DA accuses hit-run suspect of a coverup

Witnesses recount suspicions in Revere

By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / August 31, 2011

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CHELSEA - After he fatally struck a young woman Sunday morning in Revere, Jon J. Ravida returned home to East Boston, locked up his damaged SUV, then jumped in his mother’s car and drove past the scene of the hit and run, authorities said yesterday.

Megan O’Rourke, Suffolk County assistant district attorney, said during Ravida’s arraignment in Chelsea District Court that his actions were part of the great lengths he went to to cover up his role in the accident. Ravida also used tools in an attempt to pound his dented vehicle back into shape and washed it down with bleach, she said.

Ravida, 47, wearing a white T-shirt, stood with his back toward the courtroom and held his hands to his face during the 30-minute arraignment. His brother and mother sat expressionless nearby.

On the other side of the aisle, the family of victim Sothany Pen, 22, wept as O’Rourke read witness accounts of what happened at about 5:30 a.m. Sunday near 335 Lee Burbank Highway, also known as Route 1A.

According to a Revere police report, a witness said he first observed Ravida at a Hess gas station just off the highway, purchasing cigarettes with a credit card. Ravida and the witness ended up in the same flow of traffic on the northbound side and the witness noticed Ravida, in a dark-green Ford Explorer, cross over to the left lane and then back to the right lane before swerving left.

At that time, the witness said, he noticed what he believed to be luggage fall off Ravida’s roof, according to the report.

The witness told police he then noticed Pen lying in the street, and he stopped to help her and called 911 while Ravida reversed his direction and headed south on the highway. The witness said he attempted to flag down Ravida, to no avail, according to authorities.

Pen sustained severe head injuries, was not breathing, and had no pulse when police arrived, the report said.

John Merullo, another witness, said in a telephone interview yesterday that he was sitting in his vehicle Sunday in the employee parking lot of Capitol Waste Services, a trash hauling company based in East Boston, when the suspect pulled up next to him at 5:35 a.m. The lot is located on Railroad Avenue.

“I could see fear on his face,’’ Merullo said. “Then he very calmly backed out, like he didn’t want to arise suspicion. But the front of his Explorer had a lot of damage to the front, and it was obvious to me that something serious had just happened.’’

Merullo said he drove a short distance to the scene of the accident and told officers what he saw and mentioned that the lot has a video surveillance camera.

Authorities also went to the gas station and retrieved video surveillance footage there, according to the police report.

Based on the surveillance evidence and witness accounts, authorities went to Ravida’s Bennington Street address Monday and arrested him.

Ravida told investigators he was driving to work at Logan Airport and that he hit something but didn’t know what it was, O’Rourke said during the arraignment.

Ravida has an extensive driving record dating to 1987, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. His license has been suspended four times, and he was ruled at fault in two accidents.

The defendant pleaded not guilty to charges of motor vehicle homicide and leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury or death. He was scheduled to return to court for a probable cause hearing on Sept. 23.

Judge James Wexler set Ravida’s bail at $25,000, citing the defendant’s alleged actions to cover up his involvement.

Ravida’s attorney, John Haggerty, spoke briefly during the arraignment, asking for a $5,000 cash bail for his client, a lifelong resident of East Boston.

“Well, your honor, I don’t have any proof indicating there was any attempt on his part to destroy evidence,’’ Haggerty told Wexler.

Brian R. Ballou can be reached at Follow him on twitter at @globeballou.