WEST PITTSTON — A Jenkins Township man charged Friday in the hit-and-run crash that claimed the life of a 65-year-old woman on Mother’s Day used his cell phone 31 times during the 20-minute time frame when investigators believe she was killed.
John Michael Kuniskas, 36, of 1040 Westminster Road, surrendered in the vehicular homicide death of 65-year-old Jean Darsky on May 12.
Darsky was struck while she stood in front of her house on Westminster Road in Jenkins Township. She was dropped off by a friend after attending church.
Investigators said the force of the impact caused Darsky out of her shoes and knock over a mailbox. Her body was thrown over a guide rail and was found about 24 feet away from where she was struck.
Broken pieces of a passenger side mirror recovered at the scene matched damage to Kuniskas’ 2005 Ford F350 pickup truck, investigators allege.
Witnesses told investigators that Kuniskas allegedly admitted to striking a woman and attempting to hammer out dents on the truck days after Darsky was killed.
Kuniskas was arraigned by District Judge Joseph Carmody in West Pittston on charges of vehicular homicide, involuntary manslaughter, accidents involving death, tampering with evidence, failure to notify police of accident, reckless driving, careless driving, prohibited use of cell phone while driving and operating a vehicle with window obstruction. He was released after posting $50,000 bail through a bail bondsman.
Agents with the state Office of Attorney General investigated the case along with township police due to a conflict of interest with a witness and Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis.
Kuniskas declined comment after he was released.
Cell phone data
Investigators believe Darsky was struck sometime between 4:30 and 4:50 p.m. Her body was found by a neighbor cutting grass.
During the 20 minutes, investigators allege Kuniskas used his cell phone 31 times to send and receive text messages and calls.
Kuniskas’ cell phone records prior to the crash allegedly indicate he was at Charlie B’s, a tavern in Plains Township, where he sent a message to a woman on Facebook at 3:45 p.m.
Kuniskas used his cell with calls being processed through a cell tower near the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs casino from 4:18 to 4:39 p.m. Phone calls and text messages from Kuniskas’ phone were then processed through a cell tower near state Route 315 and Westminster Road, less than one-half mile from where Darsky was struck, up until 5:14 p.m., according to the criminal complaint.
Robert Kenzakowski, Kuniskas’ brother-in-law, gave investigators a statement indicating, “On May 13, 2013, in the evening John Kuniskas verbally told me in person that he may have hit the woman on W. Minister Rd. I spoke to John on the back porch of his home. John told me that he did not remember the accident. John told me that there was damage to his truck,” the complaint says.
Investigators allege Kuniskas purchased the Ford on April 23, and had no dents or collision damage. The truck had an after-market strip of material extending 11 inches from the top of the windshield obstructing the view of the road, investigators said.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled on Oct. 16 before District Judge Andrew Barilla in Pittston.