Shooter Flew First Class to Dominican Republic

Hours after allegedly killing an 11-year-old girl in a drive-by shooting, a Queens teen sat in luxury, ending up in first class on a flight to the Dominican Republic, authorities said yesterday.

"You screwed up. I've got family plans. They're there waiting for me," Jeffrey Matista, 17, of Corona, screamed at American Airlines agents at Kennedy Airport who told him he wouldn't have a seat on a 6 a.m. flight Tuesday, law enforcement sources said.

The sources said that, despite not having a reservation, Matista was able to persuade the airline to let him on the plane - and in first class, no less. The agents relented, unaware that he had gunned down Genesis Regalado as she frolicked in the cool water of an open hydrant about 11:15 p.m. Monday, police said.

The airline denied being swindled, saying the teen showed up with a first-class ticket.

"There was no fuss. There were no words. There was no hubbub," airline spokesman Ned Raynolds said. "As far we're concerned, he was like any other passenger."

After Matista's aunt told police about his departure, U.S. officials arrested him in Santo Domingo and returned him to New York Tuesday afternoon.

Matista was awaiting arraignment last night in Queens Criminal Court in Kew Gardens on charges of second-degree murder, criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.

Also awaiting arraignment on a charge of hindering prosecution, punishable by up to 7 years behind bars was Matista's 16-year-old cousin, who lives with him. Newsday is withholding his identity until charges are filed.

Police said Diaz drove the car from which Matista fired several shots at Genesis' brother, Jeffrey Regalado, 16, and the brother's friend as the siblings sat with others by the hydrant.

One bullet struck Genesis above her right eye, prosecutors said. "Sadly, the youngster was in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Authorities have said Matista has confessed. And while they also say that the shooting stemmed from a yearlong dispute between rival groups of youths in Corona, Matista said he was shooting in the air, and not at anyone in particular, police sources said.

Two others were in the car with Matista and Diaz. One was questioned by police but has not been charged. The other had been in contact with his family but was refusing to turn himself in, sources said.

Copyright © 2006 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.