Police looking for Mercersburg man charged in fatal hit-and-run crash

Damaged box truck found in Harrisburg; police believe driver is in Landisburg, Pa., area

March 09, 2012|By DON AINES |
  • Leon Deardorff Jr.
Submitted photo

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania State Police said Friday they believe the driver of a truck involved in a fatal crash Wednesday evening could be in the Landisburg, Pa., area of Perry County.

Leon Chalmers Deardorff Jr., 29, of Mercersburg, Pa., was charged in warrants with homicide by vehicle, accident involving death or personal injury, and with accident involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed, state police said during a news conference Friday at the Chambersburg barrack.

Deardorff was still at large Friday.

Keith Lee Monninger, 37, of 1286 Preston Lane, Greencastle, Pa., died when the motorcycle he was operating was involved in a hit-and-run-crash with a truck Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 11 and Social Island Road, police said.

Monninger was co-owner of the Custom Cleaning Co. of Greencastle.

Trooper Michele Davis said during the news conference that an anonymous source provided the information that Deardorff was the driver of the white 2002 Isuzu box truck involved in the accident.

That truck, which had damage to the rear right, was found Thursday evening on Cameron Street in Harrisburg, Pa.

Deardorff was not licensed to drive because of a suspension related to a drunken-driving charge, Davis said.

He pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in September 2011 and was sentenced in November to three days to six months in jail, according to Cumberland County (Pa.) court records. Deardorff had another conviction for driving under the influence in that county in 2010, the records said.

Deardorff was authorized to drive the truck by his employer, the company that owns the truck, according to Davis. Police did not name the company, which has been cooperating in the investigation, she said.

She said Deardorff was not on duty for the company at the time of the crash.

The truck is to be transported from Harrisburg to Chambersburg, Davis said. Police were obtaining a search warrant to go through the truck, she said.

The accident occurred when a truck pulled out of Overcash Road and crossed U.S. 11, heading diagonally north to enter the intersection of Social Island Road, police said.

As the truck crossed U.S. 11, it collided with Monninger’s motorcycle, traveling south on U.S. 11, police said. The truck continued west on Social Island Road after the crash.

The truck stopped briefly before continuing on to Social Island Road, Sgt. Randy Kane said at Friday’s news conference.

On Thursday, state police scoured the accident scene for evidence and conducted a helicopter search of the local area, looking for the box truck, Tooper Ed Asbury said.

“We believe that the person may have either worked in the area or have local knowledge of these back roads,” Asbury said at the time.

Police also are seeking several witnesses they say left the scene before being interviewed by police.

“We really would like them (witnesses) to come forward and give us their story, because at this point every little bit helps,” Asbury said.

He said the witnesses don’t have to worry about being charged with anything.

“They are under no requirement as a bystander or a witness to render aid. We just want their help,” Asbury said.

As the search continued, the family and friends of the accident victim lamented his loss.

Rod Thomas of Chambersburg co-owned the Custom Cleaning Co. with Monninger.

“It was a business relationship, but it was also a (22-year) friendship. We probably spent more time together than we did with our spouses, because we worked together every day, and we talked about everything under the sun,” Thomas said Thursday.

“He liked to laugh, but he had a sarcastic humor about him. He liked to tell jokes,” Thomas said. “He loved his wife ... he loved his wife so much. Everyday they would call each other at lunchtime.”

He was a great husband and father to his three children, Thomas said.

Monninger was a 1993 graduate of Greencastle-Antrim High School.

Principal Edward Rife said two of Monninger’s three children attend the high school, son, Andrew, and daughter, Rachel.

“We are thinking about him and praying for the entire family,” Rife said Thursday.

Monninger also is survived by his wife of 18 years, Maria, according to his obituary.

If anyone has any information about the incident, they may call state police at 717-264-5161 or Franklin County Crime Solvers at 717-263-3000.

Staff Writer Roxann Miller contributed to this story.

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