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INDICTED: Two People Charged for April Crash that Killed Yisroel Levin & Elisheva Kaplan

Two people responsible for the horrific deaths of Yisroel Levin Z”L (21) and Elisheva Kaplan A”H (20), were arraigned today on grand jury indictment charges in a Nassau County courtroom.

Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced the charges for 25-year-old Zakiyyah Steward, and 35-year-old Rahmel Watkins. The young couple were engaged and soon to be married, when the two suspects were drag racing down the Nassau Expressway slammed into the couple in a fiery and horrific crash. The couple were R”L killed instantly.

Zakiyyah Steward, 25, Brooklyn was arraigned today before Judge Francis Ricigliano on charges of:
  • Three counts of Aggravated vehicular homicide (a B felony)
  • Two counts of Manslaughter in the Second Degree (a C felony)
  • Four counts of Assault in the Second Degree (a D felony)
  • Vehicular Manslaughter in the first degree (a C felony)
  • Two counts of Vehicular manslaughter in the second degree (a D felony)
  • Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree (an A misdemeanor)
  • Reckless Driving (an unclassified misdemeanor)
  • Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (an unclassified misdemeanor)
  • Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs (an unclassified misdemeanor)
  • Driving while ability impaired by the combined influence of drugs or of alcohol and any drug or drugs (an unclassified misdemeanor)

Zakiyyah Steward

Rahmel Watkins, 35, of Brooklyn was arraigned today before Judge Francis Ricigliano on charges of:

  • Two counts of Manslaughter in the Second Degree (a C felony)
  • Four counts of Assault in the Second Degree (a D felony)
  • Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree (an A misdemeanor)
  • Reckless Driving (an unclassified misdemeanor)

Rahmel Watkins, 35, of Quincey Street in Brooklyn NY

Bail was set at $1 million bond or $500,000 cash for Watkins and $500,000 bond or $250,000 cash for Steward. The defendants are due back in court July 18. If convicted of the top counts, Steward faces 8-1/3 to 25 years in prison and Watkins faces five to 15 years in prison.

“This indictment alleges that Yisroel and Elishiva’s lives were stolen, just as their lives were about to begin as a married couple, by the defendants who recklessly drove too fast in bad weather and while one of them was intoxicated,” DA Singas said. “Nassau County will not tolerate this kind of unconscionable disregard for life. My heart goes out to the Levin and Kaplan families.

DA Singas said that on April 4, 2018, at approximately 1:40 a.m., defendants Rahmel Watkins and Zakiyyah Steward were allegedly part of a group of cars traveling in the northbound lanes of the Nassau Expressway in Inwood from Far Rockaway to a Queens casino. Defendant Watkins was allegedly operating a 2010 BMW 550 GT recklessly and at a high rate of speed when his vehicle crossed over the double yellow lines and struck a 2017 Nissan Altima head-on being driven by 21-year-old, Yisroel Levin, with his 20-year-old fiancé, Elisheva Kaplan in the passenger seat. They were returning home from a Passover gathering and were to be married this month.

The Altima burst into flames, was pushed backward and continued to burn, killing Mr. Levin and Ms. Kaplan. Watkins then struck a silver Infiniti being driven by James Hamilton, fracturing his spine and causing injuries to his ankle and knee.

At the same time, Defendant Steward was allegedly driving a 2016 Hyundai Genesis next to Watkins while allegedly driving at a high rate of speed, while intoxicated and impaired by marijuana. Steward’s vehicle also struck Mr. Levin’s Altima. The defendants suffered minor injuries in the crash.

As previously reported on YWN, a Brooklyn judge has admitted he had been too lenient with Zakiyyah Steward, twice sending the 25-year-old into a rehabilitation program after being convicted for a brazen burglary spree, and ignoring prosecutors requests for incarceration.

The following is an unedited statement by the Levin and Kaplan families, given to YWN following the indictments:

“The Levin and Kaplan families have been devastated by the loss of Yisroel Levin and Elisheva Kaplan.

There were no finer, more beloved, and more loving young people than Yisroel and Elisheva. They were destined for a beautiful life together as husband and wife,
surrounded by their loving families and friends.

The world shook when they were so abruptly taken from us, so tragically and with such violent force. The void left by their absence from this world has only been
magnified in the less than three months since April 4th.

We have been strengthened immeasurably by the tens of thousands of friends and family, who have reached out to us to share our pain. The countless good deeds
being performed by friends and strangers alike as a merit to their memory do provide a degree of comfort. But nothing can replace Yisroel and Elisheva.

We thank the Nassau County District Attorney’s office and the Nassau County Police Department for their diligent, resourceful, and professional efforts.

We hope and pray that these proceedings will bring a level of accountability to those whose behavior caused this never ending heartbreak.”

(Yossi Taub – YWN)

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