Mom of Teen Killed in Long Island Hit-and-Run Carries With Her His Memories and Hope That Justice Is Served
Devesh Samtani, 18, sustained devastating injuries when he was struck by a car in the Hamptons, on eastern Long Island's South Fork. He died days later. He was to start NYU in the fall, and had big plans to change the world, his mother said.
Each day Mala Samtani writes a letter to her 18-year-old son, Devesh, and sends him a text message. “Devu, when are you coming back?” she asks. “We are waiting for you?”
There's never a response.
The heartbroken mother lost her youngest son, Devesh Samtani after he sustained grave injuries from being hit by a car in the Hamptons, on eastern Long Island's South Fork on Aug. 10. The driver behind the wheel of the car that hit Devesh, who police identified as then-19-year-old Daniel Campbell, allegedly fled the scene. Devesh died on Aug. 13.
"There is not a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t message him,” Mala told Inside Edition Digital. “The only difference, I don't get a reply anymore.”
Hours after the crash, East Hampton police found Campbell, and he was arrested. Campbell’s sister was allegedly in the vehicle, along with eight other teen girls between the ages of 15 and 18 when Devesh was hit, according to the East Hampton Star.
Police said that when questioned, Campbell admitted to his role in the incident, according to the police accident report obtained by Inside Edition Digital.
Campbell was charged on Wednesday at Suffolk County Criminal Court in Riverhead with leaving the scene of an accident with a fatality in an indictment unsealed, Newsday reported. Campbell did not speak with reporters as he walked out of the courtroom with his attorney and other family members after the arraignment, the news outlet reported.
Edward Burke, Jr., Campbell’s attorney, would not discuss specifics of the case when reached by Inside Edition Digital, but said that his client's plea is not guilty. He said his client’s next conference is scheduled for Feb. 15 at 9:30 a.m.
Campbells charges were upgraded from an E-felony to a D-felony at the arraignment, Omar Almanzar Paramio, an attorney representing Devesh's family, told Inside Edition Digital.
“Upper limit for the potential sentence is up from four to seven years,” Paramio said.
Paramio said he has learned that after the crash, Campbell went home and took a different car to meet a friend at a dock.
“The crime was not the accident or the collision, that was not the crime,” Paramio said. “The crime was leaving the scene. He was supposed to stick around through the accident to either call the police, give the police his insurance information, but he didn’t. He took off.”
Paramio said there were multiple eyewitnesses to the collision, including another person who was allegedly grazed by the vehicle.
“They said Campbell was driving fast. Some saw Devesh’s body fly into the air. Devesh’s cousin was right there when this happened,” Paramio said.
Police said that Campbell later told said in a written statement that “when I looked at the damage, I thought I killed him,” the East Hampton Star reported. Campbell also allegedly said, “If I could do it all over again, I would have stayed on the side of the road and called the police,” according to the news outlet.
Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Raymond Varuolo, who is prosecuting the case, said that “Mr. Campbell had reason to know,” that Devesh’s injuries were serious.
The prosecutor said Campbell’s statement, a videotaped admission, and evidence, including the search of his cell phone, showed that Campbell was searching for bus and train schedules off Long Island after the crash occurred, the East Hampton Star reported.
Campbell, whose license and passport was taken away after his arrest, has been on supervised release with GPS monitoring since his first hearing on Aug. 17. “Whether he goes to jail is questionable,” Paramio said.
As court proceedings move along, Devesh's family hopes to see his alleged killer held accountable for his actions. Harder still for them is coming to terms with all they have lost. The wheels of justice may turn slow, but a mother's mourning of her agonizing loss continues forever.
“Why? Why did this person take my son’s life?" Mala said in between sobs. “Why would someone drive and hit somebody and just leave them at the scene? He was a teenage boy driving with all these passengers. I have to live with the pain of losing my child with every last breath."
She paused to compose herself before saying: "I have stopped living. We have all stopped living. [Campbell's] negligence took my son’s life. My son had a life. My son had a future.”
On the night he sustained the injuries that would take his life, Devesh had been walking with his cousin and a group of other friends along Old Stone Highway and Eastwood Court in Amagansett after leaving a house party on Timber Trail Road that had been broken up by police.
Devesh, who had lived in Hong Kong, was visiting family in New York. According to his mother, New York was like a second home and special place for Devesh, who spent summers there with his mother. He enjoyed attending Broadway shows, visiting museums, dining out at restaurants, and spending time with family.
New York would soon become his permanent home, as he was slated to start school at NYU in September. He was planning to study math and economics, his mother said. “He loved math. It came easy to him. He always got top scores,” Mala said. “In school in Hong Kong, they used to call him the human calculator."
“Devesh always dreamed of going to NYU," she continued. "They had the courses he wanted. He wanted to open up his own hedge fund company one day. I used to call him ‘my hedge fund boy.’"
Devesh was also a published author. He had written and published the children’s book “Ash’s Birthday Party,” which was meant to help children learn to cope with the COVID-19 by sharing their feelings. The book was written in both English and Mandarin. The proceeds from the book, Mala said, went to charity.
Devesh, who was described by his mother as a “giver,” loved to give back. She said he was devoted to charity work, including at the Hong Kong non-profit Mother’s Choice, which served children without families and pregnant teenagers of limited means. She said he frequently fundraised for the agency.
Devesh leaves behind two brothers, ages 22 and 30.
“He was the most loving kid. He used to keep everyone together. He was very kind-hearted, that was his nature,” Mala said, noting that he used to always give the “tightest hugs.”
He was her “twin soul," she said. Theirs was a life filled with fun selfies, instant noodles, baking, chess, and the piano.
“Every Sunday, after family lunch and tea was my Sunday date with Devesh. We would go to the supermarket, walk the dog, spend time together," she said. "Usually boys don’t like to go shopping with their mother’s but Devesh always did.
“Devesh was God's gift to me. A perfect child," she said.
The night he was injured, Devesh had dinner with his family, including his mother, aunt, uncle, and cousin. He left for the party around 10:30 p.m. "‘Where’s my smile?’ I asked him," Mala recalled. "He gave me the biggest smile that I will always remember."
Mala's brother-in-law dropped Devesh off at the party. It wasn't long before she received devastating news.
“I saw him and one hour later he is not there. How is that possible?” she cried. "The pain is something I have to live with. How am I going to cope?"
She added: “[Campbell] never apologized. Never checked on him. Never [went] to see him in the hospital. Nothing.”
Though Devesh's mother says Campbell never apologized, in a statement to reporters after the Wednesday hearing, Burke told reporters: "There will be no legalese today, no legal arguments. We are here simply on behalf of my client and his family to offer our condolences to the Samtani family. A horrible, horrible, tragic incident.”
Mala, who said she tries not to cry in front of her other children, as not to upset them, said that everything she does going forward is for her son. But living without him is difficult.
“I can’t sleep. I want to know where my son is. Will he come back? I visualize him with me," she said. "Being awake is too painful.”
Since his death, Devesh's family spends two days a month doing something charitable in his memory. They have also set up a memorial scholarship at NYU in their son’s name for a student who is studying math and economics. Moving forward, they hope to create a foundation and a school to serve underprivileged children, asylum seekers, and refugees. It's what Devesh would have wanted. And all the while, they wait to see what the future has in store for Campbell, Mala said.
“I believe in God," she said. "There will be justice done.”
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