PLAINS TWP. — Investigators arrested Thomas Letteer Jr. after getting him out of bed early Friday morning and charging him with causing the death of 5-year-old Kevin Miller in a hit-and-run accident before Christmas in Wilkes-Barre.
Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said investigators put together a “solid case” against Letteer.
Letteer, 23, of Mack Street, Plains Township, showed no remorse as he was escorted into magisterial district court at about 11 a.m. wearing a black T-shirt, torn pajama pants and flip flops. He hid his face with his hands, which were handcuffed.
He told District Judge Diana Malast he was suspended by his employer when “this happened.”
Wilkes-Barre police and county detectives allege Letteer was behind the wheel of a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am that struck the boy on North Street on Dec. 21. Kevin, of Dallas, was holding his father’s hand while crossing the street when he was struck.
The Miller family had left a Christmas party they attended at a house on North Street. The boy was a son of Dr. Stephen and Caroline Miller.
Letteer has been charged with one count of accidents involving death, Salavantis said. Letteer was jailed at the county correctional facility for lack of $200,000 bail. A preliminary hearing scheduled for April 18 will likely be continued.
The fatal crash sparked a massive search for a red Pontiac sedan that was recorded on private and city surveillance cameras near the scene. Owners of red Pontiacs, including Letteer, were questioned by police, on Dec. 23 and Dec. 31.
Letteer denied he was involved in the crash, telling police he was not in Wilkes-Barre on Dec. 21, saying he drove from a party in West Wyoming to his girlfriend’s house in Pittston Township.
Cellphone records place Letteer in the area of North Street at the time the boy was struck — with cellphone calls being processed through cell towers on the campus of King’s College and Public Square minutes after Miller was struck, according to the criminal complaint.
“He has not been cooperative,” said Salavantis. “He did appear for questioning in the beginning … there is no sign of remorse at this point.”
Surveillance video was sent to Forensic Video Solutions in Spokane, Wash., where it was analyzed, Salavantis said.
“We wanted to make sure our case is solid,” she said. “We brought in experts from Washington to examine (Letteer’s) vehicle. They pretty much tell us this is the car. That makes this case a solid case in my opinion.”
Forensic analysis of the video included Letteer’s Pontiac and two other Pontiac Grand Ams being recorded by the same surveillance cameras. Grant Fredericks, of Forensic Video Solutions, found differences in the three Pontiac headlight spread patterns, forming an opinion that Letteer’s Pontiac was the car recorded driving away from the scene, according to the complaint.
Investigators served a search warrant on Letter’s Pontiac after it was seized on Jan. 4 based on alleged statements his girlfriend, Abigail Traver, said to her friend, identified as “Witness #2.”
Traver allegedly told her friend that Letteer confessed to hitting and killing someone, the complaint says.
After the witness spoke to police, Traver on Jan. 4 sent her friend a text message, saying, “I can’t (expletive) believe you,” according to the complaint.
The complaint states Traver also sent a text message to Letteer the same day: “I said something about it to (witness #2) and she told. I’m so sorry Tom. I didn’t mean to do this to you I wouda never thought shed say anything and Im so sorry.”
Salavantis said she could not say if Traver will be charged.
“At this point, I can’t give that information,” she said, “but we are still doing the investigation.”
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton issued a statement on Friday commending Salavantis and her staff, Luzerne County detectives, state police and Wilkes-Barre police investigators for “their perseverance and commitment to bring justice to the family of Kevin Miller.”
Leighton called the case “a perfect example of effective coordination among law enforcement agencies and the utilization of new technologies … to ensure that heinous crimes do not go unsolved.”
“On behalf of the entire city,” said Leighton, “our thoughts and prayers remain with Kevin’s parents, siblings, and extended family as they have shown nothing but grace and patience in the midst of this terrible ordeal.”