Fatal Crash Driver Had No Registration, Insurance: DA
A Whitehall man who struck and killed trick-or-treater Jordan Steinmetz as he walked along Schantz Road in Upper Macungie on Oct. 26, 2012 has been cited for not having insurance or a registered vehicle.
The driver who struck and killed a 14-year-old boy on Oct. 26 has been cited for driving without insurance and without a properly registered vehicle, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said Thursday in a press release.
Upper Macungie Police filed the citations against Christopher Lee, 29, of Whitehall, on Wednesday at the offices of District Judge Michael Faulkner.
Lee was also cited for having a cowl induction hood, which increases a car's horsepower and is against codes.
"There was no evidence to indicate that those summary offenses were a substantial cause of the accident that would warrant the filing of more serious criminal charges," Martin said.
"The motorist [Lee] was cited on Wednesday because the investigation and the decision not to file more serious charges was only recently made," Martin said. "Police do not file summary offense citations while the principal investigation is pending."
On Wednesday, the district attorney's office announced Lee would not face criminal charges for striking and killing 14-year-old Jordan Steinmetz of Lisa Court in Upper Macungie on the night of Oct. 26.
Steinmetz was hit and killed by Lee's SUV as he walked along a residential portion of Schantz Road. He had been trick-or-treating with a friend at about 8:20 p.m. and was in costume.
News that no criminal charges would be filed led to a firestorm of comments on Upper Macungie Patch. Some commenters protested the decision, while others expressed concerns about safety on the stretch of road where the child was struck. Others questioned why the probe took four and a half months. Many expressed sympathy for the child's family over its loss.
Martin said that given the number of media inquiries about the case, he was releasing additional information Thursday about the investigation, which cleared Lee of any felony or misdemeanor charges.
As part of the probe, Martin said, police did an exhaustive forensic computer search for a woman who posted a comment on Upper Macungie Patch, stating she witnessed the accident. Police attempted to locate and interview the woman without success, which contributed to the length of the probe, he said.
The investigation was conducted by the Berks-Lehigh Regional Police Department (now defunct), the Upper Macungie Police Department and the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office.
Martin said in the release:
- The investigation noted Steinmetz was wearing non-reflective clothing and was walking in the same direction as traffic with cars approaching from behind.
- There are no lights, shoulders or curbs in the area and the posted speed limit is 35 mph.
- Lee immediately stopped, called for help and checked on Steinmetz. He stayed on the scene and fully cooperated with police.
- A portable breath test was administered to Lee at the scene of the accident, Martin said. The results were negative. Police also administered a field sobriety test to determine whether Lee was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which he passed.
"There was no evidence that drugs or alcohol played a role in the accident. Police cannot administer a blood test unless there is probable cause to believe that alcohol was involved, and in this case, there was no evidence of alcohol or drug use," Martin said.
Also, Martin said in the release:
- Police analyzed Lee's cell phone and found no evidence of distracted driving. Police also checked his phone log for calls and text messages.
- Police analyzed evidence at the scene, made a diagram of the area, interviewed Lee and the other boy and inspected the vehicle.
- Police also interviewed a motorist who said he was traveling west on Schantz Road shortly before the accident and saw two young boys walking westbound in the westbound travel lane. The motorist said the boys were dressed in dark clothing and were difficult to see. The driver said he swerved into the oncoming lane to avoid a collision.
- Police obtained two court orders to get the email address and IP address for the commenter on Upper Macungie Patch. The orders were given to AOL Public Safety. Police consulted with a computer forensics detective and had multiple contacts with AOL, the parent company of Upper Macungie Patch. Police received a response that the IP address and user name did not exist. Police were given an email address for a woman with a different name than the one used on the posting and were notified that there was no street address, only a Colorado zip code. Police attempted to send an email to the address and received a response from AOL that the address was not found.
“Police were diligent in trying to find this purported witness, and determined that no other information could be gathered,” Martin said.