January 5, 2013
PLAINS TWP. ‚?? Police seized a car Friday night allegedly involved in the fatal hit and run of a 5-year-old boy two weeks ago, operating, they said, based on a tip that the driver said he hit and killed someone.
Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis identified Tom Letteer Jr. of Mack Street as a person of interest in the death and said he is cooperating with investigators. Letteer is in his early 20s, she said.
‚??I fully believe that we have the person that caused this accident and was involved in this hit and run, killing little Kevin Miller,‚?Ě Salavantis said after a search warrant was filed to seize the 1999 red Pontiac Grand Am SE parked near Letteer‚??s residence on Mack Street.
The vehicle was put on an LAG Towing truck and taken around 7:30 p.m. to Wilkes-Barre Police headquarters.
Salavantis gave no timeframe for when charges might be filed. The car would be tested by the state police for DNA and other evidence, she said.
A woman who was entering the Letteer residence Friday afternoon said she had ‚??no comment.‚?Ě A young man shouted from the porch for a reporter standing on the sidewalk to ‚??get off his property.‚?Ě
The man later left in a black Pontiac Grand Am SE, holding his hand in front of his face as he drove away.
The car‚??s seizure apparently will end an intensive investigation of hundreds of tips by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies; the development also brought some relief to the family who laid the boy to rest on Christmas Eve.
Salavantis said she was in touch with the family from Dallas concerning Friday‚??s events. ‚??They are very happy for the dedication and commitment from all of the departments involved,‚?Ě she said. ‚??It‚??s just one step closer to closure for the family, so all they could say is ‚??thank you,‚?? and a lot of tears ... a lot of tears.‚?Ě
Later Friday night, Kevin Miller‚??s uncle, Dr. John Miller, released a statement on behalf of the family:
‚??We are extremely thankful for the extensive and relentless search our local law enforcement personnel (have) performed. May this search prove fruitful and provide our family, our law enforcement agency and the community with some peace. Although this evidence will not bring Kevin back to us, it will aid us all in the healing process,‚?Ě he wrote.
Friday was the second time police looked at the car that Letteer allegedly was driving the night of Dec. 21 when Miller was hit while crossing West North Street in Wilkes-Barre with his family after leaving a Christmas party.
Police visited Letteer at his home on Dec. 23 while the car was parked in the driveway. He admitted driving it two days earlier, but said he went to his girlfriend‚??s house in Pittston Township from a party in West Wyoming and ‚??never travels to Wilkes-Barre,‚?Ě according to the affidavit of probable cause filed to support the search warrant.
But Letteer‚??s girlfriend, identified in the affidavit as Abigail Tarver, told a different story to a friend who contacted police on Dec. 29 and was interviewed Friday.
The friend, only identified as witness #2 in the affidavit, picked up Tarver from a bus station in the Delaware Water Gap on Dec. 23.
According to the affidavit: The witness said Tarver ‚??was going to tell her something that she had to keep to herself.‚?Ě
Tarver told the witness that Letteer was drunk when he came to her house on Dec. 21. The witness ‚??indicated Tarver further told her that Letteer hit someone and killed them. Letteer told Tarver that he thinks it was the five year old boy reported in the news.‚?Ě
Police interviewed Tarver on Friday. The affidavit further states: She said Letteer called her a few minutes before 11 p.m. on Dec. 21 while on his way to her apartment. When he arrived he said was at a party and may have had a couple beers. Tarver said she ‚??never had any discussion‚?Ě with anyone about Letteer‚??s ‚??possible involvement in the hit and run on North Street.‚?Ě
Tarver got angry after learning the witness talked to investigators, according to the affidavit, and texted ‚??I can‚??t (expletive) believe you‚?Ě during the interview. The witness did not respond to the text message.
A person who attended the party with Letteer also was interviewed Friday. The affidavit states: Witness 3 said he and Letteer ‚??consumed several shots of liquor together.‚?Ě The witness said people from the party then went to Rodano‚??s restaurant on Public Square.
Investigators said the location where the boy was struck is along ‚??the most direct route‚?Ě to the restaurant from the party.
Early in their investigation, after reviewing still photo and video from city and private surveillance, police said the car involved was a red, four-door Pontiac Grand Am with a sun roof.
A car matching that description was parked in a driveway in a wooded lot next to Letteer‚??s house. The car appeared to have damage to the passenger side front. The vehicle also appeared to have a new headlight; the plastic on the passenger side headlight appeared clearer than the one on the driver‚??s side.
A neighbor who asked not to be identified said he saw the car parked on the street earlier in the week.
- Staff writer Steve Mocarsky contributed to this report.