Northampton Press

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

No charges to be filed against Whitehall driver in fatality

Thursday, March 28, 2013 by The Press in Police Log

Lehigh County District Attorney James B. Martin announced March 19 no charges will be filed in connection with an Oct. 26, 2012, fatal accident involving a vehicle and a 14-year-old pedestrian.

Upper Macungie Township police have cited the driver, however, Martin said March 20.

"After a thorough investigation by police from the Berks-Lehigh Regional Police Department, now the Upper Macungie Township Police Department, and the District Attorney's Office, I determined that there is no basis for criminal charges to be filed in the tragic accident involving the victim, who had been trick-or-treating with a friend," Martin said.

The boy was walking west along a residential section of Schantz Road at about 8:20 p.m. when he was struck by a vehicle driven by a 29-year-old Whitehall resident who also was traveling west on Schantz Road. The accident happened near 6429 Schantz Road, where there are no shoulders or curbs and the posted speed limit is 35 m.p.h.

Upper Macungie police cited the driver with failing to have insurance and current registration and for an equipment violation for having a cowl induction hood.

"There was no evidence to indicate that those summary offenses were a substantial cause of the accident that would warrant the filing of more serious criminal charges," Martin said.

"The motorist was cited on Wednesday because the investigation and the decision not to file more serious charges was only recently made. Police do not file summary offense citations while the principal investigation is pending," Martin said.

Because of the number of media inquiries regarding the case, Martin provided additional details of the investigation, which led to the conclusion that no felony or misdemeanor charges would be filed.

Martin said a portable breath test was administered at the scene of the accident. The negative reading indicated the driver had not consumed any alcohol.

Police also administered a field sobriety test to determine whether the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and the driver passed.

"There was no evidence that drugs or alcohol played a role in the accident. Police cannot administer a blood test unless there is probable cause to believe that alcohol was involved, and in this case, there was no evidence of alcohol or drug use," Martin said.

Police analyzed the driver's cell phone, and found no evidence that he had been distracted, Martin said. Police checked his phone log for calls and text messages.

Police analyzed evidence at the scene, made a diagram of the area, interviewed the driver and the other boy and inspected the vehicle. Police also interviewed another motorist who said he was traveling west on Schantz Road shortly before the accident and saw two young boys walking westbound in the westbound travel lane. The witness said the boys were dressed in dark clothing and were difficult to see. The driver said he swerved into the oncoming lane to avoid a collision.

During the investigation, police did an exhaustive forensic computer search for a female who posted a comment on an online news site saying she had witnessed the accident. They were unable to find the woman, however, and this contributed to the length of the investigation, Martin said.

He noted that police with the Berks-Lehigh Regional Police Department, now the Upper Macungie Township Police Department, asked for anyone with information to contact them, and the purported witness did not.

Police obtained two court orders to get the email address and IP address for the name posted on the site with the comment, and the orders were given to AOL Public Safety. Police consulted with a computer forensics detective and had multiple contacts with AOL. Police received a response that the IP address and user name did not exist.

Police were given an email address for a female with a different name than the one used on the posting and were notified that there was no street address but rather a Colorado ZIP code.

When police attempted to send an email to an address they had been given, they received a response from AOL that the address could not be found, Martin said.

"Police were diligent in trying to find this purported witness, and determined that no other information could be gathered," Martin said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney V. Paul Bernardino III met with the victim's parents and the boy who was walking with the victim and that boy's father March 15 to explain the investigation and conclusion.