A Coram man – on parole for burglary and drug charges – pleaded not guilty Wednesday to allegedly running down a female jogger in Mount Sinai and leaving her for dead in the road, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.
Thomas Costa, 31, pleaded not guilty July 31 to a felony charge of leaving the scene of an incident without reporting and speeding at State Supreme Court in Central Islip.
Costa is charged with striking Karen Benjamin, 56, who was jogging along Canal Road in Mount Sinai on June 23, when she was hit by a car and left critically injured and lying in the roadway. As usedview.com has reported, Benjamin died as a result of her injuries on July 17.
“Thomas Costa struck Ms. Benjamin while she was jogging on Canal Road in Mt. Sinai and left her in the road with injuries that ultimately claimed her life,” Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said. “His thoughtless and criminal behavior caused the death of a vibrant 56- year old woman.”
Police were led to Costa after an eyewitness provided a partial description of the car to investigators. The Suffolk County crime lab conducted an analysis of car parts collected at the scene and was able to narrow the field to a specific model and year BMW, prosecutors said.
Detectives from the Vehicular Crimes Unit went door-to-door on a canvas near the scene of the hit-and-run and eventually found a damaged BMW in the backyard of Costa’s parent’s house.
His parents gave permission to police to inspect and search the damaged car that was sitting along their fence, the DA said. They also provided a statement to police.
“The detectives learned from the defendant’s parents that he showed up at their house with the damaged BMW approximately 18 minutes after the crash, and that their son lied to them, explaining that the car was vandalized while he was in a Patchogue night club,” DA Spota said.
Cops were able to positively identify the car when they analyzed a blood spatter on the vehicle and matched the DNA to Bejamin’s blood. “It was the victim, Karen Benjamin, who told us who her killer was,” Spota said.
Prosecutors said the car’s windshield was smashed and a side view mirror was also missing.
Sources said Costa was being held on the parole violation charge when he was arrested in connection with the hit-and-run. State records show he was on parole since 2010 for second-degree attempted burglary and fourth-degree attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance. His parole status changed July 12 to reflect a violation of the terms of his release. It is unclear what led the state authority to declare him a parole-violator. Attempts to reach his Suffolk County-based parole officer on Wednesday were unsuccessful. A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, which oversees parole, also could not be reached.
Costa remains held at the Suffolk County jail without bail. He is due back in court on Aug. 6.