WILKES-BARRE — Daniel Loughnane’s hit-and-run trial is on hold after a judge on Friday allowed the prosecution to appeal suppression of evidence in the case, including Loughnane’s truck.
Loughnane, 41, of Hanover Township, stands accused of fleeing the scene of a fatal crash in connection with the July 24, 2012 death of Rebecca McCallick, 19, who was struck by a vehicle on Hazle Avenue, Wilkes-Barre. His trial was scheduled to begin Monday.
Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough on March 17 ruled that city police illegally seized Loughnane’s blue Ford F-350 truck from his home without a warrant, and the vehicle may not be used as evidence at trial.
At the end of a hearing Friday morning, Vough gave prosecutors permission to file an appeal with state Superior Court, with Loughnane’s trial postponed until the results of the appeal are known.
Police said in a previous affidavit that the truck was seized to preserve evidence when efforts to locate Loughnane were unsuccessful on the night of Aug. 9, 2012.
“At the time the defendant’s vehicle was seized without a warrant by the Wilkes-Barre City Police Department, the defendant had not been placed in custody and the vehicle was located on private property,” Vough wrote in an outline of the conclusions supporting his order.
The truck isn’t the only element of the prosecution’s case now banished from trial, and thus subject to appeal.
According to an affidavit, McCallick’s boyfriend, John Schenck, told police he and McCallick were arguing when she ran out of their apartment at 199 Hazle Ave. early in the morning of July 24, 2012. Schenck told police he was yelling from a second-floor window at McCallick to get off the road when he saw a vehicle speeding up Hazle Avenue and strike McCallick, the affidavit states.
Vough’s earlier ruling declared visual and audio identification of the truck made by Schenck at city police headquarters also is inadmissible, saying such evidence arose “due to the illegal seizure” of Loughnane’s truck, and thus is “determined to be the fruit of the poisonous tree.”
Prosecutors said they plan to appeal, but no appeal was filed as of day’s end. District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis on Friday said the prosecution has 30 days to appeal from the decision.