After a nine-month investigation, the suspected driver who allegedly fled the scene after killing Indo-Caribbean vocalist and Ozone Park resident Ritawantee “Rita” Persaud in a hit-and-run that shook the Queens Hindu community has been charged.
Persaud, 54, was taking an Uber ride in a black Toyota Camry last Christmas Eve when her vehicle was hit by a man with a passenger driving a Lamborghini SUV at Rockaway Boulevard and 103rd Avenue at approximately 7:05 p.m.
The Lamborghini driver fled the scene on foot.
Police announced that they had arrested 23-year-old Cypress Hills resident Jason Liriano Thursday morning in connection with the incident.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said Friday that Liriano has been arraigned on a 4-count indictment charging him with criminally negligent homicide, leaving the scene of an incident without reporting, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the second degree and driving in excess of the maximum speed limit.
Though his passenger remained at the crash site, and the NYPD later confirmed it was able to track down surveillance footage of the scene in December, the police were not able to make an immediate arrest despite persistent pressure from elected officials, religious leaders and Indo-Caribbean advocates.
Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar (D-Woodhaven) made a statement that Liliano was a “suspected gang member with a long rap sheet.” Over the past year, his arrest record includes attempted murder in the second degree, criminal possession of a weapon and the criminal possession of stolen property, according to the NYPD. The defendant was in jail for attempted murder and the investigation lead the officers to make the arrest in connection to the fatal accident based on DNA, a law enforcement source told the Chronicle.
“A beloved leader in the Guyanese Hindu community, Rita Persaud was a tireless advocate for children, a gifted singer and a devoted congregant of the Shaanti Bhavan Mandir,” Rajkumar wrote.
In the wake of Persaud’s death, thousands of people inundated Facebook pages with tributes to her. Around 150 people, including many congregants from her temple and Persaud’s family and friends, held a vigil in her honor in December at the scene of her death in Ozone Park
A press conference and vigil will be held in Persaud’s honor at 6 p.m. Sunday outside the Church of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary at 101-49 91 St. in Ozone Park.
This story has been updated to reflect information on the suspect's arrest record.