Family rages as suspect in fatal hit-and-run faces judge

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The distraught relatives of the 11-year-old girl killed in a hit-and-run Thursday night in Methuen voiced rage at the

The distraught relatives of the 11-year-old girl killed in a hit-and-run Thursday night in Methuen voiced rage at the alleged driver after a court hearing that was followed by a wild melee.

“My cousin was not an animal to be left there for death. I hope he opens his eyes and realizes the damage he did to our family,” Junilyz Candelario, 23, said of her deceased cousin, Jadee Soto.

Steven Toro, 23, of Lawrence, is accused of fatally striking Jadee while driving a Nissan Sentra on Broadway at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday and “leaving an 11-year-old girl to die on the pavement,” said prosecutor Lindsay Nasson at yesterday’s arraignment in Lawrence District Court.

Toro pleaded not guilty to charges of leaving the scene of a personal injury and death, motor vehicle homicide and negligent driving.

He was being held on $50,000 cash bail last night and ordered not to drive if he posts bail. He hid behind a door in court.

Defense lawyer Steve Wright argued his client is innocent. He said no witness had identified Toro as the driver and said he had received death threats in the form of “promises to have him seriously injured and hurt which has already occurred this morning in the jail while he was on his way here. He was attacked, beaten and robbed of his sneakers,” Wright said.

As court officers allowed Jadee’s family to exit the courtroom, some began running toward the garage in the rear of the courthouse where inmates are transported.

The wild scene ended with one man being detained who screamed, “That’s my little sister. That’s my little sister, officer.”

Authorities said the detained man was released without charges.

Jadee’s mother, Jaqueline Diaz, said yesterday afternoon following the arraignment and outside fracas, “His family was smiling, making comments. People just got upset.”

She declined to talk at length about her daughter but friends pointed to a “Jadee” tattoo inked on her ankle.

Nasson said in court Toro was on probation, with prior arrests for larceny and using a vehicle without authority. She added his license previously had been suspended and he’s had seven surchargeable incidents for offenses in the past 60 days.

Jadee’s cousin, Candelario, said she loved music and taking selfies on Snapchat because of the different filters it offered.

Police said Toro’s mother, Luz Valdez, told them her son was the driver who hit the girl.

“She spoke to Steven after the crash on Broadway Street. Steven said that he hit someone with his vehicle in Methuen. He said he didn’t stop and was scared to turn himself in,” the Methuen police report states.

Valdez could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The report also said based on Valdez’s claim, cops went to Toro’s home Saturday in Lawrence and saw a black 2015 Nissan Sentra with damage “consistent with evidence found on scene.” Jadee’s injuries included “severe head trauma, severe trauma to all her major organs, and a broken right leg,” cops said.

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