OZONE PARK, Queens — Community members breathed a sigh of relief Sunday nearly a year after a Lamborghini SUV slammed into an Uber on Christmas Eve, killing a woman just blocks away from her home in Ozone Park.
Alleged hit-and-run driver Jason Liriano evaded police for months. Now that he’s been arrested, friends and family of Ritawantee Persaud said they can finally start to get some peace.
Persaud was embraced by many in the community as “Auntie Rita.” On the day she was killed, she’d been headed to spend the holiday with relatives and friends.
The Uber driver was seriously injured and a woman riding as a passenger in the Lamborghini was also seriously hurt.
The 54-year-old victim was the director of the youth group at the Hindu temple, Shanti Bhavan Mandir.
Persaud’s death was a huge loss for the community, Federation of Hindu Mandirs President Pandit Ram Hardowar said.
“She served this community well,” Hardowar said.
Queens Distirct Attorney Melinda Katz said her office built a strong case against Liriano with the help of investigators from the 102nd precinct.
“Behind the wheel of an expensive sports car, the defendant allegedly drove at a high rate of speed and hit the other car on the rear passenger side.,” Katz said. “As alleged, his careless driving sadly resulted in the tragic death of an innocent woman. We all bear a responsibility on our shared roadways. This defendant’s alleged actions caused heartache and grief. He will be held accountable in our judicial system.”
With Liriano facing charges, Persaud’s religious community gathered outside a church in Ozone Park to reflect on her life, and the hard working officers who delivered on their promise to get the person responsible.
“They worked tirelessly to make sure the person who took her beautiful life was captured,” Joanne Ariola said.
Liriano has been charged with criminally negligent homicide and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.