Family erects memorial one year after fatal crash

Family erects memorial one year after fatal crash

A memorial area is decorated outside of the church Monica Peterman once attended. Photo from Holy Church of Christ

It has been one year without Smithtown hospital worker Monica Peterman, but her name was memorialized forever outside the church her family frequents.

Peterman, 45, was killed on June 14, 2014, in a car crash on the same route she often drove between her home in Middle Island and Smithtown’s St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, where she worked. Her family has spent the better part of the past year in courtrooms, to learn the fate of the man accused of crashing into her — Setauket cardiologist Thomas Stavola — but took a step back this week to remember Peterman as a daughter, mother and wife.

The Peterman family gathered with members of the Holy Church of Christ congregation in Central Islip on Sunday to unveil a memorial garden and seating area outside of the church created in Peterman’s memory.

Despite the uncertainty of the ongoing court cases, the family said it was important to pay tribute to the impact Peterman had on their lives, and vice versa, on the one-year anniversary of her death.

Peterman’s children and husband spoke of the horrific memory of the day they lost their mother and wife while fighting back tears on Sunday afternoon.

“Thank you for playing a part in my wife’s life,” said Russel Peterman, Monica’s husband, in a video of the ceremony on Sunday. “Just thank you, and thank you and thank you.”

A memorial was erected outside the church with donations collected throughout the entire Holy Church of Christ community. Later this summer, a bench, complete with an etching of Monica Peterman’s name, will be added to the area.

A spokeswoman for St. Catherine said in an email that Peterman, who worked at the hospital for more than 10 years, was known as a dedicated and well-respected worker and will be greatly missed.

Stavola, 55, was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated— a misdemeanor — after the June 14 crash killed the Middle Island native and mother of three, the Suffolk County Police Department said. He pleaded not guilty to the second-degree manslaughter charge, which was upgraded from the original driving while intoxicated charge, as Peterman’s family looked on. He was released on continuation of the $250,000 bond he posted last month, District Attorney Tom Spota said.

Peterman’s family filed a $20 million civil suit against Stavola last summer, with hopes of sending the greater message that driving while intoxicated should warrant strict penalties, according to  Barbara Sims, Peterman’s mother. Family members and friends memorialized the Middle Island mother back in October with a commemorative plaque placed inside the hospital, where she worked for more than a decade.

Stavola’s next court appearance was scheduled for June 26 at 9 a.m. His attorney did not return requests seeking comment.

Spota said the impact of the collision embedded the front license plate of Stavola’s 2013 Audi into Peterman’s 2009 Mercedes side door. His blood, which officers drew 90 minutes after the crash, had a blood alcohol level of .10, Spota said.

Witnesses then helped give officers a description of Stavola, who called for help over the air to nearby patrols. A police sergeant on his way to the crash scene spotted Stavola walking briskly, with his head down, nearly 500 feet away from the crash, the district attorney said. Stavola, a doctor with Stony Brook Community Medical’s North Suffolk Cardiology, was treated at Stony Brook Hospital for minor injuries.