Suffern teen faces 6 months in jail following fatal intoxicated car crash

Photo by Jess Warren

Faces of family members, high school students and police officers flooded the fourth floor of the Rockland County Courthouse on March 15, 2022 as they awaited the sentencing of 17-year-old, Joseph Debellis from Suffern. Debeillis pleaded guilty to driving drunk and killing his classmate in a car crash earlier this year.

Debellis is sentenced to  six months in state prison and will serve five years of probation. He pleaded guilty to 12 of the 17 charges he was facing, including  manslaughter, aggravated vehicular homicide, and reckless driving.

Debellis admitted he was driving drunk and had smoked marijuana on Route 202 in Montebello when the crash happened, which resulted in the death of 16-year-old Jacqueline Zangrilli. Debellis appeared to be under distress and remorseful as he was being sentenced. During the hearing, he pleaded to Zangrilli’s family and said, “I wish it was me instead.”

During his time served, Debellis will be sent to educate other schools around the U.S. to share his experiences with drinking and driving. A restraining order against Debellis has been dropped since the sentencing.