Local News

Father, son charged in accident that killed UNC mascot

Posted January 18, 2008 5:41 p.m. EST
Updated April 30, 2008 4:27 p.m. EDT

— A father and son from New Jersey have been charged with lying to police about a vehicle accident that killed a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student who portrayed the school's mascot, Rameses.

Authorities said Friday that Gagik Hovsepyan, 52, was covering for his son, Armen, 25, when he told police last March that he was driving the car that struck Jason Kendall Ray as he was walking along Route 4 in Fort Lee.

Armen Hovsepyan, whose driver's license was suspended at the time of the accident, was actually behind the wheel, authorities allege.

Ray, 21, portrayed Rameses for three years, and was with UNC men's basketball team at the NCAA Tournament. Investigators said he was walking to a convenience store when a SUV struck him from behind as he walked along the shoulder of a highway near his hotel in Fort Lee, N.J.

He died at Hackensack University Medical Center two days later.

Investigators initially found no reason to file charges.

However, Joseph Macellaro, chief of the major crimes squad in the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, said Friday that Fort Lee police were told by a witness several months ago that Armen Hovsepyan was actually driving the car.

Gagik Hovsepyan was arrested late Thursday and charged with hindering apprehension, obstruction of justice and making a false report under oath, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said. He was released on $10,000 bail.

Armen Hovsepyan, who lives with his father, also was arrested late Thursday and charged with driving while suspended and hindering apprehension, Molinelli said. He was being held on $25,000 bail at the Bergen County Jail.

Authorities did not know if the men had retained lawyers. No residential phone listing was found for the Hovsepyans. A telephone message left after hours Friday at the jewelry business the father owns in Oradell was not returned.

Ray was an organ donor and helped save or improve the lives of dozens others after his death.