Ex-cop pleads guilty in hit-and-run death of girl with Down syndrome

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brianna soplin levittown long island hit and run

Brianna Soplin was killed June 15, 2014, when the driver of a blue minivan struck her along Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown, Long Island, then kept driving. (Photo: Family)

MINEOLA, Long Island (PIX11) — The ex-officer who ran down and killed a developmentally disabled teen who left home to visit her grandparents on Father’s Day has pleaded guilty.

Michael Elardo, 48, was charged with leaving the scene of an crash.  Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said the defendant will be sentenced on Oct. 14.  He faces up to four years in prison.

Elardo fled the scene of the June 15 crash along Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown. When he was tracked down by police and arrested, he told them he thought he had hit a cone.

In court Wednesday, he admitted that he knew he had struck a person.

“I couldn’t imagine loosing a child of my own,” Elardo said. “I hope that and I pray that they can find some closure today with me coming in and admitting that I’m guilty.”

After the court appearance, the retired NYPD officer approached the family of the victim, Bryanna Soplin, and apologized as the girl’s grandmother flipped through a photo album.

“My mom had pictures of Brianna because she wanted him to know that Bryanna was such a healthy girl,” Bryanna’s mother Jennifer Curuchaga said. “She had her whole life ahead of her. And she’s shes gone.”

Curuchaga told reporters outside court that the apology didn’t mean very much at all.

“It did make me feel a little better,  but my baby is not coming back,” Curuchaga said. “My family is devastated. My kids can’t even sleep. … He apologizes now, but where was he when my daughter was killed?”

Prosecutors said they had credible information that Elardo was out drinking before getting behind the wheel and ultimately hitting Bryanna.

However, because he waited 10 hours before contacting police, investigators have no hard evidence that he drove under the influence.

“The fact of the matter is that we will never know what Mr. Elardo’s blood alcohol level may have been,” Maureen McCormick from the Nassau County DA’s Vehicular Crimes Bureau said. “[He] should not get the benefit of a lesser charge or a lesser sentence because you leave.”

The 13-year-old victim had wandered from her Levittown home to visit her grandparents, when she was struck and killed.

“It’s not justice because she’s gone,” Bryanna’s mother said. “Some day down the road he will be able to come out and have his life back.”