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Rahmel Watkins sentenced to 18 years to life and Zakiyyah Steward 3 to 9 for fatal Lawrence crash in April 2018


Brooklyn residents Rahmel Watkins and Zakiyyah Steward were sentenced on Dec. 3 for their roles in the 2018 April car crash that killed Elisheva Kaplan and Yisroel Levin on the Nassau Expressway in Lawrence.

Watkins, 36, received an 18-year prison sentence. He was convicted of on four counts of second-degree assault, two counts of negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and reckless driving on Sept. 24.

Steward, 25, was given a sentence of 3 to 9 years. It was the expected sentence. On Feb. 27, Steward pleaded guilty to 17 charges ranging from manslaughter second degree, assault second-degree, reckless driving and endangerment, three vehicular traffic laws, vehicular manslaughter second-degree twice and one first-degree count, and aggravated vehicular homicide.

On April 4 of last year near 1:40 a.m., Kaplan, 20, and Levin, 21, was returning from visiting Levin’s brother in Rockland County for Passover when the 2017 Nissan Altima they were in was struck by Watkins who was driving a 2010 BMW 5501 GT, a car with a 400-horsepower engine, between Bay Boulevard near Rockaway Turnpike and Burnside Avenue.

Watkins was racing at least one other vehicle and going roughly 100 mph before his car swerved into the opposite lane and crashed into the Altima, which then burst into flames. Kaplan and Levin were trapped inside the car and subsequently died. Nine people were involved in the crash.

Kaplan was a Far Rockaway resident and the daughter of Joel Kaplan, the cantor for Congregation Beth Sholom, in Lawrence. Levin, 21, was a Brooklyn resident. They were engaged and planned to be married in three months.

Watkins was said to be speeding adjacent to Steward in a 2016 Hyundai Genesis. Allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, her car also struck the Altima, prosecutors said.