Saturday, July 12, 2014

Fatal hit-run charge moves forward

FBI’s mapping of cellphone use builds case against Plains Twp. suspect

April 30. 2013 12:16AM

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WILKES-BARRE —Investigators believe Thomas Letteer Jr. was driving the vehicle that struck and killed 5-year-old Kevin Miller on North Street on Dec. 21, and with FBI assistance, they said they have mapped Letteer’s movements before and after.

Letteer, 23, of Mack Street, Plains Township, was placed at specific locations by use of his cellphone. Letteer allegedly made three phone calls that were processed through two cell towers in downtown Wilkes-Barre minutes after the boy was struck.

The mapping of Letteer’s cell use was critical for Luzerne County prosecutors Alexis Falvello and Mamie Phillips during an emotional preliminary hearing on Monday. Falvello and Phillips convinced District Judge Martin Kane to forward a felony charge of accidents involving death to Luzerne County Court.

City police and county detectives allege Letteer was behind the wheel of a red 1999 Pontiac Grand Am that struck the boy as he held the hand of his father, Stephen Miller, of Dallas, as they left a holiday party on North Street.

“I was holding Kevin’s hand with my left hand and we were all crossing the street together,” Stephen Miller testified, noting he did not see any vehicles when he crossed. “As I was stepping onto the curb, I felt Kevin leaving my hand and I heard a thud.

“I looked to where Kevin was and I couldn’t find Kevin. I thought Kevin was stuck on the car and…..” Stephen Miller said.

Stephen Miller said he chased after a red vehicle that turned right onto North Main Street. He was unable to obtain the license plate because the red car was traveling too fast.

“It never slowed down,” he said. “I never saw the car coming.”

Critical evidence that allegedly places Letteer in the area of North Street came from FBI Special Agent Larry Whitehead, who analyzed Letter’s cell phone records of Dec. 21.

The following is Whitehead’s analysis of Letteer’s locations:

  • 7:46 p.m. Call placed with Letteer’s cellphone processed through cell tower in Pittston.
  • 7:50 p.m., 8:46 p.m. and 10:39 p.m. Three calls with Letteer’s cellphone processed through cell tower in West Wyoming where investigators claim Letteer attended a party.
  • 10:39 p.m. Call placed with Letteer’s cellphone processed through cell tower in area of Wilkes-Barre and Plains Township border near the North Cross Valley Expressway.
  • 10:54 p.m. A Hawkeye surveillance camera records a red Pontiac turning onto North Street from North River Street, Wilkes-Barre.
  • 10:55 p.m. A 36-second call from Letteer’s cellphone processed through cell tower on the campus of King’s College, Wilkes-Barre.
  • 10:56 p.m. A 32-second call from Letteer’s cellphone processed through cell tower on top of the PNC Bank Building, North Franklin and West Market streets, Wilkes-Barre.
  • 10:57 p.m. A call 10-minute, 47 seconds in length from Letteer’s cellphone processed through cell tower on the campus of King’s College.

City police Detective Charles Jensen said other Hawkeye and private surveillance cameras recorded the red Pontiac traveling on North, North Main and Jackson streets, and North Pennsylvania Avenue to Conyngham Avenue minutes after Kevin Miller was struck.

Jensen said Letteer’s Pontiac was seized on Jan. 4, after Allyson Howey, of East Stroudsburg, spoke to investigators earlier that day.

Howey testified that Letteer’s girlfriend, Abigail Tarver, confided to her on Dec. 23 that Letteer may have struck and killed a boy in Wilkes-Barre.

Letteer remains free on $200,000 bail. He is scheduled to be formally arraigned in county court on July 11.

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