CARMEL, N.Y. - Richard O’Keefe, the retired Carmel police officer who was facing felony vehicular manslaughter charges after a DWI-related fatality, has reached a plea deal with the county district attorney’s office and is now back in jail. Frances Gherlarducci, Somers resident and teaching assistant at Primrose Elementary School, was killed in the November 2015 crash.
District Attorney Bob Tendy told Mahopac News, sister paper of The Somers Record, that O’Keefe and his attorney have agreed in principal to a plea bargain, though Tendy said he could not release the details until the deal is officially approved and signed by O’Keefe in court. Tendy said a court date is pending, and when the deal is official he would release the details.
Tendy said that O’Keefe, accompanied by his attorney, surrendered himself to police earlier this week and is now back in the Putnam County Correctional Facility in Carmel.
O’Keefe was charged with felony vehicular manslaughter in the wake of an automobile accident took place Nov. 14, 2015, on Route 6 in Mahopac. Police said O’Keefe was driving north in his Dodge Caravan when he slammed into a Jeep Patriot as it exited a restaurant parking lot. The crash took the life of Gherlarducci, a passenger in the car.
A lawsuit was filed last year in Westchester County Supreme Court by Ernest Estrada, a passenger in the same car as Ghelarducci and her husband, Steven. The suit states that Estrada and wife, Anna, were traveling with the Ghelarduccis in their Jeep, which was being driven by Anna Estrada with Steven Ghelarducci’s permission, at the time of the crash. The suit contends that O’Keefe and Steven Ghelarducci “were negligent, careless and reckless” with the use of their vehicles. Estrada said in the lawsuit he suffers from permanent personal injuries and seeks unspecified damages. The suit is still pending.
Steven Ghelarducci and the Estradas were taken to Westchester Medical Center for non-life-threatening injuries. O’Keefe and a passenger in his van were not injured. Frances Ghelarducci, 54, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Tendy said that Anna Estrada was the designated driver and did not face any criminal charges in the accident. O’Keefe, who was 57 at the time of the crash, was out on $100,000 bail until he surrendered to authorities this week and was sent back to jail
Tendy said that the state police were meticulous in its investigation of the crash and that their initial probe underwent a peer review. The DA’s office also hired an outside agency to conduct an independent investigation in addition to what the state police did.
O’Keefe retired from the Carmel Police Department in 2005 and was later elected to the Carmel Town Board. He is also a former member of the Mahopac Board of Education. He is the brother of current town Councilwoman Suzi McDonough and Supervisor Ken Schmitt’s brother-in-law. Tendy stressed that those connections did not play a role in the investigation.