Pastor Galen Wiley of the Lancaster (PA) Grace Brethren Church will be conducting services Monday for the young man noted in this article from the Lancaster newspaper. Fink’s grandmother, Sylvia Leonard, is a regular attender of the Lancaster church.
Police: Hit-run driver ‘dozing’
Mountville man charged
By Brett Lovelace, Intelligencer Journal Staff
Published: Jun 14, 2006 8:07 AM EST
LANCASTER COUNTY, PA – The driver of a pickup truck that allegedly killed a 16-year-old boy Saturday was “fatigued” and “dozing off” in the minutes before the hit-and-run accident, police said.
James T. Hamaker, 28, of Mountville, was arrested Tuesday and charged with running over Joseph “Joey” C. Fink Jr. shortly after midnight Saturday in the 4000 block of Columbia Avenue.
Hamaker, an electrician, turned himself in to West Hempfield Township police Monday morning. He later admitted to detectives he was driving the 1997 Ford F-350 pickup that killed Fink but did not remember the collision, police said.
“Mr. Hamaker realized that he was fatigued and dozing off and opened his driver’s-side wing window in an attempt to stay alert,” Detective Christopher W. Kunkle wrote in a probable cause affidavit.
“(He) stated that he recalled traveling eastbound on Columbia Avenue in the area of the accident; however, he did not recall striking Mr. Fink.”
Fink was walking east along Columbia Avenue with John D. Long, 19, and Kiersten M. Differderfer, 21.
It is unclear whether Fink was walking in the road when he was struck.
Long and Differderfer initially told police Fink was walking outside the white lines that mark the roadway. But they later told police Fink was inside the lines.
After the collision, Long and Differderfer saw the pickup drive away and called 911. They also gave police a description of the vehicle.
Fink, a former School District of Lancaster student, sustained skull fractures, liver damage and a punctured kidney. He was pronounced dead at Lancaster General Hospital at 2:27 a.m. Saturday.
A memorial service is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at Lancaster Grace Brethren Church, 911 Rohrerstown Road.
Sharmon Grogg, Fink’s older sister, said Tuesday her family is taking solace in the arrest.
“I just want to thank this person for turning himself in,” Grogg said. “It takes his courage for my family to have closure for these unforeseen circumstances.”
Hamaker told police he left the Columbia Bowling Center, 601 S. 16th St., Columbia, around 11:45 p.m. Friday.
He planned to drive to a friend’s house in Columbia but decided to first return to his home at 483 W. Main St., Mountville, and change vehicles.
“(He) decided to return his F-350 to his home to change vehicles due to parking concerns in Columbia Borough,” according to the affidavit.
Hamaker told police he didn’t notice the damage to his truck until Saturday morning.
Police found a passenger-side headlight assembly, a clear lens cover and an amber lens cover at the accident scene. Police matched the damaged truck parts to the Ford F-series manufactured between 1992 and 1997.
During the weekend, Hamaker read newspaper reports of the hit-and-run. He also spoke with friends and family.
“Mr. Hamaker felt that he may have been responsible for the accident which ultimately caused Mr. Fink’s death,” according to the affidavit.
After Hamaker came to the West Hempfield Township police station with his father Monday, police photographed the pickup.
Police towed the truck from Hamaker’s house to a Mountville garage. They searched the pickup Tuesday and collected fibers from the front of the vehicle.
Rose Newcomer, the girlfriend of Fink’s father, said she is relieved police solved the two-day mystery.
“We have no animosity toward him,” Newcomer said. “We’re just glad he came forward. That renewed our faith in the human condition.”
Kunkle charged Hamaker with accidents involving death or personal injury and failure to drive on roadways laned for traffic.
Columbia District Judge Robert A. Herman arraigned Kunkle Tuesday. Kunkle’s parents also attended the brief hearing.
Kunkle, dressed in work boots, blue trousers and a blue shirt, was released on $50,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 23.