New York – Relatives of a New York doctoral student killed by an accused drunken driver are dismayed that the driver had been released from custody while facing an unrelated murder charge. Panayiota Demetriou’s father, along with lawyer Sanford met on Friday with Queens County Attorney General Richard Brown.
Daryush Omar faces charges including vehicular manslaughter in the Cyprus-born student’s November death in Queens. He also is charged with murder in a Manhattan beating in May 2006.
Omar had been released into immigration custody after the Manhattan case hit roadblocks, though it remains open. Immigration authorities later released him because of time limits.
On Sunday, Panayiotaʼs father, Demetris Demetriou was expected to accept her diploma posthumously from Pace University..
“She was destined for greater things,” the 53-year-old dad told the Daily News in an exclusive interview.
“I have nothing against God, I believe she was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I don’t believe it was her fate or destiny to die there. Her life was taken by somebody who was irresponsible.
“Sure, life goes on, but life will never, ever be the same. Our life has been blackened forever. She was the shining star of our house.”
Panayiota, 30, was hailed as a brilliant student. She was returning home after celebrating the completion of her doctoral dissertation when she was killed Nov. 16.
Police say Daryush Omar was drunk when he slammed his car into her livery cab, killing both her and driver Bessy Velasquez.
Omar, who had a suspended license, is also suspected of fatally beating and robbing banker Thomas Whitney Jr. outside a Manhattan club in 2006.
The murder prosecution stalled and Omar couldn’t be deported because neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan – the countries to which he has ties – would take him.
Demetris Demetriou – who came to New York with sons Andreas, 26, and Kyriacos, 22 – wants to make sure Omar doesn’t slip through any more loopholes.
“This family wants the maximum criminal punishment to set an example so no other family will have to suffer such a horrible tragedy,” Rubenstein said.
On Sunday, the three men will receive Panayiota Demetriou’s bound psychology dissertation and doctorate diploma from Pace University at a ceremony that is bound to emotional.
A group of her classmates defended her dissertation before a school panel to ensure her posthumous appointment as a Ph.D. in psychology.
Panayiota Demetriou had just finished the paper on the night of her death and went out to celebrate with best friend Eleni Toumarides.
“I feel very lucky to have lived her last moments with her, knowing how happy she was,” said Toumarides, who was dropped in Astoria minutes before the accident.
Panayiota Demetriou is buried in her homeland – in a plot her father bought several years ago for himself, next to his own father.
“Little did I know it would be one of my children buried there,” he said.
An auditorium at her high school in Cyprus has been named in Demetriou’s honor, and the family is setting up a foundation.
“Our goal is to keep her memory alive because my sister didn’t live long enough to achieve her dreams,” said Kyriacos Demetriou.
Andreas Demetriou has done that with words he had tattooed on his torso:
“So suddenly you left and slipped away. Taken by angels. Why couldn’t you stay? Was it to be? Was it your fate? In my life you sparkled so bright. My sister in heaven. Again we’ll meet.”