By Jeremy Walsh
Two Corona men have pleaded guilty to a driveâˆ’by shooting that left 11âˆ’yearâˆ’old Genesis Regolado dead just north of Lefrak City two years ago , Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said last week.
Jeffrey Matista, 20, who inadvertently hit Regalado while firing at a group of teenagers, pleaded guilty to firstâˆ’degree manslaughter and faces a sentence of 25 years in prison, Brown said. Matista’s cousin Joewyn Diaz, 18, who drove the car, pleaded guilty to criminal weapons possession and faces 13 1⁄2 years in prison, Brown said. Both men are set to be sentenced next month.
On the night of July 17, 2006, Matista and Diaz got into an argument with some other teenagers at a Chinese restaurant near 55th Avenue and 99th Street, Regalado’s family said. After the fight, some of the teens joined children playing in the spray of a fire hydrant, they said.
Shortly before midnight, Diaz drove a 1994 Honda Accord south on 99th Street in the direction of the other teens, the DA said. Matista, sitting in the left rear passenger seat, rolled down the window and opened fire on the group with a handgun, Brown said.
One of the bullets hit Regalado above her right eye.
Regalado, described by friends and relatives as a bright and popular girl who was repeatedly honored as a top student at IS 61 in Corona, died a short time later at Elmhurst Hospital Center. The corner where she was fatally wounded was renamed Genesis Regalado Way in 2007.
Police arrested Diaz a few days later in Queens. Matista was taken into custody by federal immigration agents in the Dominican Republic after he got off an American Airlines flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“In seeking relief from the sweltering heat at an open fire hydrant outside her home, an innocent child was killed when she was struck by a bullet fired from a nearby car,” Brown said in a statement. “The sentences expected as a result of today’s guilty pleas are lengthy and warranted.”
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by eâˆ’mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 154.