardo’s house and was not abandoned. The vehicle was not registered in his name.

Elardo surrendered himself – alongside his attorney – to detectives at Nassau County police headquarters around 6 p.m. Monday. Azzata said Elardo was “cooperative,” but has not been interviewed. He has no prior criminal convictions, according to police.

A law enforcement source said Elardo previously worked as a New York City police officer. The source said he left the force in 1998, but the circumstances were not immediately clear. The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.