Aug. 1, 2023 By Bill Parry
A self-described street racer from the Bronx was criminally charged in Queens Supreme Court on Aug. 1 with murder and manslaughter after she caused a high-speed crash that killed an Uber passenger on the Whitestone Expressway alongside Harvey Park in Whitestone in May.
Melissa Rodriguez-Lopez, 28, of Kossuth Avenue was indicted by a Queens grand jury on July 20, was allegedly drag racing at up to 123 miles an hour when she smashed into the Uber.
Rodriguez-Lopez was arraigned on a six-count indictment charging her with murder in the second degree, manslaughter in the second degree, assault in the second degree, leaving the scene of an accident without reporting, assault in the third degree and reckless driving.
According to the charges, at around 3 a.m. on May 27, Rodriguez-Lopez was driving a 2015 Lexus northbound on the Whitestone Expressway with a friend, Marisol Cruz, in the passenger seat. She hit the back of a Toyota Corolla driven by Manishanker Roy, 43, an Uber driver who was transporting Steven Spaulding, 62, of Brooklyn. Records from the Lexus indicate the car, which was registered to Rodriguez-Lopez, was going approximately 123 mph within seconds of the collision and the car’s airbags had deployed. Rodriguez-Lopez left the crash scene without reporting the collision, getting a ride from another drag racer.
Later that morning, Rodriguez-Lopez made a report at the NYPD’s 52nd Precinct that her car had been stolen, but that was disproved by DNA evidence that was gathered during the course of the investigation, the charges state. Body-worn camera footage shows that she had injuries to her arm consistent with an airbag deploying. Cruz sustained injuries to her lower leg and knee.
Roy and Spaulding were taken to New York-Presbyterian Queens hospital in Flushing. Roy had significant injuries to his neck and body and Spaulding had numerous spinal fractures and suffered a stroke following emergency surgery. He died on June 10.
“We will not tolerate the use of our highways as raceways,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “This defendant’s alleged selfish actions and reckless disregard for the rules of the road resulted in tragedy. She will be held fully accountable.”
Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise ordered Rodriguez-Lopez to return to court August 29. If convicted, she faces up to 25 years to life in prison.