5 years for Belleville hit-run death

A Nutley man who pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in a 2011 hit-and-run death of a Belleville pedestrian was sentenced Friday in Union County Superior Court to a five-year prison term. Under the plea agreement reached last month, Luis Cruz, 44, will be eligible for parole after serving slightly more than four years, authorities said.

The victim, Jodi DeSoto, 48, of Belleville, was stuck and killed the night of Sept. 17, 2011, as she crossed Belleville Ave. near Rhode Place.

Cruz fled the scene, leaving DeSoto in the street.

Police said she had been thrown more than 60 feet by the impact. She was pronounced dead at Clara Maass Medical Center.

Cruz was arrested a week later following an investigation by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Homicide Task Force. According to published reports, investigators calculated he had been travelling about 45 mph in the 25-mph zone.

DeSoto was the widow of Essex County Superior Court Judge Hector DeSoto and had worked as a court services supervisor for Essex County. Because of those connections, Cruz’ case was transferred to Union County.

– Karen Zautyk

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