The hunt for the suspected motorist who struck and killed Roman Catholic nun Sister Jacqueline Walsh on a quiet street in Water Mill on July 9 remains in high gear this week as Southampton Town Police are continuing to appeal to the 30-year-old man who is accused of killing the nun, and then hiding from police, to turn himself in.
As of Wednesday morning, however, the suspect—a Latino worker whose name police are withholding for investigative reasons—remained elusive. He is said to be constantly on the move, in what are so far successful attempts to evade the handful of law enforcement agencies that are working together around the clock to bring him to justice.
“We will follow the trail on this guy until the end of time,” Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr. said. “We’re never going to stop going after him.”
Sister Walsh, 59, of Syosset—known to many as Sister Jackie—was walking alone along Rose Hill Road, near Mercy Villa, a Sisters of Mercy of the Americas house where she was staying on a religious retreat, shortly before 8:30 p.m. on Monday, July 9, when she was fatally struck by a 2009 Volkswagen Touareg. Authorities said the suspect was driving his employer’s car at the time of the fatal accident and abandoned the vehicle near the accident scene.
Police said there were no witnesses to the crash, but several passersby called 911 to report finding a female lying on the side of the road, bloody and unresponsive. Sister Walsh, who was wearing light-colored casual lay clothing, was dead upon the arrival of the police, her body lying on the east side of the road, near a driveway neighboring the retreat.
In recent days, some new details have emerged regarding what happened following the hit-and-run.
The suspect was employed as a worker by Andrew Zaro, the owner of the Volkswagen, Town Police Detective Sergeant Lisa Costa said. Mr. Zaro, who owns a large waterfront estate on the southern tip of Rose Hill Road, told officers that his worker was involved in the crash, but Det. Sgt. Costa declined to comment on whether he was cooperating with police.
The suspect abandoned the heavily dented SUV in a remote, residential driveway on Crescent Avenue—a nearby dead-end with just a few large estates on it that is connected to Rose Hill Road by Halsey Lane—a little more than a half mile from the crash scene, Det. Sgt. Costa said. The vehicle was “tucked” into the driveway so that front-end damage was obscured by foliage. Police would not identify whose property it was found on. The car was found the morning after the crash, impounded and transported to police headquarters in Hampton Bays, where officers executed a search warrant on it last Wednesday, July 11.
Details of what exactly happened during that fatal dusk remain murky, as the accident reconstruction process is still in its infancy. “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.
The suspect is not believed to have a driver’s license and appears to have been authorized to use the car, Det. Sgt. Costa said. She declined to comment on allegations in The New York Post reporting that the suspect called Mr. Zaro via cellphone shortly after the crash and that police were using the digital trail to help track him down. They also declined to comment on his suspected whereabouts, and said they are still looking into the suspect’s immigration status.
Mr. Zaro is the chairman of the Westchester County-based debt-collection firm Cavalry Portfolio Services. His Rose Hill Road property was the second largest residential consumer of public water in Southampton and East Hampton towns in 2010, using 13.5 million gallons of water that year, The Press reported last year. Ironically, his same home also hosted in 2010 a benefit party for the ocean conservation organization, Oceana.
A woman who answered the call box at Mr. Zaro’s Rose Hill Road home last Thursday afternoon, July 12, simply said, “No, thanks.” Minutes later, a Southampton Town Police patrol car pulled up to the house. The officer said the police are called every time the press arrives at that house. Police said they had received several such calls.
Later that afternoon, a woman walking outside the house, said, “There’s no story to tell,” and that Mr. Zaro was not at the house at that time.
“We are using every available resource, including working with other agencies, and are working around the clock to locate our suspect,” Det. Sgt. Costa said. She said the suspect would be caught.