The U.S. Marshals Service has taken the lead in the manhunt for a 30-year-old worker suspected in the hit-and-run death of a Roman Catholic nun in Water Mill more than two weeks ago, now that he is believed to have fled New York State.
Southampton Town Police detectives late Friday revealed the suspect’s identity as Carlos Armando Ixpec-Chitay, a 5-foot-7-inch tall, approximately 140-pound Guatemalan native with dark brown or black hair and brown eyes. He remains at large, is said to move about five times per night and, according to Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa, could be headed for the U.S. border with Mexico. Authorities have narrowly missed—by minutes—nabbing him at least twice, they said.
“He will be taken into custody eventually,” Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr. said this week. “It’s just a question of when.”
Police said on Friday they believe Mr. Ixpec-Chitay received assistance in getting transportation out of the area, but they declined to say by whom.
Mr. Ixpec-Chitay is accused of driving a 2009 Volkswagen Touareg owned by his employer, businessman Andrew Zaro, who has a home near the accident scene on Rose Hill Road, at about 8:30 p.m. on Monday, July 9. He then struck and killed 59-year-old Sister Jacqueline Walsh of Syosset, ditched the SUV about a half mile away in a Crescent Avenue driveway, and absconded. Police said he had a previous arrest for DWI and is believed not to have a valid driver’s license.
The victim, known as Sister Jackie, a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas order, was walking along the roadway when she was killed. She had been on a religious retreat at the Mercy Villa retreat house, just one property north of where police found her body. Thousands turned out for her wake and burial in Nassau County nearly two weeks ago.
Mr. Zaro, the owner of a waterfront estate on the southern tip of Rose Hill Road, recently retained legal counsel, Sag Harbor attorney Edward Burke Jr., for what Mr. Burke said will likely be a civil case against his client stemming from his ownership of the vehicle involved in the fatal crash.
Mr. Burke said that Mr. Zaro, who was in New York City at the time of the fatal accident, has been cooperative with police, that he did not help Mr. Ixpec-Chitay escape, and that he encouraged his employee to surrender. Mr. Burke said he does not expect Mr. Zaro to face criminal charges in connection with the case.
Police have declined to comment on whether Mr. Zaro has cooperated with the investigation.
Det. Sgt. Costa said police have not ruled out filing other charges in the case but declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation.
Although police said they identified Mr. Ixpec-Chitay as the suspect shortly after the crash, they did not release his name and photograph—a mugshot from a prior DWI arrest by Suffolk County Police, taken about six years ago—until Friday, 11 days later, citing investigative reasons.
Chief Wilson said this week that the decision to withhold that information was a joint decision by multiple agencies—one he supported.
Once the suspect had been identified by investigators, the chief explained, several tips and leads on his whereabouts were obtained, and all the agencies involved—in addition to the U.S. Marshals and Town Police, the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, New York State Police and Suffolk County crime laboratory are in on the case—determined there was more value to following up on those leads and tips than releasing his name and picture to the public.
“What happens is, when we release a name and a mugshot to the public, we receive hundreds and hundreds of tips that all have to be followed up on. Our resources are finite,” the chief said, noting that he believes that most of those tips would have proved false. “We were getting good information from various sources as to his whereabouts. Unfortunately, we were not able to take him into custody before he fled the area. … We had really good intelligence on him.”
Releasing the name and photo sooner would have made the suspect leave more quickly, he said, adding, “Our responsibility is to the sister and her family, not to the media.”
On Tuesday, Suffolk County Crime Stoppers announced it was offering a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to Mr. Ixpec-Chitay’s arrest. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-220-TIPS.