NEW YORK — A close-knit ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn was plunged into a new round of mourning Monday by the death of a baby who was delivered by cesarean section after his parents were killed in a grisly hit-and-run crash a day earlier.
Police hunted for the suspected driver, identified as Julio Acevedo, saying he was barreling down a residential street in a BMW at 60 mph, or twice the speed limit, on Sunday morning when he collided with a car hired to take the couple to the hospital.
The death of the newborn on Monday piled tragedy upon tragedy and compounded the community’s grief. The infant was expected to be buried near the fresh graves of his parents, Nachman and Raizy Glauber, both 21. About a thousand community members turned out for the young couple’s funeral a day earlier.
“The mood in the neighborhood is very heavy,” said Oscar Sabel, a retired printer who lives near the scene of the accident. “We all hoped the baby would survive.”
Brooklyn is home to the largest community of ultra-Orthodox Jews outside Israel, more than 250,000. The couple married last year and were living in the Williamsburg neighborhood.
They were members of the Satmar Hasidic sect, whose men dress in dark coats and hats, wear long beards like their Eastern European ancestors and have limited dealings with the outside world. Raizy Glauber grew up in a prominent rabbinical family. Her husband was studying at a rabbinical college; his family founded a line of clothing for Orthodox Jews.
Sabel, dressed in the traditional long black coat of the Satmar, said it was a terrible tragedy.
“But it’s what God wants,” he said. “Maybe the baby’s death, and his parents’, is not for nothing; God doesn’t have to give us answers.”
Shortly after midnight Sunday, Raizy Glauber, who was seven months pregnant, wasn’t feeling well, so the couple decided to go to the hospital, said Sara Glauber, Nachman Glauber’s cousin. They called a livery cab, a hired car that is arranged via telephone, not hailed off the street like a yellow cab.
The livery cab had a stop sign, but it’s not clear if the driver stopped. Police said the collision with the BMW reduced the cab to a crumpled heap, and Raizy Glauber was thrown from the wreck. The engine ended up in the back seat, according to Isaac Abraham, who serves as a spokesman for the Satmar community.
Police said the driver of the BMW ran away.
The baby weighed only about 4 pounds when he was delivered, neighbors and friends said. He died of extreme prematurity, the city medical examiner’s office said.
The driver of the livery cab, Pedro Nunez Delacruz, was knocked unconscious but was not seriously hurt. His vehicle should not have been sent to pick up the passengers because an application to use the Toyota as a livery cab had not yet been approved, the city Taxi and Limousine Commission said.
Acevedo, 44, was arrested last month on a charge of driving while under the influence, and the case is pending. He served eight years in prison in the 1990s for manslaughter. No one answered the phone Monday at his last known address, in a public housing complex in Brooklyn.
“We in the community are demanding that the prosecutor charge the driver of BMW that caused the death of this couple and infant … with triple homicide,” Abraham said in a statement. “This coward left the scene of the accident not even bothering to check on the people of the other car.”
How Acevedo came to possess the BMW is also under investigation. The registered owner, Takia Walker, was charged with insurance fraud Sunday in a scam involving the car. She was not involved in the crash, police said.
A person familiar with the investigation said Walker bought the car legally, or allowed her identification to be used in the purchase, then gave the vehicle to a middleman who either lent or rented it out to the driver. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.