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Man Charged In Nanticoke Hit-run Crash

February 20, 2019
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Man Charged In Nanticoke Hit-run Crash

NANTICOKE — A Nanticoke man was charged Tuesday with fleeing the scene of a crash that seriously injured a 72-year-old man last month. Police said John Charles Gajewski, 64, of 65 Hill St., spent the day drinking at a bar before hitting Harold Rinehimer and fleeing the scene in a panic the night of Jan. 20. Rinehimer was hit as he crossed East Broad and Market streets around 10:25 p.m. Jan. 20. Officers said they found him lying in the northbound lane of South Market Street saying he had been hit by a car that “came out of nowhere.” Rinehimer was seriously injured in the crash — sustaining broken bones, abrasions and contusions — but was released from Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, Plains Twp., on Jan. 25. According to the complaint, police obtained video from the area and identified a burgundy Chevrolet Malibu as the suspect’s vehicle. Video from an ATM showed Rinehimer going airborne after being hit and the car then swerving into the opposing lane — indicating the driver knew what had happened, police said. On Jan. 29, police found a burgundy 2016 Chevrolet Malibu with fresh front-end damage parked outside of Gajewski’s home, police said. Gajewski initially claimed a car had backed into his parked car at a supermarket, although he never reported such an accident, according to the complaint. He went on to admit being at Larry’s Pizza at 400 E. Church St. from about 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. the day of the crash, police said. Gajewski told police he drank eight to 10 cans of Miller Lite while watching football at the establishment, according to the complaint. He claimed he had then driven home along Market Street, which police said would not have been possible because by that time the road was already closed due to the accident. Police said the surveillance videos also did not support Gajewski’s version of events. Gajewski stood by his account, so police conducted further testing, according to the complaint. An examination showed his car had damage “consistent with striking a person” in the form of dents and cracked paint — damage that was not observed during a vehicle inspection Gajewski had done on Jan. 16, police said. Investigators also found what appeared to be human tissue on the vehicle’s grill, police said. Confronted with the additional information, Gajewski admitted he had lied and he was responsible for the crash, according to the complaint. He told police he panicked after hitting Rinehimer and was sorry for what happened, police said. Police charged Gajewski with a felony count of fleeing the scene of an injury accident as well as summary counts of failing to stop and render aid, failing to report an accident, giving false information and careless driving. Magisterial District Judge Donald L. Whittaker arraigned Gajewski on the charges Tuesday morning and released him on $100,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing was set for 9 a.m. March 13. Contact the writer: jhalpin@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2058