WILKES-BARRE ‚?? Prosecutors charged Daniel Loughnane with driving away after fatally striking a 19-year-old woman in July, taking a chance their suspected evidence will weather scrutiny by the defense.
Loughnane, 40, of West Liberty Street, Hanover Township, surrendered Tuesday on a felony charge of accidents involving death. He was accompanied by his attorney, Peter Paul Olszewski Jr., when he walked into Wilkes-Barre Police Headquarters just before 9 a.m. and later at his arraignment before District Judge Rick Cronauer.
City detectives allege Loughnane, driving a 2006 Ford F350 pickup truck, failed to stop after striking Rebecca McCallick in front of 199 Hazle Ave. at about 2:23 a.m. July 24. McCallick died at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township.
Police seized the Ford from the driveway of Loughnane‚??s residence on Aug. 9 without a warrant. Police obtained a search warrant for the truck on Aug. 13.
Asked about taking the truck without a warrant, Luzerne County Deputy District Attorney Alexis Falvello said: ‚??I‚??d rather not comment on that.‚?Ě
A neighbor reported seeing police taking pictures of the truck in Loughnane‚??s driveway on Aug. 8.
Falvello said the reason Loughnane was not charged sooner is that it took some time for suspected evidence collected from the truck to be analyzed by the state police crime lab. Neither Falvello nor the criminal complaint affidavit charging Loughnane disclosed what alleged evidence was recovered from the truck.
A search warrant receipt indicates police found suspected hair and a bone fragment on the undercarriage and driver‚??s side wheel and door areas on the truck.
Olszewski likely will challenge the suspected evidence from being used by prosecutors.
‚??This is obviously a profoundly sad case whenever a young person loses their life,‚?Ě Olszewski said. ‚??It‚??s very unfortunate. I can tell you, however, so far the investigators have not made public some very serious and significant information, which will come to light in proceedings before a number of judges and before a number of courts in this commonwealth.‚?Ě
Falvello said the charge was filed based on other suspected evidence, which she conceded is Loughnane‚??s alleged admissions to another person and information that places him in the area of Hazle Avenue at the time McCallick was struck.
‚??I‚??d rather not comment on the physical evidence that we have, but we do have statements that were made by the defendant that are indicative of admissions that he was the person responsible,‚?Ě Falvello said. ‚??We also have witnesses that place him on or around the scene at the time of the accident. We feel we have a very strong case to convict the defendant.‚?Ě
Loughnane‚??s former girlfriend, Jesse Spencer, told investigators he called her crying and wanting to see his son for the weekend because he was going to be arrested, according to the criminal complaint.
Spencer and Loughnane share a son and have been involved in a child custody battle since 2008.
Loughnane allegedly told Spencer that police found DNA on his truck, and his friend, Jeff Erdman, told investigators where he was before McCallick was struck, the complaint says.
Investigators allege Loughnane and Erdman were at Gentlemen‚??s Club 10, a strip club on Mundy Street, Wilkes-Barre Township, for several hours before Loughnane drove Erdman to an apartment on Scott Street in Wilkes-Barre.
After Erdman‚??s statements to police, Detective David Sobocinski drove the same route Loughnane allegedly took taking Erdman to his apartment.
Sobocinski‚??s test drive matched the times in which video surveillance at the strip club shows Loughnane leaving and the reported time when McCallick was struck on Hazle Avenue, according to the complaint.
Spencer allegedly told investigators that from August to October Loughnane would not talk about things over the phone or his whereabouts. She said he felt his phone was bugged.
Loughnane obtained a new cell phone in October, Spencer allegedly told investigators.
Investigators did obtain search warrants for Loughnane‚??s cellphone and a global positioning system unit from the Ford.
Loughnane was released after posting $50,000 bail. He was permitted to leave the state as he is employed by a company that repairs railroads across the country.
Loughnane also owns Liam‚??s Tavern on North Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled on Jan. 3.