Vehicular Homicide

Second-degree murder charged in year-old Putnam crash

 Dec. 8, 2011

CARMEL — A 26-year-old man investigators say was driving drunk has been charged with second-degree murder in a November 2010 crash that instantly killed a 56-year-old woman.

James M. DeMartino Jr., of 5 White Pond Road, Stormville, was indicted by a Putnam County grand jury Friday, more than a year after investigators say he was drunk and speeding northbound in his 2009 Nissan on Route 22 in Southeast. He crossed the double-yellow line, lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a southbound car driven by Stephanie Wright, 50, of the Bronx.

The collision occurred about 10:38 p.m. Nov. 6 just north of Doansburg Road. Michelle Mathis of the Bronx, Wright’s passenger, was killed. Wright suffered serious leg injuries and was taken by ambulance to Danbury (Conn.) Hospital along with Paul A. Diaz, 25, of Carmel, a passenger in DeMartino’s car who suffered facial and scalp injuries. DeMartino was also seriously hurt, with head and facial injuries, and was flown to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla. His blood-alcohol level was 0.16, percent, police said, twice the legal limit.

DeMartino surrendered to Putnam County sheriff’s Investigator Thomas Corless.

In addition to the second-degree murder charge, he was charged with two felony counts of second-degree assault; two of aggravated vehicular homicide; second-degree manslaughter; two counts of second-degree vehicular manslaughter; aggravated vehicular assault; first-degree vehicular assault; six counts of second-degree vehicular assault; reckless driving and driving while intoxicated. He was arraigned before County Judge James Reitz and was being held Wednesday at the county jail on $150,000 bail.

DeMartino faces possible life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

Sheriff Donald Smith praised the joint investigation that also involved Assistant District Attorney Joseph Charbonneau.