UPDATE: Thursday, 3 p.m.
An approximately 30-year-old Hispanic man is the suspect in the fatal hit-and-run of Sister Jacqueline Walsh, and police are appealing to him to turn himself in to any law enforcement agency.
Though officers said they know exactly who they are seeking and have his name and photograph, they are still not releasing his identity—saying only that there were investigative reasons for withholding that information from the public.
“We don’t want anybody approaching him, outside of law enforcement, right now,” Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr. said. “If he’s not taken into custody in the near future—and I’m not going to lock myself into a timeline—then we will seek the public’s help and the media’s help by releasing his name and photo.
“We have our reasons, and I’m not asking anybody to understand them, but we have reasons for why we’re not divulging that information yet,” he added. “If and when the time comes, we will put it out there.”
Town Police are working with the U.S. Marshals, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota’s office, New York State Police and the Suffolk County Crime Laboratory.
Police could not confirm if the suspect already has a lawyer, nor would they say if there is any relationship to Mr. Zaro, the vehicle’s owner. They did say that the vehicle had not been reported stolen.
The SUV was found on Tuesday morning, tucked into a private property, police said, but they would not specify which property. A search warrant was executed on the vehicle yesterday at police headquarters.
Sister Walsh—known to many as Sister Jackie—was wearing casual layperson’s clothing when she was struck, but details of what exactly happened that night are still sketchy, as the accident reconstruction process is still in its infancy. On Tuesday, there were no skid marks or signs of other damage at the scene of the crash the night before.
“It was a bit of a bizarre scene, because other than having the deceased on the side of the roadway, there wasn’t any significant indication that there had been a serious motor vehicle accident,” Chief Wilson said.
“Our primary goal is providing some closure to the sister’s family and her congregation, and making sure that the person that was operating that motor vehicle is held accountable,” he said.
The registered owner of the SUV that struck Roman Catholic nun Jacqueline Walsh while she was walking along Rose Hill Road in Water Mill on Monday night was identified by police as Andrew Zaro, who owns a large waterfront estate on the southern tip of the same road.
Mr. Zaro is not believed to have been the driver, according to Southampton Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa.
The man who was behind the wheel at the time of the fatal hit-and-run—whose name police have not released—is still on the loose, they said. Police have not said why they have refused to release the suspect’s identity.
Mr. Zaro owns the 2009 Volkswagen Touareg V6 that was found unoccupied with front-end damage about a half-mile from where Ms. Walsh’s body was found, Det. Sgt. Costa said. Police have not said where exactly the SUV was found.
Sister Walsh, a 59-year-old Syosset resident, had gone for a walk near Mercy Villa, the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas retreat house—also on Rose Hill Road, where she was on a religious retreat at the time.
The SUV, which police impounded, is heavily dented in front. Its airbags deployed during the crash, but it left no skid marks on the road. The posted speed limit on Rose Hill Road is 30 mph.