The paths of two people who drive a lot—a taxi driver and an unemployed woman who said she likes to spend her days “driving in circles”—crossed violently nearly two weeks ago in a Hampton Bays parking lot, after Southampton Town Police said a third party intervened in a “road rage” incident involving the pair.
By the end of the afternoon of April 21, the taxi driver, Robert Levasseur, 53, of Riverhead had been airlifted to the hospital, and the person who police say assaulted him, 27-year-old Hampton Bays resident Kenneth J. Tofty-Forrest, was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor.
By this week, the picture grew graver.
Mr. Levasseur died from his injuries at Stony Brook University Medical Center last Thursday, April 26, after being in a coma, police said. They said he died five days after Mr. Tofty-Forrest punched him in the head while apparently coming to the defense of Faith Miller of Hampton Bays, an acquaintance of Mr. Tofty-Forrest—known as “KT” to his friends—who said she was assaulted by the cab driver moments before.
The case is now a homicide investigation and, as a result, police said the charges against Mr. Tofty-Forrest might be elevated, and a manslaughter charge is one of the possibilities.
“The [Suffolk County] district attorney’s office is going to thoroughly review any and all evidence related to this case, and they’re going to make a recommendation on what they feel the appropriate charges are,” Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr. said this week.
“Manslaughter is certainly a possibility,” he continued. “I’m not saying that that’s the way this is going to go. Our investigative personnel, as well as the district attorney’s office, are going to carefully and methodically review all investigative findings and facts. Then a recommendation will be made.” The Suffolk County Police Homicide Squad has also been notified, he said.
Ms. Miller, 34, the woman involved in the incident, said this week that Mr. Tofty-Forrest came to her defense after Mr. Levasseur punched her in the jaw following a dispute between the two—though police this week declined to confirm if such an assault took place.
Town Police have offered the following account of the events from the day in question: Mr. Levasseur, a driver for the Four Ones Taxi Service in Hampton Bays, and Ms. Miller, who was driving a pickup truck, were involved in a “road rage” dispute in the Chase Bank parking lot on West Montauk Highway. Officers did not provide details on the nature of that dispute, such as whether it was a physical or verbal altercation. They said Mr. Tofty-Forrest intervened, striking Mr. Levasseur in the face with a fist, resulting in head trauma. They did not comment on how many times Mr. Tofty-Forrest is alleged to have struck his victim or how he appeared on the scene to begin with.
Mr. Levasseur was taken first to the Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead and then airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center, where he died from his injuries at 6:11 a.m. last Thursday, according to police.
Mr. Tofty-Forrest was arrested at the scene at 4:22 p.m. on the day of the incident and charged with assault in the third degree, a misdemeanor. He was initially held at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside in lieu of $5,000 bail following his arraignment in Southampton Town Justice Court on April 22, police said. He returned before the judge on April 24, when he was released on $500 bail, they said.
In a phone interview this week, Ms. Miller provided her account of events that fateful day.
Ms. Miller said she was driving her 2001 Dodge 1500 truck and was at the intersection of Bay and Norbury avenues just after 2 p.m. when Mr. Levasseur cut her off. “He had blown a stop sign,” she said. “I almost ended up hitting the back of his car, so to avoid his car, I almost crashed into the friggin’ street sign and trees.” She said he then drove away without checking to see if she were OK.
About half an hour later, she said, she was still driving around, headed toward the 7-Eleven on West Montauk Highway, next to the Chase Bank.
“I happened to see the cab driver who had cut me off earlier pull into the parking lot,” she said. “I pulled into the parking lot after him, and I got out of my truck. I was yelling, ‘What is your problem?’ I was not happy. He got out of his car, and he came around in front of his car and he punched me in the jaw.”
Next, “Kenneth, he came running across the parking lot, punched the cab driver that hit me and called the police,” she said.